A Social Network Analysis Comparison of an Experienced and a Novice Instructor in Online Teaching

April 19, 2012


The most productive learning experience for students whether online or in face-to-face classes can often be the interaction among students and with an instructor. Online teaching and Social Network Analysis (SNA) offer the opportunity to examine intellectual social networking and strategies that promotes student interaction which can enhance learning.

This study focuses on two online courses in which we used Social Network Analysis (SNA) techniques to evaluate and compare student and instructor interactions of two online courses (Lesley University, Cambridge, MA and Instituto Piaget, Lisbon, Portugal). One course was taught by an experienced online instructor and the other by an instructor new to the online teaching format.

We describe and present some of the main features of SNA such as degree of participation, density of interaction, linkage, formation of subsets, distribution of centrality among the participants as well as network patterns.

Although the countries and content of the courses were different, SNA allowed us to make comparisons using objective statistical methods. We found that the instructional approach has a clear effect on interactions. In addition, we noted that under some instructional circumstances a multi-star pattern of interaction was created which is an undocumented SNA pattern. We also observed that SNA can be useful in studying online course interactions leading to enhanced learning.

The European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning