The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Studying Student Communication during Synchronous Online University Teaching with Social Network Analysis

Tomáš Lintner, Masaryk University (Czech Republic)


In the light of nation-wide containment measures to COVID-19, most university programs in the Czech Republic took a form of distance learning. While some distance learning had already been utilized before the virus outbreak, the present scale of distance learning at established Czech research universities is unparalleled. Both the instructors and the students have found themselves facing challenges stemming from online learning including a lack of real-time classroom communication. Classroom communication is, however, a form of cognitive engagement and a critical predictor of academic success (Lei et al., 2018). This study will aim to investigate synchronous communication in online university courses in the Czech Republic with the help of mixed methods approach incorporating quantitative social network analysis and qualitative interviews. Social network analysis aims to grasp, understand, and measure social structures and provide a framework for their analysis (Scott, 2017). In other words, social network analysis focuses on the variables related to the structure of the actors’ networks and the actors’ embeddedness within those structures. In this study, university students and teachers will be operationalized as actors and interactions during online sessions between them as ties forming social networks. Social network analysis will aim to investigate interaction patterns in online synchronous courses and identify influential communicators. Interviews with university teachers will then aim to investigate teacher’s perceptions of effective strategies for making students engage in active participation. This study will be an in-depth insight into synchronous communication in four online university courses employing a state-of-art mixed methods approach.

Keywords: online learning, e-learning, student communication, student engagement, social network analysis, mixed methods research.


  • Lei, H., Cui, Y., & Zhou, W. (2018). Relationships between student engagement and academic achievement: A meta-analysis. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 46(3), 517–528.
  • Scott, J. (2017). Social network analysis. Los Angeles: Sage. Los Angeles: Sage.

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