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Visualizing an LMs Discussion Forum: an insight into Student/teacher behavior

I’ve lately come across SNAPP (Social Networks Adapting Pedagogical Practice). SNAPP 

is a software tool that allows users to visualize the network of interactions resulting from discussion forum posts and replies. The network visualisations of forum interactions provide an opportunity for teachers to rapidly identify patterns of user behaviour – at any stage of course progression. SNAPP has been developed to extract all user interactions from various commercial and open source learning management systems (LMS) such as BlackBoard (including the former WebCT), and Moodle. SNAPP is compatible for both Mac and PC users and operates in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari.

Developed by the University of Wollongong, this sociogram can

visualize the discussion forum in an LMS (Blackboard, WEBCT, MOODLE, SAKAI..) and displays the student-student, teacher-student interaction in mind map. Names of students/teacher can be displayed. Also, each node size and link thickness refer to the frequency of the posts.

I gave it a try on one of discussion forum on one of  my Moodle Websites with my students. I chose a a discussion forum at the beginning of the year where students had to post their first Hellos using Voki as their voice avatar, and they had to comment on each other’s post.

1.  First, I Downloaded SNAPP

snapp downloadYou have to fill in the required information before your submit for download. Then you need to choose the LMS type you work on from the drop down menu.

 

2.  This took me to a new page where I dragged a bookmarklet onto my browser’s bookmark tool. I followed the steps depending on my internet browser(Firefox in this case). And yes, SNAPP resides on your internet browser and not a stand alone desktop application Smile 

snapp bookmarklet

3. Then, I went to the discussion forum of my Moodle Website. I made sure that the discussion forum is in the nested view so that SNAPP can read the posts.  

 

discussion forum

 

4. I clicked the Bookmarklet bookmarklet

5. I scrolled down till the end of the nested discussion forum. I waited for a while. This might take longer time depending on internet connection and pc speed. Also, make sure that Java is installed on your browser. The visualization of the discussion forum will soon appear with contributor names, the connection of posts, the size of nodes and link connection depending on post frequency , and a menu of filtering options on the right.

SNAPP visualization

You can also view the statistics and export it as GraphML format or VNA File format.

As you can see in the above discussion forum visualization, I, the teacher is in the middle of the web with the most posts and most interactions are between students and me, with some posts among students themselves.

This is a typical view of a discussion forum at the beginning of a course where students get to know each other and are reluctant to comment on each others’ post. This stage is where the teacher posts a lot. However, as the course goes along this discussion forum should change to reflect a different type of student behavior with a more student-student behavior, unless it is teacher-centered.

What this software can do is to reflect the student-student teacher-student interaction behavior in terms of links and frequency.

However, the software does not ensure that the discussion forum is engaging and fulfills the course requirements. A content analysis is needed for this.

SNAPP can be used as an insight into interaction behavior. For example, if one wants to explore teacher presence and social presence this might be useful. The teacher would for instance base some informed decision on how the behavior of interaction is shaping, is it teacher-centered? Is there a student who lurks and does not participate? Is there a pattern of discussion in particular stages in the course that should have been patterned otherwise?

What do you think? What other insights can we get from SNAPP?

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