Network-structured discussions for collaborative concept mapping and peer learning

Rafaeli, S. and Kent, C. (2015). Network-structured discussions for collaborative concept mapping and peer learning. IBM Journal of Research and Development, 59(6), article no. 7.



Online discussion is an essential tool for the collaborative construction of knowledge in learning communities. LMSs (Learning Management Systems) include such collaborative tools to enable knowledge sharing. Common topology and design constructs of online collaboration are often expressed as forum threads; however, forums or bulletin boards are not primarily designed for social constructivist learning, in which knowledge develops collaboratively in a methodical process that links new items to existing ones. In this paper, we present a preliminary concept and hypothesize that social constructivist learning can be implemented through a semantic network topology of a discussion platform. To that end, we developed Ligilo, a peer-learning, online platform, in which each content item is conveyed as a node in a semantic network constructed of posts. Analysis of this platform consists of three parts. First, we review the theoretical background of networked-structured discussions in learning. Then, we describe the architecture of Ligilo, focusing on two aspects: (1) the learning experience as a process of contributing new information items by relating to existing items and (2) a deep, behavioral analytics framework as a teacher's guide. Both these aspects are based on semantic network topology. We conclude the paper by describing some early cases of peer learning involving networked-structured discussions.

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