Social capital from online discussion forums: Differences between online and blended modes of delivery
Keywords:Online Discussion Forum, Academic Achievement, Social Network, Social Capital, Social Network Analysis, Online Learning, Blended Learning, Higher education
This study explored the concept of social capital in higher education contexts by investigating student discussion forum activity and academic performance. To address these aims online discussion forum logs, student marks and teaching delivery method (blended or fully online) data were extracted from the universities learning management system (LMS). Student social network centrality measures were then calculated from the course discussion activity and correlated against student academic performance for each delivery mode. Drawing on social capital and social network theories the analyses identified that in comparison to low performing students the high-performing group held more central positions in their networks and tended to establish dense social connections with students of a similar academic ability. It was also observed that the relationships formed in blended teaching units were of a greater intensity and reciprocity than those established in fully online teaching units indicating a higher level of social capital was reached. This difference in the amount of available social capital between the two teaching modes suggests that students in blended units have comparatively greater access to resources embedded within the network, which in turn can be mobilised to assist them in their academic endeavours.
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