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Academics and their online networks: Exploring the role of academic social networking sites


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Jordan, K. (2013) Academics and their online networks: Exploring the role of academic social networking sites. Presentation at the Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C), 11th …

Jordan, K. (2013) Academics and their online networks: Exploring the role of academic social networking sites. Presentation at the Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C), 11th September 2013, University of Nottingham, UK.

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  • 1. 11/09/2013 Katy Jordan The Open University @katy_jordan Association for Learning Technology Conference 11th September 2013 Academics and their online networks Exploring the role of academic social networking sites
  • 2. Defining academic SNS “We define social network sites as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi- public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.” (boyd & Ellison, 2007). 0 500000 1000000 1500000 2000000 2500000 Numberofusers Web rank
  • 3. Affordances of academic SNS • Identity: Constructing an online academic profile – Almousa, 2011; Menendez, de Angeli & Menestrina, 2012 • Communication: Discovery and dissemination of research findings; asking and answering questions. – Veletsianos, 2011 • Collaboration: Finding similar or different collaborators; supporting active research relationships. – Jeng et al., 2012; Oh & Jeng, 2011
  • 4. Research questions • What is the structure of academic social networks? • To what extent do different academic social networking sites foster similar networks? • Do factors such as discipline or position correlate with behaviour in the network?
  • 5. Research methods • Focused upon Open University (OU) academics • Mapped network of connections between OU- affiliated academics on three main academic SNS • Categorised according to position and discipline • Survey carried out on a sub-sample to explore perceptions about role of academic SNS and follow up on differences in network structure based on position and discipline
  • 6. Visualizing the networks - discipline Mendeley
  • 7. Community structure Historical & Philosophical Studies Education Biological Sciences Social Studies Computer Science Business & Administration Creative Arts & Design Medicine related Physical Sciences Mathematics Languages Law Linguistics, Classics & related Engineering
  • 8. Connection and position in the network • Both degree and centrality showed significant differences according to position • More senior academics have a higher degree and occupy a more central position in the network 0 10 20 30 40 Degree Position  = In degree ☐ = out degree
  • 9. Survey results Theme Item Subject Position Active Communication – posing and answering questions Being able to ask questions of the online community is important Academic SNS allow me to draw upon a wider community of expertise when I need help Communication – academic publications Academic SNS are a good way of promoting my own academic publications Academic SNS are a good way of finding out about new publications of interest Collaboration – present and future Academic SNS are a useful way to support working in collaboration with other researchers Having a profile will enhance my future career prospects Identity – how academics view the role of profiles Being part of an academic SNS is useful My online academic and personal identities are separated I see my profile as an online business card I use my profile as a research journal I actively interact with others via the site Identity – exploring trends in network structure I only follow people who I know personally If someone follows me, I follow them back I follow people who I would like to work with in the future I follow people as a way of staying in touch with people I used to work with
  • 10. Conclusions • Provided an insight into the network structure fostered by academic SNS • Similarities with social network structures in other contexts • Subject area influential on community structure • Seniority influential on position and connectivity of individual nodes
  • 11. Acknowledgements • Thanks to my supervisors, Professor Martin Weller and Dr. Canan Blake. • This work was made possible through a doctoral studentship from the Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology at the Open University, UK. • Special thanks to all of the Open University graduate students and academics who took part in the pilot study.
  • 12. References • Almousa, O. (2011) Users’ classification and usage-pattern identification in academic social networks. Proc. AEECT. • boyd, d.m. & Ellison, N.B. (2007) Social network sites: Definition, history and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13, 1, article 1. • Jeng, W., He, D., Jiang, J. & Zhang, Y. (2012) Groups in Mendeley: Owners’ descriptions and group outcomes. Proc. ASIST. • Menendez, M., de Angeli, A. & Menestrina, Z. (2012) Chapter 4: Exploring the virtual space of academia. In: J. Dugdale et al. (eds.) From research to practice in the design of cooperative systems. Springer. • Nentwich, M. & Konig, R.(2012) Cyberscience 2.0: Research in the age of digital social networks. Campus Verlag. • Oh, J.S. & Jeng, W. (2011) Groups in academic social networking services: An exploration of their potential as a platform for multi-disciplinary collaboration. Proc. SocialCom. • Rainie, L. & Wellman, B. (2012) Networked: The new social operating system. Cambridge: MIT Press. • Veletsianos, G. (2011), Higher education scholars' participation and practices on Twitter. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 28(4), 336-349. • Weller, M. (2011) The Digital Scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. London: Bloomsbury.