Culture, role and group work: A social network analysis perspective on an online collaborative course


  • Karen Stepanyan,

    Corresponding author
    • Address for correspondence: Dr Karen Stepanyan, Research Fellow, Department of Computer Science, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK. Tel: +44 (0)24 7652 3523. Fax: +44 (0)24 7646 1606. Email:

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  • Richard Mather,

  • Roger Dalrymple


This paper discusses the patterns of network dynamics within a multicultural online collaborative learning environment. It analyses the interaction of participants (both students and facilitators) within a discussion board that was established as part of a 3-month online collaborative course. The study employs longitudinal probabilistic social network analysis (SNA) to identify the patterns and trends within the network. It conjectures and tests a set of hypotheses concerning the tendencies towards homophily/heterophily and preferential attachment. The paper presents identified interaction network patterns in relation to cultural differences. It also evaluates network dynamics by considering participant roles and group work in the course under study. Results of social network analyses are reported along with measures of statistical confidence in findings. The potential for extending exploratory SNA methods and visualisation techniques in educational research are discussed here.