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  1. 1. Social Network Methods and Measures for Examining E-Learning WUN/ESRC Seminar Series Southampton, April 15, 2005 Caroline Haythornthwaite Associate Professor Graduate School of Library and Information Science University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  2. 2. Learning is a Social Network Relation <ul><li>An interaction, transaction, communication </li></ul><ul><ul><li>An exchange between teacher and student, between student and student </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A common experience as students learn and work together, listen to lectures, belong to a class, a program, a university </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A shared experience as co-workers learn together, collaborators create new knowledge together </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Relations lead to Networks … </li></ul>
  3. 3. Warning! <ul><li>Networks can be addictive and mind altering! </li></ul><ul><li>After this presentation you will begin to see networks everywhere. </li></ul><ul><li>You will be unable to talk to colleagues without pointing out the network angle on everything! </li></ul><ul><li>Click Here To Accept this Warning </li></ul>
  4. 4. Social Network Basics <ul><li>Key concepts </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Actors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Relations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ties </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Networks </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Relations lead to Networks <ul><li>Actors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Nodes in the network </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interact and maintain relations with each other </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Relations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lines in the network </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Connect actors in specific kinds of interaction, and joint experience </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ties </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lines between actors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Exist between actors, connected by one or more relations </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Networks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Whole configuration of lines and actors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Result from the combined set of actors and ties </li></ul></ul>Pre-class text chat: 3 ‘snapshots’ Actors=students & instructor Relation=talked with
  6. 6. Social Network Approach <ul><li>An emphasis on what people do together </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who talks to whom about what? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Who gives, receives, shares what kinds of resources? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Network outcomes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How does the structure of a network affect r e s o u r c e flow among group members? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When do r e s o u r c e s reach others? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What social capital do members of the network gain? </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Network Questions <ul><li>Asking network questions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who does what with whom … and via which media? </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Relations, Relations, Relations <ul><li>Content </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What is exchanged, shared, experienced together </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Communication: chatting, gossiping, giving information </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Small services: babysitting, lending small amounts of money </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Social support: giving or receiving emotional support </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Collaboration: working together, learning together </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Social services: cleaning up after disasters, helping neighbors </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Direction </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Flow of resources, from whom and to whom </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Money … from parents to children </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Information … from teachers to students, and … ?? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Help with technology … from {who?} to student </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Social support … from {spouse, family, ??} to student </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Strength </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How much, how often, of what importance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Small services versus full time care </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Minor versus major social support </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Monthly vs Weekly vs Daily vs Many times a Day communication </li></ul></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Relations <ul><li>Computer Science Researchers (co-located) </li></ul><ul><ul><li> Receiving work  Giving work  Collaborative writing  Sociability  Major emotional support  Computer programming </li></ul></ul><ul><li>E-Learners (distributed): LEEP distance degree </li></ul><ul><ul><li> Collaboration on class work  Receiving or Giving information or advice about class work  Socializing  Exchanging emotional support </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Interdisciplinary Research Teams ( d i s t r i b u t e d ) </li></ul><ul><ul><li> Exchange of factual knowledge  Learning the process of doing something  Finding out about research methods  Working jointly on research  Learning about how to use a technology  Generating ideas  Socialization into the profession  Access to a network of contacts  Administrative work </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Relations define Ties <ul><li>Weak Ties … </li></ul><ul><li>fewer, less intimate exchanges </li></ul><ul><li>instrumental exchanges </li></ul><ul><li>share fewer types of information and support </li></ul><ul><li>use fewer media </li></ul><ul><li>Source of… </li></ul><ul><li>strength of weak ties = access to new information, new resources, </li></ul><ul><li>no obligation to share </li></ul><ul><li>… Strong Ties </li></ul><ul><li>more relations, more frequent interaction </li></ul><ul><li>emotional as well as instrumental exchanges </li></ul><ul><li>higher level of intimacy, more self-disclosure </li></ul><ul><li>reciprocity in exchanges </li></ul><ul><li>use more media </li></ul><ul><li>… Source of </li></ul><ul><li>freely given resources, obligations to share resources </li></ul><ul><li>access to same resources </li></ul>
  11. 11. Latent Ties <ul><ul><li>Technically possible, but not yet activated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>E.g., enrollment in the same class, member of the same listserv or email list, attendee at a regular ftf meeting </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Provide ground on which ties can grow to weak and then to strong </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Because not built by actors themselves, but instead based on co-membership in some common forum … </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>the means of connecting actors is orchestrated by authorities beyond the actors involved </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Both social and technical means are possible for bringing actors together on the way to creating ties </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Ties define Networks <ul><li>Personal </li></ul><ul><li>Ego-centric </li></ul><ul><li>Whole networks </li></ul>Personal Network of Typical Distance Learner (based on 52 students from 4 classes)
  13. 13. Ego-centric Network Hypothetical, but based on year long interviews with 17 e-learners
  14. 14. Whole Network Whole network of relation ‘Collaborating on class work’ (14 e-learning students) Networks show: * density * actor centrality * network centralization * cliques * network stars * network brokers * isolates * isolated cliques * structural holes * resource flow * social structures
  15. 15. E-Learning Relations & Ties <ul><li>Learning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>instructors and assistants, classmates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>library staff and bookstores </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>generalized ties with all members of the program </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Technical support </li></ul><ul><ul><li>program personnel, local technical experts (spouses, children, co-workers) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Social support </li></ul><ul><ul><li>family, and the workplace (employers, bosses, and co-workers), and online from and with fellow students </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Friendship </li></ul><ul><ul><li>fellow students, local and remote friends </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Administrative ties </li></ul><ul><ul><li>student loan officers, administrators, office staff </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. E-Learner Relations <ul><li>Relations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Social support, information about academic content, technical help, emotional support, co-work relations </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Membership </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ It’s a different kind of world that most people aren’t used to so they can’t really understand it since they’re on the outside.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Shared history </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Shared history, ‘shared survival’, shared folklore (Hearne & Nielsen, 2004) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Virtual world differences </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Effort to stay ‘present’, make and maintain ties </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Importance of synchronous contact for ties </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Temporal patterns </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Joining, engaging, and disengaging from LEEP </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Examining the “E” in E-Learning <ul><li>Arguments against and for online relationships of friendship, work and learning </li></ul><ul><li>Differences between online and offline </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lean, text-based media vs Rich face-to-face communication </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consequences of spending time online vs offline </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Arguments about E-Relations <ul><li>Arguments against … </li></ul><ul><li>Lean communication </li></ul><ul><li>Text-based, reduced cues </li></ul><ul><li>Ill-suited to emotional, expressive, complex communications </li></ul><ul><li>Disintegrative social effects </li></ul><ul><li>Anti-social flaming </li></ul><ul><li>Decreased social involvement (Nie, 2001) </li></ul><ul><li>Abandonment of local relationships (Kraut, et al, 1998) </li></ul><ul><li>Arguments for … </li></ul><ul><li>Rich communication </li></ul><ul><li>Emoticons and acronyms (McLaughlin, et al, 1995) </li></ul><ul><li>Group defined genres and rules of conduct (Orlikowski & Yates, 1994; Bregman & Haythornthwaite, 2003) </li></ul><ul><li>Interpersonal self-disclosure, emotional support; online communities (e.g., Haythornthwaite et al, 2000; Baym 2001) </li></ul><ul><li>Integrative social effects </li></ul><ul><li>Connecting disparate others: Bringing in peripheral players, spanning time and space (Sproull & Kiesler, 1991) </li></ul><ul><li>Maintaining connections even when distributed (LaRose, Eastin & Gregg, 2001; Hampton & Wellman, 2002) </li></ul>
  19. 19. Arguments about E-Learning <ul><li>Arguments against … </li></ul><ul><li>Lean communication </li></ul><ul><li>How can an online class deliver the same kind of experience as on-campus education? </li></ul><ul><li>Learners lose close interaction with faculty and other students </li></ul><ul><li>How can they learn without ftf lectures, and discussion groups? </li></ul><ul><li>How can you maintain a learning community without co-location and on-campus activities? </li></ul><ul><li>Arguments for … </li></ul><ul><li>Rich communication </li></ul><ul><li>No significant difference </li></ul><ul><li>Delivers different learning experience but just as good </li></ul><ul><li>Delivers better experience when closer to the workplace </li></ul><ul><li>Online provides perception of closer contact with instructors </li></ul><ul><li>No turn-taking: All voices can be heard </li></ul><ul><li>Promotes contributions by shy students, ESL students </li></ul><ul><li>Strong communal bonds are created </li></ul>
  20. 20. Arguments about Ties <ul><li>Con </li></ul><ul><li>Inability to sustain the kinds of exchanges that pertain to strong ties, e.g., emotional, self-disclosure, trust, exchange of complex information </li></ul><ul><li>= Argument against the ability to sustain strong ties of friendship or work </li></ul><ul><li>Latent and weak ties cannot bootstrap themselves to make stronger relationships </li></ul><ul><li>Pro </li></ul><ul><li>Richness (re-) introduced among those with need or desire to communicate frequently and effectively </li></ul><ul><li>= Argument that strong ties will find a way </li></ul><ul><li>Communication conventions will be created by strong ties </li></ul><ul><li>Need will drive communication </li></ul><ul><li>Ties can be bootstrapped by the right social and technical planning and interventions </li></ul>
  21. 21. Critiques of E-Learning <ul><li>Based on two, untested assumptions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>physical co-location is the key factor making the educational experience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>on-campus experience is the one best way to interact, teach, and learn </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Need to separate delivery mechanism from relations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>physical campus and classroom is a delivery mechanism, not what is being delivered </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>e-learning technologies are also delivery mechanisms </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Can Ties Develop Online? <ul><li>Next two slides show two classes and the network configurations that developed over time </li></ul>
  23. 23. F97: Collaborative work via IRC and Email by Time Internet Relay Chat Email Group projects; Webboard also used for discussion, connected all to all Time 1 Time 2 Time 3
  24. 24. F98: All communications, IRC and Email by Time Internet Relay Chat Email No group project; Rotating pairs for presentations; Webboard use started but abandoned in this class; it connected very few after abandonment Time 1 Time 2 Time 3
  25. 25. Two Patterns of Media Use <ul><li>Wide connectivity with low frequency of communication </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Webboard +/or IRC </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>class-mandated media </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>class-wide, public </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>communicate with the class as a whole </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>* access to weak ties, new information, different opinions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Selective connectivity, with higher frequency of communication </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Email, Phone </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>optional media </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>person-to-person, private </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>communicate with friends and project work mates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>* access to motivated others, supporting task completion, emotional support </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Tasks Ahead: Some Examples <ul><li>In-class dynamics </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Finding out what network configurations exist, what they mean, and what we then want to encourage. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What does it mean to have high density in a learning network? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How common are network stars in e-learning classes, and how does their presence affect class dynamics? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Discovering relations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What relations make up a teaching-learning relationship, a collaborative work and learning relationship, a peer-to-peer network? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How do we support and provide for that online? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Bootstrapping online relationships </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How do you get e-learning interactions up and running? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How do you bootstrap network ties? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Building e-learning communities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How do you foster interpersonal ties and community that support learning, being together at a distance, and provide benefits such as satisfaction with the e-learning experience, and personal well-being? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How does feeling part of a community relate to pedagogical outcomes, program completion rates, and long term professional associations? </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. E-Learning Network Studies <ul><li>Series of papers on in-class networks of four e-learning classes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Haythornthwaite, C. (2000). Online personal networks: Size, composition and media use among distance learners. New Media and Society , 2(2), 195-226. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Haythornthwaite, C. (2001). Exploring multiplexity: Social network structures in a computer-supported distance learning class. The Information Society, 17 (3), 211-226. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Haythornthwaite, C. (2002). Strong, weak and latent ties and the impact of new media. The Information Society , 18 (5), 385-401. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Longitudinal, qualitative study of e-learners networks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Haythornthwaite, C., Kazmer, M.M., Robins, J. & Shoemaker, S. (2000). Community development among distance learners: Temporal and technological dimensions. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication , 6 (1). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>See also </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Haythornthwaite, C. (2002b). Building social networks via computer networks: Creating and sustaining distributed learning communities. In K.A. Renninger & W. Shumar, Building Virtual Communities: Learning and Change in Cyberspace (pp.159-190). Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Haythornthwaite, C. & Kazmer, M.M. (Eds.) (2004). Learning, Culture and Community in Online Education: Research and Practice . NY: Peter Lang. </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. Further Reading on Social Networks <ul><li>Garton, L., Haythornthwaite, C. & Wellman, B. (1997). Studying online social networks. JCMC , 3(1) . </li></ul><ul><li>Monge, P. R. & Contractor, N. S. (2003). Theories of Communication Networks . Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Wasserman, S. & Faust, K. (1994). Social Network Analysis . Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Wellman, B. (1997). An electronic group is a social network. In S. Kiesler (Ed.), Cultures of the Internet (pp.179-205). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. </li></ul><ul><li>Wellman, B., & Berkowitz, S.D. (Eds.) (1997). Social Structures: A Network Approach . (updated edition) Greenwich, CT: JAI Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Wellman, B., Salaff, J., Dimitrova, D., Garton, L., Gulia, M., & Haythornthwaite, C. (1996). Computer networks as social networks: Collaborative work, telework, and virtual community. Annual Review of Sociology, 22 , 213-238. </li></ul>