Reciprocity analysis of online learning networks

Reuven Aviv, Gilad Ravid, Zippy Erlich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Asynchronous Learning Networks (ALNs) make the process of collaboration more transparent, because a transcript of conference messages can be used to assess individual roles and contributions and the collaborative process itself. This study considers three aspects of ALNs: the design; the quality of the resulting knowledge construction process; and cohesion, role and power network structures. The design is evaluated according to the Social Interdependence Theory of Cooperative Learning. The quality of the knowledge construction process is evaluated through Content Analysis; and the network structures are
analyzed using Social Network Analysis of the response relations among participants during online discussions. In this research we analyze data from two three-month-long ALN academic university courses: a formal, structured, closed forum and an informal, non-structured, open forum. We found that in the structured ALN, the knowledge construction process reached a very high phase of critical thinking and developed cohesive cliques. The students took on bridging and triggering roles, while the tutor had relatively little power. In the non-structured ALN, the knowledge construction process reached a low phase of cognitive activity; few cliques were constructed; most of the students took on the passive role of teacher-followers; and the tutor was at the center of activity. These differences are statistically significant. We conclude that a well-designed ALN develops significant, distinct cohesion, and role and power structures lead the knowledge construction process to high phases of critical thinking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-13
JournalOnline Learning Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2005


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