motivating learner engagement in online environments: the relevance of social exchange theory

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  1. 1. Motivating learner engagement in onlineenvironments: the relevance of socialexchange theoryHazel HallSchool of Computing
  2. 2. Aptitude and willingness to share information Crucial to learning In all environments levels of sharing impact, for example Knowledge transfer Knowledge (or information in may cases) storage Further sharing New knowledge creationIn educational environment - learningIn business environment - product/services development
  3. 3. Social exchange theory as a suitabletheoretical framework? Corporate environment 2001 discussed elsewhere Large, distributed, information-intensive multinational organisation More evidence of exchange per se than social exchange Non-corporate environment 2007 discussed here University Stronger evidence of applicability of social exchange
  4. 4. Exchange theory Economic resources are bought and sold Deals are subject to contractual obligations Resources exchanged for currency Purchaser choices made from a range of options normallyaccording to which offers the best value for the lowest cost
  5. 5. Exchange structures Direct/restricted Expectation of reciprocation between 2 parties Generalised Trading across group members Paths of reciprocation difficult to define Productive Individuals engage in exchange for the purposes of achieving a jointoutput
  6. 6. Social exchange theory Shares characteristics with exchange theory Trading of goods by individuals and groups of people in range of exchange structures (direct/restricted, generalised, productive)PLUS Actors share social bonds Actors maintain high levels of trust Actors known to one another through long-term, dependentrelationships Resources exchanged may be more highly valued than marketcost Mutual obligation of trading partners is often ill-defined
  7. 7. Social exchange theory & social sciences Anthropology Practices of gift-giving Behavioural psychology Learning process Sociology Power relationships
  8. 8. SET and information systems research Studies that demonstrate relevance of concepts of socialexchange, but without direct acknowledgement Collaborative software development Decision-support systems in healthcare environments Studies that use SET with limited discussion of information andknowledge sharing Knowledge/information exchange and innovation processes Knowledge/information exchange and success of outsourcing projects Studies that make explicit reference to SET Open source communities Success/failure of strategic alliances between firms
  9. 9. SET and information science research Scholarly communication Social process depending on relationships built through researchcommunities and invisible colleges Processes of scholarship Productive exchange Citation analysis Social connectivity of researchers and the importance of levels of trust Acknowledgements Form of gift-giving
  10. 10. Non-corporate environment 2007 49 student members of a third year undergraduate module Blogging environment as a focus for information/knowledge sharing activity through comments on main blog entries Minimal intervention on part of tutors Requirement to contribute 2 comments per week, i.e. dependent relationship for marks (plus peer support)Expectation that social exchange theory may be applicablein this environment?
  11. 11. Primary data sets Main blog entries (all students) Reflections on information sharing in this environment Stated motivations for participation Comments on main blog entries (all students) Actual exchanges Reciprocation where evident Patterns of direct exchange (Limited) interview data (3) Survey of student ties (35 respondents) Friends, acquaintances, strangers (problems of designation) Student proximity data (all students) Programme, tutorial group, course work team (only official data)
  12. 12. Influences on information exchange Existing relationships (35 students 595 pairs) Desire to reciprocate Rewards: soft and hard Habit of exchange engendered in the developing onlineenvironment
  13. 13. Influences on information exchange Existing relationships (35 students 595 pairs) Which dominate?Which dominate? Desire to reciprocateCould social exchangeCould social exchange theory explaintheory explain information sharing ininformation sharing in Rewards: soft and hard this case?this case? Habit of exchange engendered in the developing onlineenvironment
  14. 14. Relationships and reciprocationFriends Acquaintances StrangersNone 48 9496Little - no pattern27 64Some - pattern 200Much - strong pattern23 00Total 100100 100 Figures represent the percentage of student pairs in samples of agreed levels of friendship: F=44 (all), A=17 (all), S=45 (sample). Reciprocation = A comments on Bs blog and B comments on As blog at any point during the delivery of the module.
  15. 15. Relationships and comment contributionsThe only comments I Ihave The only comments havereceived are from people that I I received are from people that I Ihave tried to comment on as have tried to comment on asknow and I Ithink ititis the same know and think is the samemany blogs as possible. many blogs as possible.for other students. I Ido the for other students. do theHowever, ititis so much easier to However, is so much easier tosame as well. I Ionly send same as well. only send comment on my friends blogs comment on my friends blogscomments to people I Iknow. comments to people know.since I Iunderstand their thinking since understand their thinking better. better. In the first week I IpostedIn the first week posted comments only to oncomments only to on French students blogs (myFrench students blogs (my friends) to get commentsfriends) to get comments from them on my own blog.from them on my own blog.
  16. 16. Relationships and reciprocation Friends Acquaintances StrangersNone48 9496Little - no pattern 276 4Some - pattern 20 0Much - strong pattern 230 0Total100 100 100Students established as friends were more likely to reciprocate thanthose who were not.Analysis of proximity data showed that the friendships that exhibitedthe highest level of reciprocation activity were between students on thesame degree and in the same tutorial group (and, in some cases, thesame course work team).
  17. 17. Proximity friendship information exchangeFriendshipProximitySocially motivated exchange
  18. 18. Other motivations: reciprocation per se[I am] a bit disappointed with [I am] a bit disappointed withthe turn-out of comments on my the turn-out of comments on myOne thing I Ido feel is that when One thing do feel is that when blog site as I Itried to harass blog site as tried to harasssomeone comments on my someone comments on my people to post comments but I I people to post comments butblog I Ifeel obliged to blog feel obliged toguess ititdidnt work... If I Iposted guess didnt work... If postedcomment [on theirs]. comment [on theirs]. more on other peoples blogs, more on other peoples blogs,perhaps I Iwould have gotten a perhaps would have gotten afew more comments. few more comments. A gift economy?A gift economy?
  19. 19. Other motivations: reputation, fame, statusWe were all aware that everyone was meant We were all aware that everyone was meantto comment on another two blog entries. to comment on another two blog entries.Therefore you didnt want to be seen as the Therefore you didnt want to be seen as theI Iwas more likely to commentwas more likely to commentone who had been left out, or less popular one who had been left out, or less popularon blogs which I Ifoundon blogs which foundreceiving a comment almost acted as a receiving a comment almost acted as aparticularly interesting,particularly interesting, stamp of approval. It was rewarding to know stamp of approval. It was rewarding to knowreflective and thought-reflective and thought- that the blog had actually been read by that the blog had actually been read byprovoking which were a littleprovoking which were a littlesomeone [and] the time and effort to write someone [and] the time and effort to writelengthier, and ititwas clear thatlengthier, and was clear that the blog entries had been worthwhile. the blog entries had been worthwhile.the person had put some timethe person had put some timeinto thinking about theirinto thinking about theirresponses.responses.
  20. 20. Other motivations: hard rewardI Idefinitely dont think I Iwoulddefinitely dont think wouldI Idid try to get a good markdid try to get a good markhave created blogs and postedwith my blog, but I Ialso tried have created blogs and postedwith my blog, but also triedcomments had ititnot been partcomments had not been partto make a blog which wasto make a blog which wasof the course workdifferent.of the course workdifferent.specification.specification.3 levels of participation1. Conscious of mark, yet still making an effort: information exchange worthmore than the mark alone.2. Reluctant participation, with eye on mark3. Minimal effort
  21. 21. Local inhibitors of information sharing Technical infrastructure Late arrival student difficulties Individual system set-up Deadlines for uploading of main blog entries Definition of end of the week
  22. 22. Local inhibitors of information sharing Technical infrastructure Late arrival student difficulties Individual system set-up Deadlines for uploading of main blog entries Definition of end of the weekBoth practical problems Both practical problemswith the module and with the module andissues that impact the issues that impact theresearch outcomes. research outcomes.
  23. 23. Hard reward versus social incentives Soft rewardsReciprocationFriendshipProximitySocially motivated exchangeHard rewards
  24. 24. Conclusions and implications Reward appears to be important Importance of local context in explaining information sharing inonline environments Care required in setting up such environments, e.g. promotion o

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