Competency 4.1

Competency 4.1: Describe and critically reflect on approaches to the use of social network analysis for the study of learning.

I’ve seen some great insights on how to use social network analysis to improve learning. The impact of social network analysis on educational constructs like learning design, sense of community, creative potential, social presence, academic performance and MOOC pedagogy looks promising. The possible data sources could be discussion boards, course enrollments, twitter and other social networks data, self-reports or course design. Metrics like network density, degree centrality, eccentricity, modularity etc. help us to get an idea about the network of and individuals in a network.

Learning design could affect students’ activities in a big way. Students who are familiar with a design are generally more comfortable using it. To see if students in a course are learning as expected, we can monitor them using SNA and guide them as needed. We can see at what stage the instructor’s role is more important than peer-facilitation by seeing the interactions and provide help to students.

Monitoring the sense of community will be useful in identifying isolated groups/ individuals who may not receive all information. We can in such cases guide them to be part of larger communities. We can also advise students to join new groups for assignments to get connected to more students. These factors can impact the creative potential, social presence and academic performance of students if suitable help is provided. Awareness of more ways of communication and their usefulness should be advocated to students to help them understand the distributed structure of MOOCs and be better involved.

I would think that this kind of analysis should happen along the way in any course to see how students are doing in the course of time. Seeing the results at the end may not be of much help to students. Rather, positive measures can be taken like introducing new hashtags for better connection or introducing a list or shared document of all students and their resources will help students better in the rest of their course. It could be beneficial to connect different social networks to get the complete picture about an individual student as well.

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