SNAPP – User Guide: SNAPP User Guide_17June

The Social Networks Adapting Pedagogical Practice (SNAPP) tool performs real-time social network analysis and visualization of discussion forum activity within popular commercial and open source Learning Management Systems (LMS). SNAPP essentially serves as a diagnostic instrument, allowing teaching staff to evaluate student behavioral patterns against learning activity design objectives and intervene as required a timely manner.

Valuable interaction data is stored within a discussion forum but from the default threaded display of messages it is difficult to determine the level and direction of activity between participants. SNAPP infers relationship ties from the post-reply data and renders a social network diagram below the forum thread. The social network visualization can be filtered based upon user activity and social network data can be exported for further analysis in NetDraw. SNAPP integrates seamlessly with a variety of Learning Management Systems (Blackboard, Moodle and Desire2Learn) and must be triggered while a forum thread is displayed in a Web browser.

The social network diagrams can be used to identify:

  1. isolated students
  2. facilitator-centric network patterns where a tutor or academic is central to the network with little interaction occurring between student participants
  3. group malfunction
  4. users that bridge smaller clustered networks and serve as information brokers

SNAPP has been developed as part of a joint project, “‘Seeing’ networks: Visualising and evaluating student learning networks” –
an Office for Learning and Teaching (previously Australian Learning and Teaching Council) funded project focused towards the development of ICT mediated data visualisation resources.
The project includes both National and International research partners:

  • University of Wollongong (Lead Institution) – Dr Shane Dawson and Associate Professor Lori Lockyer
  • RMIT University – Professor Phil Poronnik
  • Murdoch University – Associate Professor Rob Phillips
  • The University of Queensland – Professor Phil Long and Ms Aneesha Bakharia
  • University of British Columbia (Canada) – Dr Leah Macfadyen

Cite as: Dawson, S., Bakharia, A., & Heathcote, E. (2010). SNAPP: Realising the affordances of real-time SNA within networked learning environments. Paper presented at the Networked Learning Conference 2010, Aalborg, Denmark.

What is SNAPP?

SNAPP is a software tool that allows users to visualize the network of interactions resulting from discussion forum posts and replies. The network visualisations of forum interactions provide an opportunity for teachers to rapidly identify patterns of user behaviour – at any stage of course progression. SNAPP has been developed to extract all user interactions from various commercial and open source learning management systems (LMS) such as BlackBoard (including the former WebCT), and Moodle. SNAPP is compatible for both Mac and PC users and operates in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari.

Most of the student data generated from Learning Management Systems (LMS) include reports on the number of sessions (log-ins), dwell time (how long the log-in lasted) and number of downloads. This tells us a lot about content retrieval in a transmission model of learning and teaching, but not about how students are interacting with each other in more socio-constructivist practice. Discussion forum activity is a good indicator of student interactions and is systemically captured by most LMS. SNAPP uses information on who posted and replied to whom, and what major discussions were about, and how expansive they were, to analyse the interactions of a forum and display it in a Social Network Diagram. The following figures illustrate how SNAPP re-interprets discussion forum postings into a network diagram.


What can a network diagram tell me?

A network diagram is a visual depiction of all interactions occurring among students and staff. This information provides rapid identification of the levels of engagement and network density emerging from any implemented online learning activities. Social network visualisations provide a snapshot of who is communicating with whom and to what level. A network diagram of your students’ discussions online can:
• identify disconnected (at risk) students;
• identify key information brokers within your class;
• identify potentially high and low performing students so you can plan interventions before you even mark their work;
• indicate the extent to which a learning community is developing in your class;
• provide you with a “before and after” snapshot of what kinds of interactions happened before and after you intervened/changed your learning activity design (useful to see what effect your changes have had on student interactions and for demonstrating reflective teaching practice e.g. through a teaching portfolio)
• allow your students to benchmark their performance without the need for marking.

Please cite this diagram as: Dawson, S. (2009). ‘Seeing’ the learning community: An exploration of the development of a resource for monitoring online student networking. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(5), 736-752.


SNAPP analyses the forum postings to provide you with information on:

  • The total number of posts (displayed at the top right of the SNAPP report);
  • The number of posts per user. Future forum statistics planned include a measure of community, thread depth (i.e. the amount of messages responding to an original posting, or “thread”), the average number of posts and social networking centrality measures;
  • posting frequency table – lists the number of posts and replies to posts made by each individual;
  • who has been interacting with whom and who is connecting various groups via an embedded network diagram.

In addition, the analysis is highly portable, so you can export the forum interaction data for different formats:

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