Effects of social interactions are reported in research on higher education to lead to positive outcomes such as higher levels of internalization, sense of community, academic achievement, metacognition, and student retention. The role of social networks has especially been emphasized in research due to the availability of theoretical foundations and analytic methods to investigate their effects in higher education. The increased use of technologies in education allows for the collection of large and rich datasets about social networks which call for the use of novel analytics methods. This talk will first give a brief overview of the existing work on and lessons learned from some well-known studies on social networks in higher education in diverse situations from face-to-face to massive open online courses. The talk will then identify critical challenges that require immediate attention in order for the study of social networks to make a sustainable impact on learning and teaching. The most important take away from the talk will be that
- computational aspects of the study of social networks need to be integrated deeply with theory, research and practice,
- novel methods for the study of critical dimensions (discourse, structure and dynamics) that shape network formation and network effects are necessary, and
- innovative instructional approaches are essential to address the changing conditions created by contemporary educational and technological contexts.