Citekey: @Dawson2010

Dawson, S., Bakharia, A., & Heathcote, E. (2010). SNAPP: Realising the affordances of real-time SNA within networked learning environments. In Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Networked Learning (pp. 125–133).


This paper introduces SNAPP, a real-time SNA tool integrated with multiple widely used LMS. The paper explains motivation of designing this tool, multiple design principles of this tool, and its main usefulness (uncovering facilitator centric patterns and identifying isolators). The paper includes various figures to explain the tool.

There are also many great points made in this paper. For example:

  • “it is important to note that the educational context the learning activity is positioned in is an important factor that will influence any conclusions drawn”


This paper outlines the development of a tool designed to provide educators with real-time evaluative data to better support student learning. The Social Networks Adapting Pedagogical Practice (SNAPP) tool extracts student online network data and renders this information into a readily interpretable user-interface. The monitoring of student social networks has been demonstrated to assist educators in identifying instances of learner isolation (McDonald, Stuckey, Noakes, & Nyrop, 2005), creativity (Burt, 2004), and community formation (Dawson, 2008; De Laat, Lally, Lipponen, & Simons, 2007). The ability to view social graph structure and community evolution is crucial to successful facilitation and serves as an early indicator of the success of a learning activity design as well as information about student participation and potential performance. (p. 1)

a few more references (p. 1)

This paper argues for the need for realtime social graph visualisation, describes the design principles behind the development of SNAPP and highlights the key participant and community structural patterns that SNAPP allows forum facilitators to visualise. (p. 1)

Despite the easy access to and vast flexible affordances of LMS, Web 2.0, and other collaborative based ICTs, there remain limited diagnostic tools that are available for education practitioners to better evaluate their implemented learning activities (p. 2)

Moreover, the presentation of these statistics is commonly in a format that is both complex and removed from the pedagogical intent and context. (p. 2)

An increased focus on developing collaborative and community centric learning endeavours reflects current educational theory, which emphasises the importance of diverse and sustained social interaction for enhancing and facilitating student learning (Gabelnick, MacGregor, Matthews, & Smith, 1990; Levine Laufgraben & Shapiro, 2004; Tinto, 1993; Vygotsky, 1978). (p. 2)

In short, the development of a community of learners or a learning network has become a foundational educational practice for both online and offline education environments. (p. 2)

Macfadyen and Dawson (2009) noted that the two most dominant LMS tools within a large Canadian university included the content page for transmission of information and the discussion forum for collaboration and community building. (p. 2)

This is well noted by Reffay and Chanier (2002) who suggested that the adoption of Social Network Analysis (SNA) can act as an educational evaluative tool in order to monitor and assess elements of student group cohesion in a collaborative environment. (p. 2)

SNAPP – Discussion forum interactions (p. 3)

The Social Networks Adapting Pedagogical Practice (SNAPP) tool was designed to provide educators with realtime access to the evolving social graph within a course. (p. 3)

However, an alternative solution exists when examining user interaction with threaded discussion forums. The forum succinctly contains all interaction data occurring between participants within the threaded view (See figure 1), thus the discussion forum typically displays all data necessary to establish network properties and relationships. (p. 3)

The development of a script designed to “skin” the threaded forum for network relationships is an effective alternative. (p. 4)

Design Guidelines (p. 4)

n much the same way, SNAPP was initially designed to infer post-reply interactions from discussion forums in Blackboard and WebCT. (p. 4)

The key guidelines governing the design and development of SNAPP are discussed below: (p. 4)

  1. Simplifiedinstallationandusage. (p. 4)

SNAPP as a result has been developed as a client-side bookmarklet requiring only a Web browser for installation and access. (p. 4)

  1. CrossLMS,browserandplatformsupport:AkeydesignaspectofSNAPPwastomainstreamtheuseof SNA within the educational institution context. (p. 4)

  2. Real-timeforumdataanalysis:SNAPPperformsdataextractionandanalysisinreal-time. (p. 4)

  3. In-linevisualisationsandsocialnetworkmetrics:SNAPPutilisesaJUNGapplet(O’Madadhain,etal., 2005) to render the social graphs. (p. 4)

Various graph layout algorithms are provided and SNAPP allows the user to: • scale nodes based upon number of posts; • scale connections (edges) based on post-reply strength; • enable/disable the display of participant names; • zoom in and out; and • filter participants based upon the number of interactions (degree). (p. 5)

  1. SupportpopularExportFormats:ThesocialnetworkdataextractedfromaforumisavailableasVNAand GraphML formats. (p. 5)

  2. SimplifySNA:SimplifySNAconceptsforusersthatarenotSNAexperts. (p. 5)

  3. Multi-forumsupport:ThemajorityofLMSprovideinstructorswiththecapacitytoconcurrentlyrun multiple forums as apart of a particular learning design. (p. 5)

Interpreting SNAPP – Example structural patterns and instructor action (p. 5)

This section describes how SNAPP generated network visualisations (sociograms) can be used by facilitators to detect emerging structural patterns (p. 5)

it is important to note that the educational context the learning activity is positioned in is an important factor that will influence any conclusions drawn. (p. 5)

Facilitator Centric Patterns The sociogram in Figure 4 illustrates a ‘facilitator’ centric pattern or “wagon-wheel pedagogy”. (p. 5)

Alternatively, if the purpose of the forum is to foster knowledge sharing and creation, this type of generated sociogram would indicate there is a need to better scaffold the discussion (p. 6)

Learner Isolation Students who are unable to establish peer to peer relationships commonly report feelings of isolation and exclusion (McDonald et al., 2005). Learner isolation has also been noted to be a key factor contributing to student attrition in online courses (Rovai, 2003; Rovai & Wighting, 2005). (p. 7)

Conclusion and Future Directions (p. 8)

The social graph is an aggregated visualisation of emerging student to student and student to facilitator relationships. Providing facilitators with a real-time alternative visual representation of a threaded discussion forum essentially serves as a social interaction diagnostic instrument. (p. 8)

Dawson, S. (2008). A study of the relationship between student social networks and sense of community. Educational Technology and Society, 11(3), 224–238. (p. 8)

De Laat, M., Lally, V., Lipponen, L., & Simons, R.-J. (2007). Investigating patterns of interaction in networked learning and computer-supported collaborative learning: a role for Social Network Analysis. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 2(1), 87-103. (p. 8)

McDonald, B., Stuckey, B., Noakes, N., & Nyrop, S. (2005). Breaking down learner isolation: How network analysis informs design and facilitation for online learning. Paper presented at the AERA, Montreal, Canada. (p. 9)

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