Using Social Network Analysis to Analyze Student Interactions in an Online Asynchronous Course
Pratibha Menon Pennsylvania Western University - California
Lisa Kovalchick Pennsylvania Western University - California
Alan Peslak Penn State University
Abstract Asynchronous online discussion plays a key role in online and blended courses by supporting a variety of educational activities (Gunawardena et al., 2016). It is a useful tool that allows both teachers and students to express their ideas, communicate with their peers and share experiences unconstrained by geographic location or time. From the sociocultural perspective, knowledge is commonly socially constructed by collaborative work toward shared or common objectives or by discourses and challenges produced by differences in persons’ perspectives (Vygotsky, 1978). Knowledge gradually emerges through interaction and is distributed among those who interact. Online discussion boards provide a means to facilitate social interaction and knowledge construction through collaborative and shared learning goals.
To explore the affordances of online discussion forums for the facilitation of online learners’ interactions and collaborative learning, this study examines the use of asynchronous text based online discussion forums in an online course. An associated goal of this study is to use social network analysis methods to identify the how students interact with others in an online discussion forum. Student interactions will be studied by characterizing the types of online posts that students create to ask questions, share their experiences and to respond to others. Data collected from the online discussion posts of a 15-week computer programming course will be analyzed to uncover the social network structure that results from the recorded interactions. The results of the study could be used by course designers to facilitate online learning by improving student interaction in a fully online course.