Handbook of Learning Analytics

Chapter 16

Analytics for Informal Learning in Social Media

Caroline Haythornthwaite


Social media reaches billions of people on a daily basis, with many interactions and sites helping individuals learn and participate in learning discussions. Much of the research in learning analytics has focused on understanding practices in formal educational settings, with limited examination of learning in open, online forums. Yet, the prevalence of open, online learning suggests including learning in and through social media is a relevant area of study for learning analytics. This chapter addresses how learning in social media aligns with informal learning as, learner-led and conversation-based; how participation is essential, but also nuanced, including stages of learning how to join the community, and partial participation as each medium complements learning in an overall personal network; and how conversational interaction builds the social learning network. Conversation analysis and social network analysis are highlighted as analytical techniques, as the former defines the ties that build the network, with analysis of social media postings revealing discussion relating to subject matter, persuasion and explanation, career advice, socializing, and reinforcement of in-network rules and norms.

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