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The network structure of courses in Alberta's provincial education system

  • Author / Creator
    Fuite, Jim
  • Recent shifts towards spatial issues within education are examined, and mapping is identified as particularly important. The multidisciplinary trend of complexity science is surveyed, in turn, through the lens of physics and education research. The provincial education system of Alberta is considered to be a complex system. Network theory is proposed as a spatial metaphor that effectively describes many complex systems. Amalgamating spatial and complexity thinking from both physics and education, a generalizable network approach is presented to describe and explore the organization of one global aspect of education in Alberta: the courses. By imagining every course as a node, and by linking each course with those that are required as prerequisites, a directed network representing kindergarten through undergraduate studies is constructed in a tailored computing environment, called Calendar Navigator. Important products from such a network description are illustrative visuals, which are intuitively informative. These network graphics and animations can serve as an interactive, dynamic map for students of their local academic surroundings while traveling through the education system, by making clear where they have come from, where they are, and where they can go. A selection of metrics drawn from social network analysis and physics literature, and some here devised especially for course networks, are applied and interpreted. An analytical understanding of the global structure and shape of the education system via network theory can help inform administrators and policy makers to better understand and manage their educational institutions.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2011-11
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R34D7W
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of Secondary Education and Department of Physics
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Simmt, Elaine (Secondary Education)
    • Tuszynski, Jack (Physics)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Nocente, Norma (Secondary Education)
    • Nespor, Jan (Educational Policy & Leadership)
    • Shiri, Ali (Library and Information Studies)