Multimedia Social Networks and E-Learning

Multimedia Social Networks and E-Learning

Andrew Laghos (Cyprus University of Technology, Cyprus)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2833-5.ch015


The purpose of this chapter is to investigate Multimedia Social Networks and e-Learning, and the relevant research in these areas. Multimedia Social Networks in e-Learning is an important and evolving study area, since an understanding of the technologies involved as well as an understanding of how the students communicate in online social networks are necessary in order to accurately analyze them. The chapter begins by introducing Multimedia Social Networks and Online Communities. Following this, the key players of e-Learning in Multimedia Social Networks are presented, including a discussion of the different roles that the students take. Furthermore, Social Interaction research is presented concentrating on such important areas as factors that influence social interaction, peer support, student-centered learning, collaboration, and the effect of interaction on learning. The last section of the chapter deals with the various methods and frameworks for analyzing multimedia social networks in e-Learning communities.
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Communication is the Internet’s most important asset (Metcalfe, 1992). Through communication services like the Internet, written communication has for many people supplanted the postal service, telephone, and fax machine (Jones, 1995). All these applications where the computer is used to mediate communication are called Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC). December (1997) defines CMC as “a process of human communication via computers, involving people, situated in particular contexts, engaging in processes to shape media for a variety of purposes” (p. 1). “Studies of CMC can view this process from a variety of interdisciplinary theoretical perspectives by focusing on some combination of people, technology, processes, or effects. Some of these perspectives include the social, cognitive/psychological, linguistic, cultural, technical, or political aspects; and/or draw on fields such as human communication” (December, 2004, p. 1).

Through the use of CMC applications, online communities emerge. By the end of 2011, just on the social network website Facebook, there were over 800 million registered members (Pingdom, 2012). As Korzenny pointed out even as early as 1978, the new social communities that are built from CMC, are formed around interests and not physical proximity (Korzenny, 1978). CMC gives people around the world the opportunity to communicate with others who share their interests, as unpopular as these interests may be, which does not happen in the ‘real’ world where the smaller the interest in a particular scene is, the less likely it will exist. This is due mainly to the Internet’s connectivity and plethora of information available posted by anyone anywhere in the world.

An Online Learning Community can be defined as: “A group of people who communicate with each other across the Internet (or sometimes by intranet) to share information, learn more about a topic, or work on a project of mutual interest” (Porter, 2004, p. 193). The relevance of certain attributes in the descriptions of online communities, like the need to respect the feelings and property of others, is debated (Preece, 2000). Online communities are also referred to as cyber societies, cyber communities, Web groups, virtual communities, Web communities, virtual social networks, and e-communities among several others.

Social networking on multimedia e-learning websites has its benefits as well as its limitations. For instance, a benefit is that the discussions are potentially richer than in face-to-face classrooms (Scotcit, 2003), but on the other hand, users with poor writing skills may be at a disadvantage when using text-based CMC (Scotcit, 2003). Furthermore, asynchronous discussions allow for “reflective study followed by complex exchanges and genuine collaboration in the application of theory” (Sumner & Dewar, 2002, p. 1).

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