About the Journal

Focus and Scope

The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning (IRRODL) is a refereed, open access e-journal that disseminates original research, theory, and best practice in open and distributed learning worldwide. IRRODL is available free-of-charge to anyone with access to the Internet, and there are no article submission or access charges for publication in this open journal.

The Journal targets both researchers and practitioners of open and distance education systems. It aims to improve the quality of basic and applied research while also addressing the need for the translation of this knowledge into policies and activities that improve educational opportunity for students and teachers.

As of 2020, IRRODL no longer accepts submissions describing teaching interventions or surveys on pedagogical approaches that make no reference to student achievement, performance, or retention. See our policy on evidence of achievement for details.

Peer Review Process

All submissions made to the Research Articles section undergo a double-blind peer review by a minimum of two subject matter experts. A double-blind review process ensures that neither the authors nor the reviewers are aware of each other’s identities. The Journal Editors screen submitted articles for relevance, quality, and meaningful contributions to the field of open and distributed learning before sending them out for review.  Submissions are then distributed to a minimum of two qualified reviewers. The Journal Editors determine what will be included in the Journal by consulting the reviewers' assessment and comments. Generally, articles with qualitative and/or quantitative data are preferred, though we occasionally publish high-quality theoretical articles.

Please consult the Submissions page for detailed submission guidelines. 

Typically, authors receive the reviewer feedback and the Journal Editor’s decision on their submission within three months, pending the availability of qualified peer reviewers. If accepted, submissions are usually published in the next available issue. In IRRODL’s regularized publication cycle, issues will normally be published in February, May, August, and November.

Peer reviewers are asked to evaluate and judge submissions using the following criteria:

  1. complete, coherent, and well-organized presentation;
  2. sufficient explanation of the significance of the problem;
  3. clear demonstration of the relevance to the field (beyond the case presented); 
  4. original contribution to open and distributed learning;
  5. compelling presentation of the problem within a theoretical framework (where appropriate);
  6. establishment of a relationship between the problem and ODL and other relevant literature;
  7. appropriate research design and method;
  8. accurate and useful interpretation; 
  9. sound argument and analysis; and
  10. effective conclusion about the implications for distance education theory, research, and/or practice.

Peer reviewers are asked to indicate their assessment of each criterion above as excellent, satisfactory, unsatisfactory, or not applicable, and also to offer comments. Reviewers' comments are extremely important to help the authors revise and improve their papers.

Publication Frequency

IRRODL follows a regularized publication cycle, normally publishing issues in February, May, August, and November of each year.  The Journal will only publish 40 Research Articles per year, averaging 10 articles per issue. Notes and other sections will be published over-and-above the 40 Research Articles.

Open Access Policy

The copyright of any IRRODL article rests with the author(s). As a condition of publication, the authors AGREE to release their copyright under a shared licence, specifically the Creative Commons - Attribution International 4.0 (CC-BY) License. See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

This licence allows anyone to reproduce IRRODL articles at no cost and without further permission as long as they attribute the author and the journal. This permission includes printing, sharing, and other forms of distribution.

An example of attribution language is as follows:

This article by {insert author(s) name(s)} has been reproduced from IRRODL  under Creative Commons Attribution License  4.0 CC-BY. It is available here{insert link}

We would like to know when IRRODL articles are reproduced.  If you are reproducing one of our articles, please let us know by contacting us at irrodlmanager@athabascau.ca


CLOCKSS system has permission to ingest, preserve, and serve this Archival Unit.

Citation Indices

IRRODL is indexed by all the major citation indexing systems (see the indexing list below).

Rank Journal Title Quartile
1 JMIR Medical Education Q1
2 International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning Q1
3 Teaching and Learning Inquiry Q2
4 Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology Q3
5 Canadian Journal of Higher Education Q3
6 Journal of Learning for Development Q3

Q & A

A Q & A on Responsible Scholarly Publishing

Inspired by a paper by Lily (2016) to respond to the concerns that he raises about scholarly journal publishers and Editors, the following Q & A has been created.

Lily, A. (2016). Academic journals through the lens of socialism: A narrative from the disciplines of education and technology. Publishing Research Quarterly, 32(2), 113-124. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12109-016-9451-x

Questions and Answers

How are IRRODL Editors selected?

IRRODL is published by AU Press and owned by Athabasca University (AU). Athabasca University is legally liable for the journal. For this reason, the Editor-in-Chief is appointed by AU. At present there is one Editor-in-Chief and two Associate Editors. These are volunteer positions without pay. In addition, there is an IRRODL Managing Editor who is a paid employee of AU.

How is the IRRODL Advisory Board selected?

The Board is selected by the Editors, based on the prestige and credibility of the members, and includes both Canadian and International members. As befitting an international journal, the Board is comprised of citizens of 12 countries, three of which are in the global south. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) requires several Canadian researchers on the Board as a condition of its grant to IRRODL. UNESCO also provides funding to IRRODL, and requires that the Board include UNESCO Chairs in Open Educational Resources.

What is the policy of the journal regarding open access and transparency?

IRRODL was the first open access journal to be established in Canada. As such, all articles are licensed under a Creative Commons – Attribution International 4.0 licence. This license allows anyone to copy an article as long as they properly attribute the article to the author and to IRRODL, its first place of publication.  Copyright for all articles is vested in the authors. IRRODL is committed to transparency in its work, while abiding by privacy regulations and upholding the conditions of double-blind review.

What is the role of the Editor?

The Editor is responsible for the overall operation and reputation of the journal, including screening submissions, and accepting and declining articles based on double-blind peer review.

What is the role of the Managing Editor?

The Managing Editor is responsible for administering and co-ordinating the editorial processes from the point of article submission to publication. This includes the assignment of articles for peer review to the Editors, primary contact for Editors and authors, pre-screening submissions for suitability, managing timelines, copyediting, managing contracts ,managing the website and data, publishing, proofreading, substantive editing, formatting, conversions, and addressing technical issues.

Does IRRODL keep a blacklist?

Yes. If authors are caught plagiarising or have submitted an article to two journals at the same time; we maintain a record and will no longer accept submissions from them.

Is it the Editor’s responsibility and duty to respond to authors and to address their complaints?

The Editors try to respond in a timely fashion to all queries. While we receive and listen to complaints, we do not always agree with the complainant.

What software platform does IRRODL use?

IRRODL uses the Open Journal Systems (OJS). OJS is a journal management and publishing system that has been developed by the Public Knowledge Project (PKP). See https://pkp.sfu.ca/ojs/. While OJS is largely automated, there is a fair amount of manual input required for each submission, which is both time-consuming and can result in error.

The Review Process

What are the steps in the review process?

Papers that are submitted online to IRRODL are received and processed by the Managing Editor. This process can take several days due to the volume of submissions we receive. In the next stage, the submission is evaluated for suitability and readability. If the initial review of the submission indicates that the article has surpassed the word count limit or that it is not formatted according to APA style OR if there is a question regarding its suitability or readability, it is returned to the authors with instructions to revise.  If it meets submission standards in full, the paper is then submitted to TurnItIn to check for possible plagiarism. If no plagiarism is detected, it is then sent to one of the Editors for review.  The Editor reads over the paper and should it be deemed suitable, selects an appropriate reviewer to conduct the double-blind peer review. The Editor assigns the submission to approximately four reviewers, giving them one month to conduct the review.  When the reviews have been completed, manuscripts are considered collectively on a quarterly basis for inclusion into an upcoming issue. Author(s) are notified by the Editor of their decision. When a paper is declined, it cannot be re-submitted to IRRODL.

What is the average time from submission to copy editing to publication?

The average time to copy editing is eight weeks; and to publications, +180 days.

How many reviews are needed to make a decision?

At least two substantive reviews are needed. If two substantive reviews are not forthcoming, then more reviewers are called on.

What happens when TurnItIn reports instances of copying?

When TurnItIn finds significant copying of previously published material (+30%), the author is notified and an explanation is requested. Using content from an author's thesis or unpublished school paper is acceptable. Using one’s previously published work is not acceptable. Plagiarism is not permitted under any circumstance and authors caught plagiarising will be blacklisted.

Who are the reviewers?

Reviewers are IRRODL authors or experts in the field. The full list of those who completed at least one recent review is available here.

How are reviewers selected?

Reviewers are self-selected. IRRODL depends on peer review; any author who is published in IRRODL, as a peer, is asked to join the reviewers’ database. Known experts in open and distributed learning are also invited to join from time to time. Sometimes, a reviewer recommends a colleague who is encouraged to join the database. Some reviewers, however, do not have the expertise to properly evaluate a paper and their responses can be either limited and unsophisticated or otherwise unsuitable. The Editors take these situational factors into account when evaluating submissions. Editors do not alter reviews in any way but send them to authors as they have been received by the reviewers.

Are reviewers charged with evaluating or editing the format of papers?

No, but most of our reviewers are teachers and they cannot help themselves. These technical edits are generally well-received by authors.

How are reviewers evaluated?

Editors evaluate reviewers on a number system:
5: A good review, thorough, and academically sound.
4: An adequate but not great review.
3. A review with boxes checked but with few or no comments.
2. A reviewer commits to doing a review and does not do so.
1. No response from the reviewer to our request to review.
Our reviewers can be peripatetic; many change jobs and email addresses, so a “1” usually signifies that they are no longer available. Reviewers with a combination of 1s, 2s, or 3s are removed from the database. Note that we do not overburden our good reviewers. We limit requests to two a year and rarely issue three requests.

What if a reviewer is insensitive to authors in his/her evaluation?

This is problematic for Editors because we do not want to be accused of altering any reviews, so we leave all comments as they are written. Our authors, reviewers, and readers are multi-cultural, so we request that our reviewers be sensitive to this and request that authors not be overly sensitive to potential offences. Of course, any consistently offensive reviewer would be removed from our database; however, since the founding of IRRODL in 1999, we have not had to do this.

How do Editors choose reviewers for a specific article?

IRRODL maintains a database of reviewers and their research interests. Editors conduct a search of the database for reviewers who have expressed an interest in the subject area of the particular article. Editors then check the database to find reviewers who have not completed a review in the last six months. We try to limit requests to review to two per year, with a maximum of three reviews per year in special cases. Sometimes it is difficult to find appropriate reviewers for specific papers.

Why is the review process taking so much time?

Editors are at the mercy of the reviewers. Editors always choose at least four reviewers, with the expectation of receiving a minimum of two useable reviews. On average, we get one or two positive responses within the monthly time limit but will often receive no reply to our request at all (see above on evaluating reviewers).  Most reviewers who do reply positively, complete the review within the one-month deadline; however, many do not complete a review on time and need to be reminded.  The Editors regularly add new reviewers to the database. Contacting six reviewers to get two good reviews is not unusual.  We have sometimes contacted up to 16 reviewers before getting two reviews. This all takes time but is necessary for a fair review.

Can the Editor edit the reviews?

No, Editors cannot alter a review.

Does IRRODL give preferential treatment to the articles submitted by known experts in the field of open and distributed learning?

No. We give preference to newer authors and those from developing countries. Likewise, we give them every opportunity to excel as reviewers and learn more about scholarly publishing by actively participating.

How are articles accepted for publication?

Beginning in 2020, an average of ten (10) research articles will be published per issue, with only four (4) issues published per year. Editors will evaluate each issue for both quality and balance. Only papers that fit will be accepted for publication.

Why doesn't IRRODL accept declined articles if they have been revised according to reviewers' comments?

Once an article is declined, we do not accept it for re-evaluation. This is out of respect for the reviewers and to save time. Authors of declined papers can address the criticisms (or not) and submit their paper elsewhere.

Why are some papers rejected by the Editors without sending for review?

The Managing Editor rejects papers that are poorly written, do not conform to the required APA style and/or the IRRODL guidelines, or for exceeding the word count limit. Authors can address the problem(s) identified by the Managing Editor and resubmit to them only once. It is extremely important that authors read the submission guidelines and adhere to the requirements in full.  Templates and examples are available for authors in the submission guidelines section. Following this stage, the Editors review for relevance.

Why are some papers declined by the Editors without sending for review?

The most common reason that the Editors will decline a paper is that it is deemed not appropriate for this journal. IRRODL focuses on open and distributed learning, which means that more general education research, or even educational technology research, is not appropriate for our readership unless the research pertains to IRRODL's focus area. Other reasons for the Editors to decline a submission may include an assessment of the quality, originality, or other shortcoming of the paper. Some papers may be declined because of the balance decided on for a particular issue. The Editors will provide authors with a reason for declining the article by email.

What is double-blind review? Can a reviewer's or author's name be revealed during review?

Double-blind review means that the author does not know the identity of the reviewer and the reviewer does not know the identity of the author. This information is kept private; however, sometimes a reviewer can guess who the author is. When this happens, the reviewer must contact us and we will reassign the review. Sometimes, the author can guess who the reviewer is. If the author is concerned about the fairness of the process as a result of the reviewer's presumed identity, we will consider sending the submission to an additional reviewer. This is one of the few cases where we might consider a re-review.

Why do you insist on specific APA formatting for submissions before they are accepted?

In our experience, articles that are not correctly formatted before submission leave reviewers with a negative impression of the submission and can impact their assessment. IRRODL reviewers judge not only quality, methodology, and analysis, but also writing style. Moreover, incorrect formatting and not conforming to APA style can become a major problem for the copy editor after acceptance, often requiring back-and-forth communication with the authors.  Authors can and should use the APA7 manual for their article and can use Reference Management Software for their references. The APA7 manual can be found here: https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/ and list of Reference Management Software can be retrieved here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_reference_management_software

Authors can also make use of the IRRODL submission guideline template available here.

Why do you insist on a 7000 word maximum limit for article submissions?

Unlike a paper journal, IRRODL does not have to accommodate printing limits. As an online journal, IRRODL’s word limit is set for another rationale, specifically practicality. We believe that this is a reasonable maximum word limit for our reviewers, editors, and readers to manage. It is also worth noting that, in most cases, conciseness of thought results in a better article overall. Articles that exceed the word limit are returned for resubmission by the Managing Editor.

How do I know when IRRODL releases a new issue?

The Managing Editor places new publications on the website homepage. Additionally, an announcement is mailed out to members of the journal once the publication is complete through the OJS system. OJS automatically adds members to the mail out list once a member signs up for any role (e.g., reader, reviewer, author).  If you would like to be removed from this list, you can do so by adjusting your profile settings under notifications.  If you are having trouble with this, you can also email irrodlmanager@athabascau.ca for assistance.


Sources of Support

The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning receives support from Athabasca University, the Aide to Scholarly Journals Program of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and UNESCO.


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