Nazarbayev University
Graduate School of Education

Graduate School of Education

Research news


Assistant Professor Matthew Courtney Publishes Two Journal Articles in Top-Ranked International Journal

Assistant Professor, Dr Matthew Courtney, GSE, has now published two articles in the highly prestigious journal, The Internet and Higher Education. The journal is ranked first in the world in the subject devoted to e-learning, and second in the world in education.

Congratulations on publishing in a top journal. You mentioned that it is ranked highly. So, how is a journal’s rank measured?

Good question. There are several ways to measure the impact of a journal. One common way is to count the number of times that the recent articles in a journal have been cited (referred to) by other authors. So, The The Internet in Higher Education journal published just 68 articles in the past three years. However, these 68 articles were cited close to 2000 times in 2021 alone. So, by this common metric, the journal is ranked second in the world among all 1,381 reputable education journals, and first in the world among 71 reputable e-learning journals.

The journal only published 68 journal articles in the past three years? That doesn’t seem like much

Right, it has a very high rejection rate which is part-and-parcel with top journals. The journal, The Internet and higher Education, is devoted to “addressing contemporary issues and future developments related to internet-enabled learning and teachings in higher education settings…” and seeks to “publish high-quality empirical manuscripts with strong conceptual frameworks and rigorous methods” (that’s from the Journal Website). Given that the journal is so selective, we are especially proud to have published two journal articles in that journal in the past nine months.

Where is the research based?

I am the technical lead of the international team that investigates students’ use of online collaborative note-taking (on Google docs) and how such collaboration influences learning outcomes such as student test performance, note completeness, and academic writing quality. The team is based at three top universities including Nazarbayev University, Moscow Higher School of Economics in Russia, and KAIST university in South Korea.

What makes your work unique and of high quality?

Well, in education, it is generally thought that student collaboration leads to improved learning. Our research on students’ use of “online collaborative note-taking” found that this is not always true. For example, in our first article we found that increased collaborative learning behavior on google docs may only become useful after an initial phase of five to six weeks of working together. In our second article, we found that students taking course notes in groups ended up retaining more course knowledge, however students taking notes individually ended up with improved academic writing. Basically, our work helps instructional designers create courses tailored to the focal academic outcome of interest. If the main goal of the course is to improve students’ writing on the topic, they should be encouraged to take course notes individually. However, if the main goal is to build students’ subject knowledge, they should be encouraged to make use of modern collaborative technologies and take notes in groups.

Why do you think that the editors of the journal published your research?

The editors of the very top journals want to publish research that is strong in all aspects. Our research is highly relevant, based on strong research designs, adopts rigorous methods, and the results challenge conventional thinking.

Can you explain more about what you did?

Well, our research on online collaborative note-taking is highly relevant to today’s online learning environments. We use both non-experimental and quasi-experiment designs which enable us to make stronger conclusions. We also adopt rigorous and innovative procedures and methods. For example, we write our own open-source algorithms using “Python” and “R” to obtain students’ Google docs behavior data, and apply advanced statistical tests to that data to generate our results. Our results challenge conventional thinking about the general and broad utility of online group collaboration. In addition, we also make the entire approach and methodology completely publicly available so that other researchers can replicate what we did. For example, we have also published a journal article solely dedicated to the statistical analysis that we used in the journal called MethodsX [link].

Anything else that you would like to add?

Yes, sure. We have carved out a space for novel cutting-edge research so it is now important to be ahead of the game. To this end, we are planning to submit a collaborative research grant at NU so that we can roll out the project on students at NU here too.


Courtney, M. G. R., Costley, J., Baldwin, M., Lee, K., & Fanguy, M. (accepted). Individual Versus Collaborative Note-taking: Results of a Quasi-experimental Study on Student Note Completeness, Test Performance, and Academic Writing. The Internet and Higher Education. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2022.100873
 Costley, J., Courtney, M. G. R., Fanguy, M. (2022). Online collaborative note-taking behaviors, note completeness, and course performance for a 10-week writing program. The Internet and Higher Education. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2021.100831