The Roles of Social Networks and Communities in Open Education Programs

The Roles of Social Networks and Communities in Open Education Programs

Utpal M. Dholakia (Rice University, USA) and Richard Baraniuk (Connexions and Rice University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-208-4.ch010
OnDemand PDF Download:


Open Education Programs provide a range of digitized educational resources freely to educators, students, and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning, and research. In the current chapter the authors study how the educational experience for users and the effectiveness of these programs can be enhanced by incorporating new social networking technologies along with traditional virtual communities, such as bulletin boards and chat-rooms. An overview of open education programs is provided, discussing their common characteristics and participants’ motivations for joining and contributing to such programs. The authors also consider the roles played by collaboration processes in open education programs, examine how communities evolve on theses sites, their roles in making the programs sustainable, and what site organizers can do to enhance these processes. They conclude the chapter with a discussion of future trends and how social networking technologies will contribute to the next generation of open education programs. Throughout, their discussion is informed by our experiences and engagement with the Connexions project (
Chapter Preview

The Roles Of Social Networks And Communities In Open Education Programs

“It isn’t about making it cost-free or busting patents. It’s about harnessing the latent creativity of a very large number of people who are out of the loop right now” - Dr. Richard Jefferson

Cutting across disciplines, a wide range of academics share a common set of values: that knowledge should be free and open to use and re-use; that collaboration across distances and across disciplines should be easier, not harder; that people should receive credit, accolades, and financial remuneration (if relevant) for contributing to education and research; and that concepts and ideas are linked in unusual and surprising ways and not just in the simple linear forms that textbooks and classroom lectures present (Baraniuk, 2007). Over the last decade or so, aided by technological advances, these values have crystallized into the growing and often grassroots-driven Open Education Movement, which has the potential to fundamentally change the way authors, instructors, and students produce, share, and use educational materials worldwide (e.g., Baraniuk & Cervenka, 2002; Cape Town Declaration 2007; Materu, 2004; see OECD, 2007, for an excellent overview). As an example, over 1,500 individuals representing 153 organizations (as of March 2008) have signed the Cape Town Open Education Declaration (2007) which articulates the principles and strategy surrounding the Open Education Movement, and engenders commitment amongst signatories.

Inspired by developments in open source software such as the Linux operating system and the Apache web server (e.g., Hamm, 2005; Lakhani & von Hippel, 2003), scientific research such as open source bio-technology initiatives (e.g., Hope, 2004), and the open licensing of intellectual property (e.g., St. Laurent, 2004), the open education movement seeks to provide free access to any internet user to high-quality educational materials through an easy to access and easy to use website. Furthermore, the materials can be customized and personalized to match the local contexts of users (language, level, users’ educational goals, etc.). Many educational institutions have implemented open education programs (OEPs) over the last few years that make available repositories of teaching and learning materials. These can include text (course notes, curricula, and textbooks), images, audio, video, interactive simulations, problems and answers, and games. These resources are usually digitized and are freely and openly available to educators, students, and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research (OECD, 2007). The communication capabilities and connectivity of the internet further enhance the value of these resources by allowing producers and users to collaborate, share materials with each another, and enhance their knowledge and understanding of the materials through these social interactions.

Despite the exploding popularity of OEPs over the last five years (OECD, 2007), most existing analyses of these programs tend to, implicitly or explicitly, view these resources as learning objects that individual users interact with. Relatively little is known about the roles of new technologies that foster online social interactions, social networking, and stimulate interpersonal relationships among users in the functioning of OEPs. Even less is known regarding such questions as what is the best structure of interactions that should be encouraged on OEP sites (synchronous or asynchronous, shallow or deep, etc.), what benefits and detriments partnering with existing or start-up social networking sites will have on OEP success, and the role played by social interaction technologies in making OEP sites financially viable and sustainable(?).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Open Education Programs: Education programs offering teaching and learning materials such as text (course notes, curricula, textbooks), images, audio, video, interactive simulations, etc. for free use and reuse online.

Connexions: Connexions is a non-profit start-up launched at Rice University in 1999 that offers a rapidly growing collection of free, open-access educational materials and an open-source software toolkit to help authors publish and collaborate, instructors rapidly build and share custom courses, and students explore the links among concepts, courses, and disciplines. It is internationally focused, interdisciplinary, and grassroots organized.

Community Development: Progression of users’ view of community from being a resource or repository (stage 1), to a user network (stage 2), to an engaged community (stage 3).

OEP Sites: Websites hosting Open Education Programs

Social Capital: Creating and maintaining a network of friends, business, and personal acquaintances.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Jennifer Preece
Stylianos Hatzipanagos, Steven Warburton
Chapter 1
Jon Dron, Terry Anderson
Understanding the affordances, effectiveness and applicability of new media in multiple contexts is usually a slow and evolving process with many... Sample PDF
How the Crowd Can Teach
Chapter 2
Chris Abbott, William Alder
Although social networking has been enthusiastically embraced by large numbers of children and young people, their schools and colleges have been... Sample PDF
Social Networking and Schools: Early Responses and Implications for Practice
Chapter 3
Eleni Berki, Mikko Jäkälä
Information and communication technology gradually transform virtual communities to active meeting places for sharing information and for supporting... Sample PDF
Cyber-Identities and Social Life in Cyberspace
Chapter 4
Werner Beuschel
Weblogs are a popular form of Social Software, supporting personal Web authoring as well as innovative forms of social interaction via internet. The... Sample PDF
Weblogs in Higher Education
Chapter 5
Mark Bilandzic, Marcus Foth
Web services such as wikis, blogs, podcasting, file sharing and social networking are frequently referred to by the term Web 2.0. The innovation of... Sample PDF
Social Navigation and Local Folksonomies: Technical and Design Considerations for a Mobile Information System
Chapter 6
Rakesh Biswas, Carmel M. Martin, Joachim Sturmberg, Kamalika Mukherji, Edwin Wen Huo Lee, Shashikiran Umakanth
The chapter starts from the premise that illness and healthcare are predominantly social phenomena that shape the perspectives of key stakeholders... Sample PDF
Social Cognitive Ontology and User Driven Healthcare
Chapter 7
Jillianne R. Code, Nicholas E. Zaparyniuk
Central to research in social psychology is the means in which communities form, attract new members, and develop over time. Research has found that... Sample PDF
Social Identities, Group Formation, and the Analysis of Online Communities
Chapter 8
Jillianne R. Code, Nicholas E. Zaparyniuk
Social and group interactions in online and virtual communities develop and evolve from expressions of human agency. The exploration of the... Sample PDF
The Emergence of Agency in Online Social Networks
Chapter 9
A. Malizia, A. De Angeli, S. Levialdi, I. Aedo Cuevas
The User Experience (UX) is a crucial factor for designing and enhancing the user satisfaction when interacting with a computational tool or with a... Sample PDF
Exploiting Collaborative Tagging Systems to Unveil the User-Experience of Web Contents: An Operative Proposal
Chapter 10
Utpal M. Dholakia, Richard Baraniuk
Open Education Programs provide a range of digitized educational resources freely to educators, students, and self-learners to use and reuse for... Sample PDF
The Roles of Social Networks and Communities in Open Education Programs
Chapter 11
Sebastian Fiedler, Kai Pata
This chapter discusses how the construction of an adequate design and intervention framework for distributed learning environments might be... Sample PDF
Distributed Learning Environments and Social Software: In Search for a Framework of Design
Chapter 12
Yoni Ryan, Robert Fitzgerald
This chapter considers the potential of social software to support learning in higher education. It outlines a current project funded by the then... Sample PDF
Exploring the Role of Social Software in Higher Education
Chapter 13
Kathryn Gow
This chapter focuses on the identification of a range of competencies that entry level workers, and thus graduating students, will need to acquire... Sample PDF
Identifying New Virtual Competencies for the Digital Age: Essential Tools for Entry Level Workers
Chapter 14
Jerald Hughes, Scott Robinson
This chapter examines interaction-oriented virtual religious communities online in the light of sociological theory of religious communities. The... Sample PDF
Social Structures of Online Religious Communities
Chapter 15
Helen Keegan, Bernard Lisewski
This chapter explores emergent behaviours in the use of social software across multiple online communities of practice where informal learning... Sample PDF
Living, Working, Teaching and Learning by Social Software
Chapter 16
Lucinda Kerawalla, Shailey Minocha, Gill Kirkup, Gráinne Conole
With a variety of asynchronous communication and collaboration tools and environments such as Wikis, blogs, and forums, it can be increasingly... Sample PDF
Supporting Student Blogging in Higher Education
Chapter 17
Lisa Kervin, Jessica Mantei, Anthony Herrington
This chapter examines blogging as a social networking tool to engage final year preservice teachers in reflective processes. Using a developed Web... Sample PDF
Blogs as a Social Networking Tool to Build Community
Chapter 18
Jennifer Ann Linder-VanBerschot
The objective of this chapter is to introduce a model that outlines the evolution of knowledge and sustainable innovation of community through the... Sample PDF
A Model for Knowledge and Innovation in Online Education
Chapter 19
Petros Lameras, Iraklis Paraskakis, Philipa Levy
This chapter focuses on discussing the use of social software from a social constructivist perspective. In particular, the chapter explains how... Sample PDF
Using Social Software for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
Chapter 20
Dimitris Bibikas, Iraklis Paraskakis, Alexandros G. Psychogios, Ana C. Vasconcelos
The aim of this chapter is to investigate the potential role of social software inside business settings in integrating knowledge exploitation and... Sample PDF
The Potential of Enterprise Social Software in Integrating Exploitative and Explorative Knowledge Strategies
Chapter 21
M. C. Pettenati, M. E. Cigognini, E. M.C. Guerin, G. R. Mangione
In this chapter the authors identify the Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) pre-dispositions, skills and competences of the current effective... Sample PDF
Personal Knowledge Management Skills for Lifelong-Learners 2.0
Chapter 22
Sharon Markless, David Streatfield
This chapter questions whether the shift from the Web as a vehicle for storing and transmitting information to the new Web as a series of social... Sample PDF
Reconceptualising Information Literacy for the Web 2.0 Environment?
Chapter 23
Catherine McLoughlin, Mark J.W. Lee
Learning management systems (LMS’s) that cater for geographically dispersed learners have been widely available for a number of years, but many... Sample PDF
Pedagogical Responses to Social Software in Universities
Chapter 24
Alexandra Okada, Simon Buckingham Shum, Michelle Bachler, Eleftheria Tomadaki, Peter Scott, Alex Little, Marc Eisenstadt
The aim of this chapter is to overview the ways in which knowledge media technologies create opportunities for social learning. The Open Content... Sample PDF
Knowledge Media Tools to Foster Social Learning
Chapter 25
Luc Pauwels, Patricia Hellriegel
This chapter looks into YouTube as one of the most popular Social Software platforms, challenging the dominant discourse with its focus on community... Sample PDF
A Critical Cultural Reading of "YouTube"
Chapter 26
Ismael Peña-López
The author of this chapter proposes the concept of the Personal Research Portal (PRP) – a mesh of social software applications to manage knowledge... Sample PDF
The Personal Research Portal
Chapter 27
Andrew Ravenscroft, Musbah Sagar, Enzian Baur, Peter Oriogun
This chapter will present a new approach to designing learning interactions and experiences that reconciles relatively stable learning processes... Sample PDF
Ambient Pedagogies, Meaningful Learning and Social Software
Chapter 28
V. Sachdev, S. Nerur, J. T.C. Teng
With the trend towards social interaction over the Internet and the mushrooming of Web sites such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube in the social... Sample PDF
Interactivity Redefined for the Social Web
Chapter 29
Sue Thomas, Chris Joseph, Jess Laccetti, Bruce Mason, Simon Perril, Kate Pullinger
Transliteracy might provide a unifying perspective on what it means to be literate in the 21st Century. It is not a new behaviour but has been... Sample PDF
Transliteracy as a Unifying Perspective
Chapter 30
Martin Weller, James Dalziel
This chapter looks at some of the areas of tension between the new social networking, Web 2.0 communities and the values of higher education. It... Sample PDF
Bridging the Gap Between Web 2.0 and Higher Education
Chapter 31
Steve Wheeler
The use of group oriented software, or groupware, encourages students to generate their own content (McGill et al, 2005) and can foster supportive... Sample PDF
Destructive Creativity on the Social Web: Learning through Wikis in Higher Education
Chapter 32
Scott Wilson
This chapter describes the mechanisms of presence in social networks and presents an ontology that frames the purpose, content, methods of... Sample PDF
Presence in Social Networks
About the Editors
About the Contributors