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Two years after the NYT’s ‘Year of the MOOC’: how much do we actually know about them?

Two years after the NYT’s ‘Year of the MOOC’: how much do we actually know about them?

Despite the speculation about the role massively open online courses (MOOCs) may play in higher education, empirical research that explores the realities of interacting and learning in MOOCs is in its infancy. Rebecca Eynon, PI of an OII project on Conceptualising interaction and learning in MOOCs discusses how a preliminary understanding of communication dynamics and learner tendencies within MOOCs, may allow development of new methods for promoting engagement and the fulfilment of individual learning objectives in these settings—in particular, by trying to mitigate “content overload” issues.

Investigating virtual production networks in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia

What effects will the emergence of new and transformative ‘virtual’ economic activities and work (such as ‘microwork’ and ‘game labour’) have on social and economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia? Mark Graham, PI of a project on Microwork and Virtual Production Networks in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia discusses the question of how to discover who is benefitting, what difference remaining barriers and positionalities in SSA and SEA make, and ultimately what difference changing connectivities make in the world’s economic peripheries. [Read more OII work on virtual labour]

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What are the limitations of learning at scale? Investigating information diffusion and network vulnerability in MOOCs

Despite the speculation about the role massively open online courses (MOOCs) may play in higher education, empirical research that explores the realities of interacting and learning in MOOCs is in its infancy. Rebecca Eynon, PI of an OII project on Conceptualising interaction and learning in MOOCs discusses how her analysis (with Nabeel Gillani, Taha Yasseri, and Isis Hjorth) of nearly 87,000 individuals from one MOOC helps us to understand the ways that learners interact in these settings. Full paper: Gillani, N., Yasseri, T., Eynon, R., and Hjorth, I. (2014) Structural limitations of learning in a crowd – communication vulnerability and information diffusion in MOOCs. Scientific Reports 4.

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Verification of crowd-sourced information: is this ‘crowd wisdom’ or machine wisdom?

Automated verification practices are becoming an important feature of crowdsourced content environments as a way of coping with the deluge of data. Heather Ford (OII) explains that while these processes can scale up contributions, it is important to understand how they can also be used to restrict the content to that deemed ‘important’ or ‘trustworthy’ enough by organisations — in a process that may be invisible to those contributing or making use of the information.

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Ethical privacy guidelines for mobile connectivity measurements

To make sense of today’s increasingly complex Internet architecture, network researchers collect and share datasets of network measurements, from detailed individual-level traces to data aggregated on a regional level. The OII’s Ben Zevenbergen discusses the recommendations of the Ethical Privacy Guidelines for Mobile Connectivity Measurements project, which is aimed at helping network researchers navigate the challenges of preserving the privacy of data subjects, publishing and disseminating datasets, while adhering to and advancing good scientific practice.

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Investigating the structure and connectivity of online global protest networks

The rise of social networking tools, accompanied by the mass adoption of mobile devices, has strengthened the impact and broadened the reach of today’s political protests. OII researchers Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon and Ning Wang discuss their paper, ‘The Bridges and Brokers of Global Campaigns in the context of Social Media’, which investigates whether the ‘fluidity, horizontality and connectivity’ often claimed for online protest networks stands up to empirical scrutiny.

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Uncovering the structure of online child exploitation networks

As the problem of child pornography online continues to grow, it has become imperative that law enforcement resources be allocated in the most efficient manner. Martin Bouchard of Simon Fraser University discusses the web-crawling tool he designed (with colleagues Bryce Westlake and Richard Frank) to automate the process of searching for child pornography websites, and to identify the ‘key players’ that should be prioritized by law enforcement agencies seeking to disrupt child exploitation networks.

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