• Reuven Aviv
  • Zippy Erlich
  • Gilad Ravid
  • Aviva Geva



Asynchronous Learning Networks, Learning Effectiveness, Social Network Analysis, Cohesion Analysis, Role Analysis, Power Analysis, Content Analysis


Asynchronous Learning Networks (ALNs) make the process of collaboration more transparent, because a transcript of conference messages can be used to assess individual roles and contributions and the collaborative process itself. This study considers three aspects of ALNs: the design; the quality of the resulting knowledge construction process; and cohesion, role and power network structures. The design is evaluated according to the Social Interdependence Theory of Cooperative
Learning. The quality of the knowledge construction process is evaluated through Content Analysis; and the network structures are analyzed using Social Network Analysis of the response relations among participants during online discussions. In this research we analyze data from two three-monthlong ALN academic university courses: a formal, structured, closed forum and an informal, nonstructured, open forum. We found that in the structured ALN, the knowledge construction process
reached a very high phase of critical thinking and developed cohesive cliques. The students took on bridging and triggering roles, while the tutor had relatively little power. In the non-structured ALN, the knowledge construction process reached a low phase of cognitive activity; few cliques were constructed; most of the students took on the passive role of teacher-followers; and the tutor was at the center of activity. These differences are statistically significant. We conclude that a well-designed ALN develops significant, distinct cohesion, and role and power structures lead the knowledge construction process to high phases of critical thinking.


Kaye, A. R., (Ed) Collaborative Learning Through Computer Conferencing. The Najaden Papers. NATO ASI Series F, 1992.

McConnell, D., Implementing Computer Supported Co-Operative Learning. London: Kogan Page, 1994.

Mason, R., and Bacsich, P., Embedding Computer Conferencing into University Teaching. Computers & Education 30(3/4): 249-258, 1998.

Macdonald, J., Assessing Online Collaborative Learning: Process and Product. Computers & Education 40: 377-391, 2003.

McCreary E., Eliciting more Rigorous Cognitive Outcomes Through Analysis of Computer-Mediated Discussion, 15th International Conference on Improving Teaching, Vancouver, 1989.

Henri, F., Computer Conferencing and Content Analysis. In: Kaye, A. (Ed.), Collaborative Learning through Computer Conferencing: The Najaden Papers, Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 117-136, 1992.

Johnson, D. W., and Johnson, R. T., Learning Together and Alone. Cooperative, Competitive and Individualistic Learning. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1999.

Skon, L., Johnson, D. W., and Johnson, R., Cooperative Peer Interaction versus Individual Competition and Individual Efforts: Effects on the Acquisition of Cognitive Reasoning Strategies. Journal of Educational Psychology 73(1): 83-92 (1981).

Aviv, R., Educational Performance of ALN via Content Analysis. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 4(2): 53-72, ISSN 1092-8235 (2000).

Geva, A., The Internet and the Book: Media and Messages in Teaching Business Ethics. Teaching Business Ethics 4: 85-106 (2000).

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W., Critical thinking, cognitive presence and computer conferencing in distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 15(1), 7-23 (2001).

Gunawardena, C. N., Lowe, C. A., and Anderson T. A., Analysis of a Global Online Debate and the Development of an Interaction Analysis Model for Examining Social Construction of Knowledge in Computer Conferencing. J. Educational Computing Research 17(4): 397-431 (1997).

Burt, R. S., Structure, A General Purpose Network Analysis Program. Reference Manual, New York: Columbia University, 1991.

Hiltz, S., Evaluating the Virtual Classroom. In: Harasim, L. (Ed.), Online Education, New York: Praeger, 134-184, 1990.

Mason, R., Methodologies for Evaluating Applications of Computer Conferencing. In: Kay, A. R. (Ed.), Collaborative Learning Through Computer Conferencing, Berlin: Springer Verlag, 1991.

Newman, D. R., Webb, B., and Cochrane, C. A., Content Analysis Method to Measure Critical Thinking in Face to Face and Computer Supported Group Learning. Interpersonal Computing and Technology: An Electronic Journal for the 21st Century 3(2): 56-77, 1995.

de Laat, M., Network and Content Analysis in an Online Community Discourse. In: G. Stahl (Ed.), Proceedings of Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (CSCL) 2002 Conference, Jan. 7-11, Boulder, CO. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 625-626,

Bonacich, P., Power and Centrality. American Journal of Sociology 92: 1170-1182 (1987).

Burt, R. S., Structural Holes, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Scott, J., Social Network Analysis: A Handbook, 2nd ed., London: Sage, 2001.

Hanneman, R. E., Introduction to Social Network Methods. Online Textbook Supporting Sociology 157. Riverside, CA: University of California, 2000.

Wasserman, S., and Faust, K., Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Widmer, E. D., and La Farga, L., Boundedness and Connectivity of Contemporary Families: A Case Study. Connections 22(2): 30-36 (1999).

Dekker, A., Applying Social Network Analysis Concepts to Military C4ISR Architectures. Connections 24(3): 93-103 (2002).

Ellen, J. M., Diolcini, M. M., Bir, N. D., Harper, G. W., Watson, S., and Valente, T., Social Network Centrality and Sexual Experience Among a Household Sample of Urban African-American Adolescents. Connections 24(2): 76-81 (2001).

Mendieta, J. G., Schmidt, S., Aastro, J., and Ruiz, A. A., Dynamic Analysis of Mexican Power Network, Connections 20(2): 34-55 (1997).

Athanassiou, N., International Management Research and Social Networks. Connections 22(2): 12-21 (1999).

van Meter, K. M., Terrorists/Liberators: Researching and dealing with adversary social networks, Connections 24(3): 66-78 (2002).


Garton, L., Haythornthwaite, C., and Wellman, B., Studying Online Social Networks. JCMC 3(1) (1997).

Martinez, A., Dimitriadis, Y., Rubia, B., Gomez, E., Garrachon, L., and Marcos J. A., Studying Social Aspects of Computer-Supported Collaboration with a Mixed Evaluation Approach. In: Stahl, G. (Ed.), Proceedings of Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (CSCL) 2002 Conference, Jan. 7-11, Boulder, Colorado. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 631-632.

Haythornthwaite, C., Network Structure among Computer-Supported Distance Learners: Multiple Relations, Multiple Media, and Time (1998). ~haythorn/LEEP3_2.html.

Cho, H., Stefanone, M., and Gay, G., Social Network Analysis of Information Sharing Networks in a CSCL Community. In: G. Stahl (Ed.), Proceedings of Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (CSCL) 2002 Conference, Jan. 7-11, Boulder, CO. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 43-50.

Reffay, C., and Chanier, T., Social Network Analysis Used for Modeling Collaboration in Distance Learning Groups. In: Cerri, S. A., Guarderes, G., and Paraguaco, F. (Eds), Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) 2363: 31-40, 2002. series/0558/papers/2363/23630031.pdf.

Jonassen, D., Thinking Technology: Toward a Constructivist Design Model. Educational Technology: 34-37 (April 1994).

Rafaeli, S., From New Media to Communication. Sage Annual Review of Communication Research: Advancing Communication Science, 16, 110-134, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1988.

Geva, A., Moral Decision Making In Business: A Phase-Model, Business Ethics Quarterly 10:4: 773-803 (2000).


Bock, R. D. and Husain, S. Z., An Adaptation of Holzinger’s B-Coefficients for the Analysis of Sociometric Data. Sociometry 13: 146-153 (1950).

Bonacich, P., Factoring and Weighting Approaches to Status Scores and Clique Identification. Journal of Mathematical Sociology 2: 113-120 (1972).

Freeman, L. C., Centrality in Social Networks: Conceptual Clarification. Social Networks 1: 215-239 (1979).

Wortham, D. W., Nodal and Matrix Analysis of Communication Patterns in Small Groups. In: C. Hoadley & J. Roschelle (Eds.), Proceedings of the Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (CSCL) 1999 Conference, Dec 12-15, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Lipponen, L., Rahikainen, M., Lallimo, J., and Hakkarainen, K., Analyzing Patterns of Participation and Discourse in Elementary Students’ Online Science Discussion. In: Dillenbourg, P. Eurelings., A., and Hakkarainen, K. (Eds.), European Perspectives on Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning. Proceedings of the First European Conference on CSCL, 421-428, McLuhan Institute: University of Maastricht, 2001.

Jones, Q., Ravid, G., and Rafaeli, S., Information Overload and Virtual Public Discourse Boundaries. In: Hirose, M. (Ed.), INTERACT, Eighth IFIP TC.13 Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, Tokyo, Japan: IOS Press, 2001.

Burt, R. S., The Social Capital of Structural Holes. In: Guillen, M. F., Collins, R., England, P., and Meyer, M. (Eds.), New Directions in Economic Sociology, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2002.

Boer, P., Huisman, M., Snijders, T. A. B., Zeggelink, E. P. H., StOCNET, An Open Software System for the Advanced Statistical Analysis of Social Networks. Version 1.4 (2003). Gronigen: ProGAMMA/ICS.

Hummel, H. J. and Sodeur, W., Struckturbescheibung Von Positionen. In Sozialen Beziehungsnetzen. Methoden der Netwerkanalyze, Munich: F. U. Pappi, Oldenburg, 1987.

Manchester Metropolitan University, Department of Biological Sciences, Biological Data Processing II: Multivariate Techniques.

Van Deun, K., and Delbeke, L., Multidimensional Scaling, Open and Distance Learning, Mathematical Psychology Belgium: University of Leuven, 2000.






Empirical Studies