Design and Architecture of Collaborative Online Communities: A Quantitative Analysis.

Reuven Aviv, Zippy Erlich, Gilad Ravid

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


This paper considers four aspects of online communities. Design, mechanisms, architecture, and the constructed knowledge. We hypothesize that different designs of communities drive different mechanisms, which give rise to different architectures, which in turn result in different levels of collaborative knowledge construction. To test this chain of hypotheses, we analyzed the recorded responsiveness data of two online communities of learners having different designs: a formal, structured team, and an informal, non-structured, Q&A forum. The designs are evaluated according to the Social Interdependence Theory of Cooperative Learning. Knowledge construction is assessed through Content Analysis. The architectures are revealed by Statistical Analysis of p* Markov Models for the communities. The mechanisms are then identified by matching the predictions of Network Emergence Theories with the observed architectures. The hypotheses are strongly supported. Our analysis shows that the minimal-effort hunt-for-social-capital mechanism controls a major behavior of both communities: negative tendency to respond. Differences in the goals, interdependence and the promotive interaction features of the designs of the two communities lead to the development of different mechanisms: cognition balance and peer pressure in the team, but not in the forum. Exchange mechanism in the forum, but not in the team. In addition, the pre-assigned role of the tutor in the forum gave rise to its responsibility mechanism in that community, but not in team community. These differences in the mechanisms led to the formation of different sets of virtual neighborhoods, which show up macroscopically as differences in the cohesion and the distribution of response power. These differences are associated with the differences in the buildup of knowledge in the two communities. The methods can be extended to other relations in online communities and longitudinal analysis, and for real-time monitoring of online communications.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAssociation for Educational Communications and Technology, 27th, Chicago, IL, October 19-23, 2004
Number of pages14
StatePublished - 19 Oct 2004


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