This week serves as an introduction to the expectations for this social networks course at the University of Maine at Augusta. I’ll lay out just what you need to do during the following semester to attain the objectives of the course, learn how to conduct a social network analysis, and earn a good grade to boot. A good start to the course will help you end well.
Our lecture subjects this week are:
- What is a Social Network?
- Who Should Take This Course? Who Shouldn’t Take This Course?
- 5 Things You Need to Know at the Start of the Course
- Course Logistics
- Post a Question
Hello, and welcome to Communications/Sociology 375: Social Networks! My name is James Cook, I’m an Assistant Professor of Social Science at the University of Maine at Augusta, and I’ll be your instructor during the length of this course.
The lecture format we’ll use for this online course will involve multiple forms of media, including images, videos and text. All forms of information should be reviewed by you. If there’s an audio clip you encounter in a lecture, be sure to listen to it. If there’s a video, be sure to watch it.
In that spirit, please view the following video, sent to welcome you at the beginning of our course. In the video, I not only greet you, but consider the question of why you ought to take this course.
What is a Social Network?
For a more thorough answer, don’t forget this week’s introductory reading, “What is a Social Network?” All reading assignments are listed in the syllabus.
Who Should Take This Course? Who Shouldn’t Take This Course?
In the abstract, like most professors, I think everyone ought to take the course I’m teaching. After all, I’m teaching a course in social networks because I believe that the subject matters. But stepping back a bit from my own enthusiasm, I know that of course there are students who will enjoy this class more and students who will enjoy it less. If you’re thinking of taking the course but not sure, or if you’re thinking about dropping the course but not sure, I hope that the advice below helps you make your decision.
Only Registered Students Gain Credit — Everyone Welcome to Review Course Materials
You must be a registered student in order to gain official course credit in this class, to submit assignments for review, and to gain access to the course Blackboard page (available through my.uma.edu). However, anyone is welcome review the course materials available at the course’s public web page.
No Experience Necessary
You don’t need to have any prior experience with social networks to take this course. We’ll take every step together, right from the beginning.
For the Curious, the Interested, the Self-Directed
Students who are curious, self-directed, and interested in one of the newest social science fields should consider taking this course. Social network analysis is one of the hottest fields of research, spawning dozens of books, hundreds of research articles and new professional specializations.
Skill Building And Communicating
If you’re looking for a course in which grades are based solely on the extent of your participation in discussion, you will be disappointed by this social networks course and should think twice before taking the course. Building specific, measurable skill in social networks analysis is the primary aim of this course.
If on the other hand you’re interested in avoiding participation in class discussion, you also should think twice before taking this course. I will ask for your reflections and participation during nearly every week — including this week! You will be graded for the extent of your participation during each week. This is not a course designed for students who tend to drop in and out of focus.
If you’re interested in building specific skills in sociological analysis while providing and getting weekly feedback, this is the course for you.
More Assignments than Tests
Students with test anxiety should consider taking this course. We’ll only have two take-home exams, counting for one-fifth of your final grade. The remainder of your course grade will be based on class discussion and the completeness of 8 pieces of homework. You can prepare these pieces of work at home and review your work until you’re ready to submit them.
A Fair Amount of Writing
Students who don’t like to write should think twice before taking this course. You’ll need to prepare written homework during most of the weeks in the course.
Regular Use of Computer Programs
Students who are uncomfortable with using new computer programs should think twice before taking this course. You’ll need to use the internet, a word processor and a free computer program called R in order to complete this course (look for more information about that computer program later in the course).
What You Need to Know at the Start of the Course
At the beginning of the semester, I want to bring your attention to the most important information that you need to know at the beginning of this course to get off to the right start. What does this boil down to? 1) accessing expectations through the course syllabus, 2) accessing announcements, and 3) getting in touch with me when you need. It’s right here in this short video:
An additional note on participating with a pseudonym: as part of your class participation grade (see the syllabus) I expect you to post a substantive message or participate in a padlet activity during each week of the semester, completing your participation during the first week that a lecture has been released. When you do so, I want you to use a pseudonym (a fake name), not your real name. This is to protect your privacy, since anyone on the internet can see this page.
I will assign each registered student a pseudonym on the first day of the course. You can find your pseudonym by heading to our course’s Blackboard page and clicking on the “My Grades” link. Your pseudonym should be listed in the grading area for the course — it is the name of an astronomical constellation or star.
More detailed instructions about how to pass the class are in three places:
The syllabus really does contain everything you need to know about how the course is set up. It lists all the readings. It contains all the due dates for all the assignments and tests. It also describes all my course policies and the academic integrity policy for the course. It’s all there.
Lecture Participation: Post a Question!
It’s natural to have a question or two at the beginning of a course. It’s also reasonable that, after our introductory reading for the course, you might have a question about that, too. Chances are that if you have a question on either of these topics, someone else has that questions too. So go ahead and leave a question on this page!
Here’s how to do it:
1. Scroll to the “Padlet” you should see just below this text, where you’ll find the words “Leave a question” and a text box underneath. Double-click on the Padlet and type in your question. It’s that simple; if you want to experiment, feel free to leave an image, an audio clip or even a video question. I’ll do my best to respond within a day’s time. Feel free to respond to your fellow students’ questions, too.
2. Padlets work in almost any browser on almost any device. But if you can’t get the Padlet to work, don’t worry: instead, scroll down to the bottom of this online lecture, where there is a form for you to post a comment. You can write your question there, too.
3. Don’t forget…because this page is a public website, I’d like you to use the pseudonym that’s in your grading center and that I’ll also be sending to your official UMA e-mail account on the first day of class. I look forward to your questions… let’s get the conversation started!
A Teaser: Graphs, Matrices, and …
Our reading this week presents the two most common ways of representing a social network: matrices and graphs (also known as “sociograms“). But there are a number of other ways of presenting information about social networks. We’ll talk about “edge lists” in detail in future weeks. For now, can you find the correspondence between the graph, the matrix, and the edge list shown below.
Consider this image a “teaser.” If you can see how all three representations describe the same network, great. If not, see the “Post a Question” section up above.