Social networks, communication styles, and learning performance in a CSCL community

Hichang Cho, Geri Gay, Barry Davidson, Anthony Ingraffea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

349 Scopus citations


The aim of this study is to empirically investigate the relationships between communication styles, social networks, and learning performance in a computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) community. Using social network analysis (SNA) and longitudinal survey data, we analyzed how 31 distributed learners developed collaborative learning social networks, when they had work together on the design of aerospace systems using online collaboration tools. The results showed that both individual and structural factors (i.e., communication styles and a pre-existing friendship network) significantly affected the way the learners developed collaborative learning social networks. More specifically, learners who possessed high willingness to communicate (WTC) or occupied initially peripheral network positions were more likely to explore new network linkages. We also found that the resultant social network properties significantly influenced learners' performance to the extent that central actors in the emergent collaborative social network tended to get higher final grades. The study suggests that communication and social networks should be central elements in a distributed learning environment. We also propose that the addition of personality theory (operationalized here as communication styles) to structural analysis (SNA) contributes to an enhanced picture of how distributed learners build their social and intellectual capital in the context of CSCL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)309-329
Number of pages21
JournalComputers and Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • Computer-mediated communication
  • Cooperative/collaborative learning
  • Distance education and telelearning
  • Distributed learning environment
  • Social network analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Education


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