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Interaction, social presence, social learning analytics, network analysis, conceptual framework, online learning, distance education, social network analysis (SNA)


Interaction is an essential element of online learning and researchers had use Social Learning Analytics (SLA) to understand the characteristics of meaningful interaction. While the potential for network analysis in education (i.e., SLA) is valuable, limited research has considered how best to use this emerging field to inform meaningful interaction in online settings. Online learning researchers need a concise and simplified framework for SLA to support interaction in online learning environments. Therefore, we present a conceptual framework to make SLA accessible for researchers investigating learners' interactions in online learning. The framework includes concepts from network theory and the online learning literature integrated into a new perspective to analyze learners' online behaviors and interactions. We analyzed existing models and frameworks to show how network analysis has been used in online learning resulting in a conceptual environment to investigate learner interaction. The proposed i-SUN framework has four main steps: (1) interaction, (2) social presence alignment, (3) unit of analysis definition, and (4) network statistics and inferential analysis selection. We also identified five ways in which the i-SUN model contributes to the advancement of SLA in online interaction research and provide recommendations for empirical validation. As part of a sequence of manuscripts, we seek to offer a unique perspective to online learning researchers and practitioners by focusing on the social and pedagogical implications of applying network analysis to understand online learning interaction.


This is the published version of the Castellanos-Reyes D, Koehler AA and Richardson JC (2023) The i-SUN process to use social learning analytics: a conceptual framework to research online learning interaction supported by social presence. Front. Commun. 8:1212324. doi: 10.3389/fcomm.2023.1212324