Hi Maarten, Anatoliy et al. Great to have this hotseat -- good to see the enactment of a learning network as we demonstrate here how the 'latent tie structure' of the hotseat brings people together around a common interest, and from there perhaps to build first weak ties and later strong ties. I'm also intrigued that I have co-authored with Maarten, and with Anatoliy, but we have not yet done one for all 3 of us -- 'network closure' re the co-authoring relation is in our future!
In response to Maarten's post -- quite agree that what 'learning' means in an SNA context is up for grabs, but so too is 'learning' on its own. Is it 'learning' when we sit in class/watch a (educational) video/listen to a lecture. We need to appeal to the psychologists and philosophers to talk about inner learning. So, we are always looking at outward signs -- improvement on test scores, following routines, behaving appropriately. I am leaving the classroom here and considering learning in general -- I very much believe -- as I'm sure most of you do -- that there is a lot more tied up in 'learning' than the acquisition of educational facts. There are great papers about what schools do as far as teaching societal norms (e.g, Bordieu), and if we look at what people need to learn to work online, at a distance, and through computer media, we find a lot of learning about technology, socio-technical practices, social learning practices, language, participatory culture, etc. (for discussion of this, see Paulin & Haythornthwaite, 2016).
Re SNA then, what change in behaviour do we want to observe that is the outward sign on internal learning. Within the group, I think we can see behaviours such as adherence to norms, appropriate use of language, adoption of group specific shorthands (jargon, acronyms, etc.). If we are looking for 'learning to learn in a social context', we are looking for signs of attention to others -- e.g., replies, interactivity (Sheizaf Rafaeli from the communication field would count an 'interaction' as A posts to B, B replies to A, and A re-replies to B), even argument is appropriate.
If we are looking for application of knowledge in a new context, perhaps we look for bringing new references into the discussion (posts that have (new) URLs), which by itself is not a SN aspect, but is if that new URL is in response to someone's post. A new URL could be an elaboration, an added example, a clarification, in the context of learning.
If we are looking for application of what is being taught, I always think that the adoption of domain-specific vocabulary is a reasonable indicator. Terminology and jargon heavy fields require the adoption and use of new language (just think of all the SN terms we need to adopt and use is a specific way: degree, reach, path, triad; in-degree, out-degree, density; ERGM; and more. Network level definition and use of terms is -- it seems to me -- evidence of learning.
Long post, but it is a really important question and area to be explored, i.e., what is our operational definition of learning in an SNA context.
Ref: Paulin, D. & Haythornthwaite, C. (2016). Crowdsourcing the curriculum: Redefining practices through peer-generated approaches. The Information Society, 32(2), 130-142.