Sunday, July 26, 2009

Union of all CCK08 Moodle Forums Social Network

Let me state first as an errata, that I have NOT been given any formal approval to study the CCK08 Moodle forums by Prof. Siemens or Prof. Downes, but was merely informed that they are publicly available. The data, graphs and research plan here is NOT connected nor endorsed by the said professors or their institution. All liability and errors are mine. I am doing this as a private individual and in good faith.

(EDIT: Removed grumbling about research ethics and replaced it with dataset- July 27, 2009)
I've been thinking all night about my ethical dilemma about getting consent from 536 CCK08 Moodle forums participants. I've decided to make an 180 degree turn around. I've decided to release the dataset, because the graphs are totally useless without them. So here they are.

Dataset of anonymized union of all forums in Pajek format (14.85 KB)

Here is my justification, the SNA analysis processed two information from the interface of the Moodle forums, which is publicly available. The first is the names of the poster which was used as an id to identify vertices across the forum. The second information is the message id that was autogenerated by Moodle when the poster click reply or post. The body of the message was not touched at all. Gathering the participants' email addresses on top of their names seems to me exacerbating my ethical problem. It's like I need to gather more information about them without their consent so that I can ask their consent to get information that I already have. I have anonymized the Moodle participants' names, and that is all I can do. I can only claim "in the interest of science" as defense i.e. so that discussion about the theory will have hard data to stand on.

Any one who reads this blog and wants me to delete the dataset, just post it in the comment and I'll consider it.

(END of edit-July 27, 2009)

Caveat emptor, this social network of the CCK08 moodle forums can not tell us the whole story of CCK08. There are only 560 registered users. The others probably had their centrality in the blogs, wiki, facebook, twitter etc.

Even some of the isolates and peripheral participants in the moodle network may be in the other networks. I know a peripheral participant in the moodle network who was an active blogger. I myself posted only 7 times in the forum and centered my learning in the wiki resources.

Another source of uncertainty is what I have reported before, the type I error (wrong ties) and type II error (unreported ties).

Let me start with some basic parameters of the social network.

Table 1: Network Parameters of CCK08 Moodle forums
Forums total initial posts Total Replies Total Posts Participants % of total unique actors (n =537)
1 (Introduction) 494 798 1292 501 93.3
2 (General) 122 1283 1405 165 30.73
3 (forum 1) 11 301 312 83 15.46
4 (forum 2) 25 291 316 61 11.36
5 (forum 3) 26 427 453 48 8.94
6 (forum 4) 7 131 138 28 5.21
7 (forum 5) 19 252 271 42 7.82
8 (forum 6) 16 96 112 30 5.59
9 (forum 7) 15 117 132 25 4.66
10 (forum 8) 17 244 261 85 15.83
11 (forum 9) 13 133 146 28 5.21
12 (forum 10) 11 77 88 24 4.47
13 (forum 11) 10 143 153 35 6.52
14 (forum 12) 14 105 119 29 5.4
grand total 800 4398 5198 537 (unique actors)

560 (registered users)

Figure 1: Frequency of initial posts in the forums

Figure 2: Frequency of total replies in the forums

Figure 3: Frequency of total posts in the forums

Figure 4: Frequency of participants in the forums

All line graphs were generated with R.

CCK08 Moodle Forums Social Network


Pajek renders (fruchterman reingold 2D layout)

Figure 5: Union of all forums without tie strength

Figure 6: Union of all forums without tie strength and frequency of posts as vector (size of vertices)

Figure 7: Union of forums with tie stregth

Figure 8: Union of forums with tie strengths and frequency of posts as vector (size of vertices)

Netdraw Renders (spring embeddeding layout)

Figure 9: No tie strength

Figure 10: With tie strength

Figure 11: Scale 1:1 of total posts attribute represented as sizes of nodes

Figure 12: Figure 11: Scaled to minimum size 4:maximum size 50 of total posts attribute represented as sizes of nodes

One way to connect the isolates in the moodle network with the bloggers is to look at the moodle activity logs (which is only available to the site admin), and probably to mine it with Weka. Then find out which of the core moodle participants they are following. Afterwards compare the semantic network of their blogs with the semantic networks of the said participants.

An interested researcher may do semantic network analysis of the CCK08 Moodle core participants posts probably with Kathleen Carley's Automap or Carter Butts' The metamatrix package for organizational analysis, a package for R.

(Edited July 27, 2009)
Despite the research ethics issue and my aching clicking arm, eyes and back, I've learned a lot from this attempt. I'll probably use the method I've learned here in a dataset where I have taken all necessary ethical requirements. All in all it was fun.
(Edited July 27, 2009)


Borgatti, S. Netdraw [Software]. Available at

R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing
. R Development Core Team. R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Vienna, Austria, 2009,ISBN 3-900051-07-0},

V. Batagelj, A. Mrvar: Pajek - Program for Large Network Analysis. Home page


  1. Participants listed their blogs on the Moodle site, so you could trawl through those and see who was participating in discussions on those blogs.
    I don't think your diagrams are particularly useful - they are somewhat cluttered. It would be interesting to see how the analysis looks if you pare the data down a bit so that the diagrams can be clearer.

  2. You're right, their too dense. So I've decided to publish the dataset so researchers can analyze and generate graphs themselves. The link is in the edited blog.


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