Gender differences in collaborative learning over online social networks : epistemological beliefs and behaviors

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Journal article

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Knowledge Management and E-Learning

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Gender differences, Collaborative learning, Epistemology, Online social networks (OSNs), Engineering education


Online social networks are popular venues for computer-supported collaborative work and computer-supported collaborative learning. Professionals within the same discipline, such as software developers, often interact over various social network sites for knowledge updates and collective understandings. The current study aims at gathering empirical evidences concerning gender differences in online social network beliefs and behaviors. A total of 53 engineering postgraduate students were engaged in a blogging community for collaborative learning. Participants' beliefs about collaboration and nature of knowledge and knowing (i.e. epistemological beliefs) are investigated. More specifically, social network analysis metrics including in-degree, out-degree, closeness centrality, and betweenness centrality are obtained from an 8-interval longitudinal SNA. Methodologically speaking, the current work puts forward mixed methods of longitudinal SNA and quantitative beliefs survey to explore online social network participants' beliefs and behaviors. The study's findings demonstrate significant gender differences in collaborative learning through online social networks, including (1) female engineering postgraduate students engage significantly more actively in online communications, (2) male engineering postgraduate students are more likely to be the potential controllers of information flows, and (3) gender differences exist in belief gains related to social aspects, but not individual's epistemic aspects. Overall, participants in both genders demonstrated enhanced beliefs in collaboration as well as the nature of knowledge and knowing.

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Recommended Citation

Chan, R. Y.-Y., Hui, D., Li, S.& Yu, P. (2013). Gender differences in collaborative learning over online social networks: Epistemological beliefs and behaviors. Knowledge Management and E-Learning, 5(3), 234-250. Retrieved from