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Social dimensions of expertise development in networked communities (SOCDEX)

The aim of this project is to understand how networked communities contribute to expertise development focusing on the case of people who engage with online social platforms to develop their skills and knowledge of programming. The project is timely with regard to both its interest in the social nature of expertise development in relation to online communities, and its interest in lifelong learning in programming.

Expertise, and its development, in programming as in other domains has traditionally been studied at the individual level by, for example, comparing novices to experts in terms of their knowledge and reasoning strategies. However, researchers have recently begun to take an interest in the social dimensions of expertise. Studying expertise development in its social context is especially relevant to programming where software development projects are often collaborations between many individuals working towards common solutions.

Studies have shown the people with high levels of programming expertise are often show strong communication and cooperation abilities as well as make good use of personal networks. As a way of creating a personal network, many people with an interest in programming have begun to participate on online platforms such as Stack Overflow where millions of members work together to solve problems. On such platforms, programmers develop their programming knowledge and create together in relation to their interests. Therefore, it is interesting to study the development of programming expertise from a social perspective by examining these networks that have been under examined in research on expertise development.

Three main research questions are examined:

  1. What is the nature of an online programming community in terms of its practices and processes of knowledge exchange?
  2. How can expert status in an online programming community be recognised and traced through network interactions?
  3. What role does the network in an online programming community play in expertise development?


These questions are examined through the collection and analysis of five datasets focused on the popular Stack Overflow online community where millions of members collaborate to solve authentic programming problems. The expertise development of these members is investigated through analysis of online interactions, a survey and interviews.

The project contributes to this increasingly important field by unpacking how expertise is shared, recognised and developed in online communities in relation to the timely case of lifelong learning in programming. The results will have practical implications for supporting the learning of programming and more generally how online groups can be used to promote and share expertise.

Project members

Thomas Hillman, associate professor, project leader

Markus Nivala, senior lecturer

Funding

Swedish Research Council

2019-2023

Page Manager: IPKL webbredaktion|Last update: 12/3/2018
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