Conducting a survey for MeetingOfMinds

The Goal of Survey:

We have decided to establish the survey as a gathering tool mainly to know more from our potential users, what they expect to see in the application and whether this application would be useful for them or not. In other words, is MeetingOfMinds something users really want. We believe that this way will help us in building a successful application. In addition, this survey aims to assess the importance of the issue which we are going to solve it in the MeetingOfMinds. Therefore, it highlights the aspects that we have to focus on them more and the areas of design that we need to take care about it to deliver what users really want.

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Encouraging the Online Creation of Knowledge

There have been a number of models of digital literacy over the last couple of decades.

Groupings by Usage

In 2001, Prensky suggested that younger people thought and processed information in fundamentally different ways compared to older generations.  He suggested that younger people (pre 1980s) were ‘digital natives’ and ‘speakers’ of the new technologies, while older people were ‘digital immigrants’ who were able to learn and use the new technologies, but not in the same intuitive way.  But this dividing of generations has not been borne out by research (Helsper and Eynon, 2009), and more recent studies have been more nuanced. For example a recent study found that information search competencies have a high-level correlation with information literacy and a low-level correction with digital nativity (Çoklar, Yaman, and Yurdakul, (2017).

As a replacement for Prensky’s model, White and LeCornu (2011) suggested that the creation of Web 2.0 resulted in users behaving in either a resident-like fashion (using sites as social spaces for sharing and discussion), or visitors using the Web in a more instrumental way.  It would be expected (according to the Pareto Principle) that visitors would predominate over a small number of ‘noisy’ residents. Wright, White, Hirst, and Cann, (2013) found that there was evidence that the visitor and resident model could be used to map student attitudes to academic use of social networks.

creative commons image taken from

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Homophily Among Students and Academics

Homophily and Academic Isolation

In addition to the sense of isolation felt by all researchers who will spend much of their time working alone, some people may also be subject to additional feelings of isolation.

Research suggests that international and part-time doctoral researchers, and those from underrepresented minority groups, are more likely to feel isolated.  

Studies have also shown that unless a programme is specifically designed to support interdisciplinary researchers, they will often feel excluded from the wider traditional research culture of the university. ‘The increased diversity of the doctoral researcher population can lead to challenges and mismatches in expectations between student and supervisor ’. Duke and Denicolo (2017).   Continue reading “Homophily Among Students and Academics”

Power Differentials Between Students and Supervisors

Any social network potentially brings together groups with different perspectives and circumstances. ‘MeetingofMinds’ must take into account possible power dynamics between students and academics.

Models of PhD Supervision

There have been a number of attempts to model PhD supervision. More recently these have focused on supportive approaches allowing students to move from a state of relative dependency to complete independence (through a shift in the balance of control).

However there are also a number of potential power inequalities built into the relationship between supervisor and student. This includes:

  1. The supervisor is in a position of legitimate authority.
  2. They have perceived abilities to mediate rewards (e.g supporting publications) or punishments (e.g being unavailable for important meetings).
  3. A student may be influenced by the perceived expertise of the supervisor.
  4. Some students may be in awe of their supervisor, seeing them an example that they wish to live up to.

Photograph from  Contributor(s): Queensland figaro – Copied and digitised from an image appearing in Queensland figaro, 28 July 1888, p. 140., Public Domain,

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Summary of Desktop User Research – With Implications for the Development of Features

The application should enable matching between student and supervisor. This includes:

  • Identification of expertise (e.g. qualifications and publications) and mutual academic interests through the building of a profile, bibliography, and membership of particular research interest groups. This would also need to be supported by search options, so that users could easily find one another.
  • Options for posting materials about, and in support of, the PhD proposal. This could be kept on a private setting that would then only become visible to those tutors that the student approached to be their supervisor.
  • Private messaging and chats between student and supervisor, and between students and PhD students under a particular supervisor.
  • An algorithm supporting the creation of stable supervisory relationships (the Gale-Shapley algorithm ).
  • Templates and guidance matched to different stages of the supervisory relationship/PhD journey, for both supervisors and students. 

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User Research: The Relationship Between Online and Offline Social Networks

When designing an online social network it is important to consider whether this is likely to result in the creation of a ‘new network’, or reflects existing real world contacts.

In the 1990s, Dunbar  proposed a neurocognitive limit on the number of people that a person can have in their social network of around 150 stable relationships.   Research on undergraduate use of Facebook found that although the median number of contacts in the sample was 300 Facebook friends, the actual number of people participants considered friends was around 75.   Recently Dunbar (2015)  found that the number of online friends in a Facebook network that are actual friends is  similar to that of friendships.  (Parsons 2017).

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Privacy and Age Online

The Need for Nuanced Research

Many existing studies (often focused on adolescent or student samples) try to make general assumptions about how humans regard privacy and what actions they take, or fail to take, to protect their own privacy.

But Blank, Bolsover, and Dubois (2014) found that only three peer-reviewed papers that addressed questions of privacy using a sample that could be generalized to a population. Continue reading “Privacy and Age Online”

User Research: Students Use of Social Media For Academic Purposes

Students Use of Social Media in Academia

Students use a variety of social networks both generally, and to support their academic work. In the past some universities have set up social networks for students, but many universities now just connect into mainstream platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Social media is being used broadly across higher education, and some applications are specifically designed for education.

Much of the literature on social media and higher education focuses on the integration of social media websites into the classroom, but social networks in education can have a wider reach and impact than this.

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Analysis of Existing Websites/User Research: Findings on Academic Social Networking Sites

Academic Social Networking Sites (ASNS)

There are a large range of social networks used by academics, this includes Academic Social Networking sites.

Four of the most popular ASNS are, Researchgate, Mendeley, and Zotero

These sites are used by academics to: organize, create profiles, display research work and connect with peers with similar research interests.    Continue reading “Analysis of Existing Websites/User Research: Findings on Academic Social Networking Sites”