Jordan, K. (2013) Reshaping the Higher Education network? Analysis of academic social networking sites. Presentation given at the Kaleidoscope Conference, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, 31st May 2013.
Katy Jordan, The Open University
31st May 2013
• Stems from my previous experience in e-learning
research in Higher Education
• Research context: Digital scholarship and how the
internet is changing Higher Education
(Weller, 2011; Nentwich & Konig, 2012)
• Social networking sites (SNS) are so popular that
they are synonymous with internet use for some
(Rainie & Wellman, 2012)
• First academic SNS in 2007, 3 years after
Facebook founded (Nentwich & Konig, 2012)
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 &
Affordances of academic SNS
• Identity: Constructing an online academic profile
– Almousa, 2011; Menendez, de Angeli &
• Communication: Discovery and dissemination of
research findings; asking and answering questions.
– Veletsianos, 2011
• Collaboration: Finding similar or different
collaborators; supporting active research
– Jeng et al., 2012; Oh & Jeng, 2011
Initial research questions
• What is the structure of academic social
• 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?
• Pilot study focused upon Open University
• 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
Historical & Philosophical Studies
Business & Administration
Creative Arts & Design
Linguistics, Classics & related
Connection and position in the
• 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
= In degree
☐ = out degree
Theme Item Subject Position Active
– posing and
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
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
Academic SNS are a useful way to support working in collaboration with
Having a profile will enhance my future career prospects
Identity – how
the role of
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
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
• Provided an insight into the network structure
fostered by academic SNS
• Similarities with social network structures in other
• Subject area influential on community structure
• Seniority influential on position and connectivity
of individual nodes
Limitations and future work
• Three platforms but only one institution
• Academic SNS are only one of many types of
social media and online platforms
• Differences according to discipline and position
suggest a role in academic identity development
• Main study will focus not upon one platform, but a
sample of academics and their networked identity
across the variety of online channels they use
• 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
• Special thanks to all of the Open University
graduate students and academics who took part in
the pilot study.
• 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:
• 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.