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A Characterization of Social Networks for Effective Communication and Collaboration in Computing Education

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Social Media and In-class Technology: Creating Active Learning Environments

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.22.1 - 25.22.18



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Paper Authors


Gerald C. Gannod Miami University

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Gerald C. Gannod is a professor of computer science and software engineering and Director of the Mobile Learning Center at Miami University. He received M.S. (1994) and Ph.D. (1998) degrees in computer science from Michigan State University. Gannod's research interests include mobile computing, software engineering, enterprise systems, digital humanities, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Gannod received an NSF Career Award in 2002.

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Kristen M. Bachman Miami University

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Kristen M. Bachman is a Computer Science graduate student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Her research is primarily dedicated to understanding mobile learning applications and techniques, but her interests also extend to digital humanities, service-based learning, and the effective use of different technologies in the classroom.

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A Characterization of Social Networks for Effective Communication and Collaboration in Computing EducationEffective communication is critical to the success of engineers in the workplace. Whileformalized communication is often our focus (e.g., creation of requirements specificationsand design documents, or delivery of formal presentations), informal communications (e.g.,impromptu meetings, water cooler discussions, etc.) are equally important. Other forms ofcommunication also exist, including the communication that is built into the common tasksof writing emails or status reports and the engineering tasks themselves, such as reading codeor writing comments. One emerging form of communication that has gained widespreadrecreational use are social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. With its popularitycontinually increasing, social networking has gone beyond sharing mundane details of one’spersonal life to enhancing collaboration and communication in corporate and educationaldomains. Indeed, the use of social networks has seen an increase in acceptance in the workforce.For example LinkedIn is widely used to maintain a list of contacts. Increasingly, socialnetworks are being used for day-to-day communication within the workplace in order help shareexpertise across an organization.Use of social networks by students is, for the most part, focused on the recreational, asexemplified by Facebook. However, for students, effective use of social networks forcollaborative purposes in the context of computing tasks and common genres of softwareengineering is still a work in progress. In this paper, we describe our experiences, observations,and recommendations regarding the use of social networks in the context of a computingcurriculum. Our approach is grounded in two desired objectives: to provide students withincreased access to technical knowledge and to facilitate communication between differentstakeholders on projects. Our experience on the use of social networks has encompassed avariety of platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. We have used the platformson a diverse set of courses in computer science, including courses on data structures, softwarearchitectures, web services, and the senior design/senior capstone where we have providedstudents with learning experiences that are not only relevant in the classroom but also closelymodel workplace activities. Based on our experience, we have categorized the strengths andweaknesses of using different social networks by looking at generic activities that happen withinthe workplace and then identifying how a particular social network supports a given activity.In addition to categorizing strengths and weaknesses, we have also made several observationsregarding the effectiveness of social networking in an educational setting. Specifically, we notethe following: a) that there are different motivating factors for students in using popular socialnetworking tools and b) that the degree of usage impacts academic achievement in differentcontexts. Although our observations are not scientific by any means, they still reflect interestingtrends which may have implications for future use of social networks in education and in turn inthe workplace.

Gannod, G. C., & Bachman, K. M. (2012, June), A Characterization of Social Networks for Effective Communication and Collaboration in Computing Education Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20782

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