A central argument for the creation of Online Learning Environments is they permit learners to engage in social learning freed from the constraints of shared space and time (Hara, Bonk, & Angeli, 2000). However, other research suggests that location and work relationships (Hampton & Wellman, 2003; Koku & Wellman, 2004), as well as race, ethnicity and gender (McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001), have an influence on the shape of social networks. Studies of late-elementary school children suggest that they have strong preferences for same-gendered interaction in classroom and playground settings. This research uses Social Network Analysis and Discourse Analysis to evaluate the effects of shared school location and gender on the social networks created by late-elementary students in Quest Atlantis, an international game-like social learning environment. Three different modes of computer-mediated communication interaction were sampled: synchronous public chat, asynchronous private e-mail, and asynchronous private telegrams.
This study found that participants sent disproportionate numbers of messages to participants located at the same geographic site. This effect was most pronounced for mail messages, which were almost exclusively sent to same-site participants. Participants also disproportionately sent e-mail and telegrams, although not chat messages, to members of the same gender. Designers and managers of online social learning environments should consider that effective communication across sites separated by geography may require active mediation and team building beyond the existence of CMC utilities. Social network analysis can provide an useful tool for evaluating efforts to build online social learning environments.
|Advisor:||Barab, Sasha A.|
|Commitee:||Herring, Susan C., Paolillo, John, Schwen, Thomas|
|Department:||School of Education|
|School Location:||United States -- Indiana|
|Source:||DAI-A 72/03, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Multimedia Communications, Educational technology, Information science|
|Keywords:||Computer-mediated discourse analysis, Games, Gender, Multiuser virtual environments, Social networks|
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