Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Engagement and Knowledge Sharing in a Virtual Learning Community

Engagement and Knowledge Sharing in a Virtual Learning Community

Ratings: (0)|Views: 100|Likes:
Published by Richard Schwier

More info:

Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Richard Schwier on Jul 10, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





Engagement and knowledge sharing in a virtual learning community
Ben K. Daniel and Richard A. Schwier Virtual Learning Community Research LaboratoryEducational Communications and TechnologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada S7N 0K1richard.schwier@usask.ca, ben.daniel@usask.ca  Cite as: Daniel, B.K., & Schwier, R.A. (2007). Engagement and knowledge sharing in avirtual learning community. In C. Montgomerie & J. Seale (Eds.), Proceedings of ED-Media 2007 (pp. 639-646). Cheseapeake, VA: Association for theAdvancement of Computing in Education.
The notion of knowledge sharing in virtual learning communities is critical but hardly researched. This paper identifies the process involved in sharing knowledge and the types of knowledge sharing objects that areexchanged in virtual learning communities. Using social network indices, our goal is first to understand the flow of information through assessment of the extent to which learners interact with each other individually and as acommunity. Then we examine and categorize the content of information exchanged using content analysis techniques. Ataxonomy showing the relationships between the different types of knowledge shared in the community is described. We suggest that the results of this research can enable us to think about different ways of supporting the process of knowledge sharing and discourse leading to effective learning and knowledge sharing in virtual learning communitiesin higher education.
One of the most important variables describing learning activities in virtual learning communities isknowledge sharing (Daniel, Schwier & Ross, 2005). The term knowledge sharing implies giving andreceiving information within a context that includes knowledge of the source. In virtual learningcommunities what constitutes knowledge sharing objects and the processes involved in sharing are openquestions that have received little attention to date. We contend that knowledge-sharing activities in virtuallearning communities require critical analysis of the flow of information and knowledge, and theidentification of knowledge sharing objects exchanged in these communities.Drawing from knowledge management research, we first explore knowledge sharing in virtuallearning communities. Second we employ social network techniques to visualize patterns of interactions between learners. We then propose a knowledge sharing taxonomy to help us understand different types of knowledge sharing activities in virtual learning communities. Third, we use content analysis to examine thetypes and content of knowledge sharing activities taking place in a virtual learning community and discusstheir implications to supporting knowledge sharing in virtual learning communities.
Related work 
Knowledge management researchers make a clear distinction between explicit and tacit knowledge(Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). Explicit knowledge typically refers to knowledge that is easily documented,shared, public and social; whereas tacit knowledge is personal, resides in the human mind, behavior and perception, and is generally difficult to share (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Dixon, 2002). Nonaka andTakeuchi (1995) outlined a model of explicit and tacit knowledge, which illustrates how tacit knowledgecan be transferred between individuals by observing a person perform a task (tacit to tacit). Tacitknowledge can also be transformed into explicit knowledge through externalization by discussing anddocumenting the knowledge. Similarly, explicit knowledge can be transferred across an organization(explicit to explicit) through the flow of printed and electronic documents.Despite an increasing number of studies about knowledge management practices, knowledge-sharingmechanisms in general are not well understood (Bechina, 2006; De Long, 2000). We confine our research
within virtual learning communities and other kinds of technology mediated communities (such asdistributed communities practice). Our initial observations reveal that tacit and explicit knowledge arecommon to all kinds of virtual communities but the protocol for sharing differs from one community toanother. For instance, in virtual learning communities, the knowledge sharing process can involvecontinuous engagement in discourse with others in the community in a particular context, so the distinction between knowledge, information and data is also context dependent. For instance, when people exchangedata, the data is processed into information. In turn, information can be situated in a particular context andturned into knowledge for a particular individual. Both information and knowledge are grounded in data.Knowledge enables us to interpret information (i.e., derive meaning from data). The interpretation of meaning is framed by the perceiver’s knowledge. So what one person perceives as information can bemeaningless data to another (Daniel, Schwier & McCalla, 2003). Further, how specific knowledge isgenerated from data and information depends on how the data are stored, and how information is presented,organized, communicated and received by particular individuals in a particular community.
Research context and results
When dealing with representations it is obvious that different representations can enhance theunderstanding level of a particular problem (Tufte, 1990). The form of representation makes a dramaticdifference in the ease of the task and its proper choice depends upon the knowledge and the method beingapplied to the problem (Norman, 1993). This work aims to demonstrate how we can analyze the flow of information in a virtual learning community with the aim of understanding knowledge sharing activities.We employ social network analysis to understanding the patterns of interactions between individuals andtheir central relative importance in the network. Visualization offers advantages and opportunities when wedeal with complex data sets, ill structured and dynamic information, and the kind of settings thatcharacterize actual data sets in virtual learning community. Since visualization itself does not reveal actualcontent of interaction, we use content analysis to synthesize the actual nature of knowledge sharingactivities and categorize them into knowledge objects.These analyses draw from three years of online communication among groups of graduate studentsin Educational Communications and Technology as they participated in seminars. The classes spanned anacademic year, and were small graduate seminars with enrolments from six to thirteen students, and eachclass met primarily online, but with monthly group meetings. While most students were able to attend thegroup meetings regularly, every class cohort had members who participated exclusively or mostly from adistance. A significant characteristic of both groups was that they were comprised almost exclusively of Western, English-speaking graduate students, with the exception of one student from China. All of thestudents exhibited facility with writing, and there was ample evidence that students were willing to engagein academic argumentation with each other and with the instructor. It is possible, even likely, that our findings are culturally bound, and so we caution the reader to confine interpretations to the contextdescribed in this paper. Given the blended nature of all of the classes, we confine our conclusions to similar environments, and acknowledge that these results cannot be generalized to environments that are entirelyonline, or entirely face-to-face.
Social network analysis
Social network analysis (SNA) is a set of mathematical methods used to map and measures relationshipsand flows between people groups, and information/knowledge. It is a set of individuals or groups who areconnected to one another through socially meaningful relationships (Freemen, 2004; Hanneman, & Mark,2005). SNA views social relationships in terms of nodes and ties. Nodes are the individual actors within thenetworks, and ties are the relationships between the actors. Further, SNA seeks to understand networks andtheir participants and to evaluate the location of actors in the network. We have employed SNA to visualize patterns of interactions between individuals in order to determine the flow of information and knowledge.The visual representation was constructed out of a two-dimensional matrix (see figure 1).
 Figure 1. Weighted binary matrix of engagement
The network is weighted (i.e., non-uniform) and non-symmetric and directed. This kind of a matrix isthe starting point for almost all network analysis, and is called an "adjacency matrix" because it representswho is next to, or adjacent to whom in the "social space" mapped by the relations that we have measured.An adjacency matrix may be "symmetric" or "asymmetric." We employed AGNA (Applied Graph & Network Analysis) a platform-independent application designed for scientists and researchers who usespecific mathematical methods to investigate the flow of information in a network (Benta, 2005). Wegenerated a visual view of a network consisting of 15 nodes and 159 edges out of the matrix in figure 1 and presented as a graph in figure 2 below.
Figure 2. Community visualization
In figure 2 the links indicate engagement between nodes (individuals) in the community. A single-edge link suggests one-way communication (when
sends mail or a message to
did not respond to
) while a double-edge link suggests two-ways communications. There are several measures employed insocial network analysis in degrees of betweenness, centrality, density and reception (see for exampleGarton, Haythortonthwaite & Wellman, 1999). For our data set we calculated different SNA indices tolocate community and individual locations. The size of a network is the number of its nodes. A network isvalued (or weighted) when each of its edges has an associated numeric value and binary when its edgesmerely reflect the presence of connections between nodes i.e. 0 for absence of connections and 1 for  presences of connections. In order to visualize the community we use density as an indicator of sense of acommunity. A density of a network is the total number of edges divided by the number of all possibleedges in that network. For a weighted directed network the density is given by:--…………………………………………….(i)Where
is the density,
- the total number of edges in the network,
- the number of nodes and
are thematrix elements. We calculated the density of the network to be 0.75714284. Another important measure inSNA is centrality. The degree of centrality of an actor is the most intuitive network conceptualization of 

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->