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Mining Data and Modeling Social Capital in Virtual Learning Communities

Mining Data and Modeling Social Capital in Virtual Learning Communities

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Published by Richard Schwier

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Published by: Richard Schwier on Jul 11, 2008
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06/14/2009

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Mining Data and Modelling SocialCapital in Virtual LearningCommunities
Ben K. DANIEL
1
, Gordon I. McCALLA
1
, Richard A. SCHWIER
2
 
 ARIES Research Laboratory
1
  Department of Computer Science, University of Saskatchewan Educational Communication and Technology
2
 , University of Saskatchewan3 Campus Drive, S7N 5A4, Saskatoon, Canada
Abstract
. This paper describes the use of content analysis and Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) techniques aimed at modelling social capital (SC) in virtual learning communities(VLCs). An initial BBN model of online SC based on previous work is presented.Transcripts drawn from two VLCs were analysed and inferences were drawn to buildscenarios to train and update the model. The paper presents three main contributions.First, it extends the understanding of SC to VLCs. Second; it offers a methodology forstudying SC in VLCs. Third the paper presents a computational model of SC that can beused in the future to understand various social issues critical to effective interactions inVLCs.
1.
 
Introduction
Social capital (SC) has recently emerged as an important interdisciplinaryresearch area. SC is frequently used as a framework for understandingvarious social networking issues in physical communities and distributedgroups. Researchers in the social sciences and humanities have used SC tounderstand trust, shared understanding, reciprocal relationships, socialnetwork structures, etc. Despite such research, little has been done toinvestigate SC in virtual learning communities (VLCs).SC in VLCs can be defined as a web of positive or negativerelationships within a group. Research into SC in physical communitiesshows that SC allows people to cooperate and resolve shared problemsmore easily [19]. Putnam [14] has pointed out that SC greases the wheelthat allows communities to advance smoothly. Prusak and Cohen [13]have further suggested that when people preserve continuous interaction,they can sustain SC which can in turn enable them to develop trustingrelationships. Further, in VLCs, SC can enable people to makeconnections with other individuals in other communities [14]. SC alsohelps individuals manage and filter relevant information and can enablepeople in a community to effectively communicate with each other andshare knowledge [3].
 
This paper describes the use of content analysis and BayesianBelief Network (BBN) techniques to develop a model of SC in VLCs. Aninitial BBN model for SC based on previous work [4] is presented.Transcripts of interaction drawn from two VLCs were used to train andvalidate the model. Changes in the model were observed and results arediscussed.
2.
 
Content Analysis
The goal of content analysis is to determine the presence of words,concepts, and patterns within a large body of text or sets of texts [17].Content analysis involves the application of systematic and replicabletechniques for compressing a large body of text into few categories basedon explicit rules of coding [6] [16]. Researchers have used contentanalysis to understand data generated from interaction in computer-mediated collaborative learning environments [2] [15] [18]. Themes,sentences, paragraphs, messages, and propositions are normally used forcategorizing texts and they are treated as the basic units of analysis [16].In addition, the various units of analysis can serve as coding schemesenabling researchers to break down dialogues into meaningful conceptsthat can be further studied.The variations in coding schemes and levels of analysis often createreliability and validity problems. Furthermore, content analysisapproaches are generally cumbersome and labour intensive. However, acombination of content analysis and machine learning techniques can helpto model dependency relationships and causal relationships among data.
2.1.
 
Using Bayesian Belief Networks to Build Models
In artificial intelligence in education (AIED) models are used fordiagnosing learners to enable the building of tools to support learning [9].Models can also be used to represent various educational systems. Barker[1] summarized three uses of models within AIED: models as scientifictools for understanding learning problems; models as components of educational systems; and models as educational artefacts.A Bayesian Belief Networks (BBN) is one of the techniques forbuilding models. BBNs are directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) composed of nodes and directed arrows [12]. Nodes in BBNs represent randomvariables and the directed edges (arrows) between pairs of nodes indicaterelationships among the variables. BBNs can be used for makingqualitative inferences without the computational inefficiencies of traditional joint probability determinations [13]. Researchers have usedBBN techniques for various purposes. For example BBNs have been usedfor student modelling [20] and user modelling [21]. We have begun toinvestigate how BBNs can model SC in virtual communities [4].
 
3.
 
Modelling Social Capital in Virtual Learning CommunitiesThe procedure for examining SC in VLC first involved synthesis of previous and current research on SC in physical communities, singling outthe most important variables and establishing logical relationships amongthe variables. The main variables include: the type of community,attitudes, interaction, shared understanding, demographic culturalawareness, professional cultural awareness, task knowledge awareness,and individual capability awareness, norms, and trust. We representedvarious degrees of influence by the letters S (strong), M (medium), and W(weak). The signs + and - represent positive and negative relationships.The relationships among the variables were mapped into a BBN for SC(see figure 1).
Table 1.
presents the key variables of SC and their definitions
Variable Name Variable Definition Variable States
Interaction A mutual or reciprocal actionbetween two or more agentsdetermined by the number of messages sent and receivedPresent/AbsentAttitudes Individuals' general perceptionabout each other and others'actionsPositive/NegativeCommunityTypeThe type of environment, tools,goals, and tasks that define thegroupVirtual learning community (VLC)and Distributed community of practice (DCoP)SharedUnderstandingA mutual agreement/consensusbetween two or more agentsabout the meaning of an objectHigh/LowAwareness Knowledge of people, tasks, orenvironment and or all of theabovePresent/AbsentDemographicAwarenessKnowledge of an individual:country of origin, language andlocationPresent/AbsentProfessionalCulturalAwarenessKnowledge of people’sbackground training, affiliationetc.Present/AbsentCompetenceAwarenessKnowledge about anindividual’s capabilities,competencies, and skillsPresent/AbsentCapabilityAwarenessKnowledge of people’scompetences and skills inregards to performing aparticular task Present/AbsentSocialProtocols/NormsThe mutually agreed upon,acceptable and unacceptableways of behaviour in acommunityPresent/Absent

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