Forums analytics

In the #DALMOOC course on Learning Analytics, I encountered a nice application that visualizes these terrible large Moodle forum threads. So I had finally another view on the memorable thread of CCK08.

snappvis

Screenshot of a network visualization

It took me quite a while to figure out which sites needed to be added to the Java security exception list: it was both the SNAPP site http://aneesha.ceit.uq.edu.au and the Moodle site http://wwwapps.cc.umanitoba.ca that needed to be filled in at Control Panel > Programs > Java > Security > Exception list. But it was a worthwile effort, because the visualization was easier to understand than the Gephi behemoth, and it let me quickly switch between “FR” layout (Fruchtermann Rheingold? whatever that means) and other ones like Spring and Circle. Of course, this visualisation is focussed on participants rather than content (because this week’s topic is SNA), but at least it has shown the potential of tapping such forums threads which become so undigestible, as soon as the discussion becomes lively. So my hope awoke again that, one day, we might have a tool that can also visualize the conceptual connections between the posts. I have long before tried to visualize a completed thread. Here is my 2008 attempt on Flickr, and if you load this .zip file (don’t unzip it!) into my own tool, you can see my latest attempts in visualizing such a frozen version. (You can replace the post titles by your own ones). But wouldn’t it be great to visualize the thread on the fly? The dominant view seems to be that one can use such Social Network Analysis to identify silent participants and to urge them to become more chatty. But I also expect from future Learning Analytics that it will identify styles and preferences and cater to, rather than intervene against, people whose style is less quick/ synchronous and more reflective/ asynchronous (see Mak, Williams, Mackness (2010) on the different styles). These might like a forum which allows for later, selective reading and engaging with thoughtful posts. This is often impossible in these giant threads where almost all post titles are the same, where participants will only survive when they follow the rapid exchange in realtime.

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