Odyssey of the Mind: Social Networking in Cyberschool

Michael K. Barbour, Cory Plough , International Review of Research in Open, Distance Learning, Jun 27, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This article describes "one online school’s attempt to address the social aspect of their students’ experience by using social networking." It outlines transactional distance theory and describes the role of the school as an agent of socialization. In particular the paper examines "the effectiveness of a closed social network as a way to increase socialization in a full-time online school and to decrease transactional distance," and specifically, Odyssey Charter High School (hence the title). OCHS is a special case; "OCHS requires students to be on campus for four hours one day a week. Beyond those four hours, there is no opportunity for face-to-face time between students and teachers." Many of the students were 'at risk' or experienced social problems in traditional schools. The paper offers some evidence that the system was used, and suggests "it has been difficult for the staff at OCHS to imagine many of these student-led groups and discussions occurring in a public manner at a traditional high school," but it is difficult to assess the scale of the success or the percentage of students participating nor whether the system used (Ning) conferred any special advantage.

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