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The anatomy of information cascades in the classroom

This observational study analyzes how information cascades appear and evolve and what factors are relevant for the formation of cascades within a classroom through online learning platforms. This study found that students don’t prefer to share the content given to them by professors, rather they prefer to share the content they find themselves. It was also found that high-performing students shared documents with more information, or high information. The study defined an interaction as a communication between two students sharing some documents or messages. They recorded interactions such as conversations in the course Facebook Chat Canvas, documents shared on online platforms, and files shared as URLs by students in their course specific Facebook accounts. There were informal resources, such as blogs, Q&A sites, or online tutorials, as well as formal resources, which were manuals, peer-reviewed papers, and presentation slides. Results found that only a fraction of the documents from the educational portals, user accounts and social platforms were propagated to the students and then never accessed again. Although student content was re-shared more frequently than professor content, students did reference the professor content. Overall, longer information cascades contained content suggested by students, while shorter cascades contained content shared by professors. Some factors that led to a cease in the information cascade were information density, length of the content, and whether the student was high-performing or low-performing.

This relates to the concept of information cascades in lecture, in which the spread of technology, products, social movements, or opinions can be analyzed. This study revealed a few factors behind information cascade within the classroom. Content suggested by students tended to be shared more, with longer information cascades. It was also found that high-performing students shared content faster, in more complex cascades, and more regularly than mid- and low- performing students. More content shared led to longer cascades. We can also look into the idea of low threshold compared to high threshold. As learned in lecture with thresholds and what may lead to a cease in the cascade, this study touches upon characteristics of the content that may lead to a cease in the cascade. Such factors include information density or information of documents. So, this information cascade is a bit different from lecture in that it is not that a cascades stops because there needs to be a certain number of your neighbors using the new technology for you to switch, but rather if the content that is being shared would be beneficial or valuable to a student based on the length, or content. A student may stop the information cascade if they don’t find that the content is valuable enough to pass on. Overall, this study emphasizes that information cascades exist within classrooms and online platforms, as students are able to pass along information and content they find helpful to other students, and then the other students will continue to pass along the information if they find it helpful.

 

Link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjet.12567/full

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