Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ego networks as a measure of performance in a forum

Whenever I think of online forums in a course I think of the I Love Lucy chocolate assembly line skit. In a very active forum it is very difficult to keep up and get an overview of your performance.

This is specially difficult for a distance education teacher who is trying to monitor the performance of his/her students. How do we know that we are spending more time on one student and forgetting others. In the preceding posts I pointed out that isolates are a good measure of triaging assistance to students who cannot keep up with the forum. Another measure may be ego networks.  With it, a teacher could easily spot with which student he/she is not interacting enough with, and which student he/she is spending too much of his/her time with.

Here is a toy graph of 13 nodes to illustrate my point.

toy graph
By isolating the ego network (distance=1) we can see below that the teacher is only able to reach 6 students (50%) directly.

ego network
Clearly you can easily spot the students whom you will need to give your scarce attention to by looking at your ego network in context below.

ego network in context

Download toy graph dataset and open with Gephi: (22.85 kb)


Ego networks in Hanneman, Robert A. and Mark Riddle.  2005.  Introduction to social network methods.  Riverside, CA:  University of California, Riverside ( published in digital form at ). Available at

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