Monday, November 9, 2020

Promoting connections around the fringes of virtual classes

Who remembers queuing in awkward silence... which eventually led to carefully negotiated acquaintance and possibly lifelong friendships, or at least learning where you were meant to be next? Social Network Analysis takes a look at who interacts with who on the basis of digital activity traces in terms of the data recorded about interactions. I'm wondering how a typical SNA map of a class/lecture would look before and after the COVID flip to online versions. We used to worry about student chatter in lectures. While this is happening less, if at all, in online classes, and we are glad to still bring students to an 'event', they now join with blinkers on: zooming into the session and back out again causes a kind of tunnel vision with respect to peers. In SNA terms, this would look like a particularly tight hub and spoke network. Although a lecture format is sometimes mocked for requiring one-way traffic from the lecturer to the students, in fact there is a lot more latitude for connections in a lecture setting than zoom, unless there are deliberate efforts to break up those hard-wired spoke-to-hub connections. There actually is no-one else in the room to turn to - what chance purple and black will rub virtual shoulders? How can we enable or promote connections between students? Would putting students into breakout rooms at regular intervals be enough to enable the helpful social learning milieu...? Would #togethermode ...?

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