Theory of Strength of Weak Ties

This blog post was first written on March 27, 2016 on WizIQ blog

The photo was taken in 2013: 20-23 March, TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo, Dallas, Texas, USA. The photo is In memory of Vance Stevens. a colleague and close friend at a distance since 2004.

Chatting In Live Online Classes

Chatting in live online classes can be empowering for the attendees. Chatboxes provide space for texting during a presentation or a webinar.  Texting helps focus on the content and engage in social networking.


A chatbox is a place where people can text, share links and images, and information with others or alone in an instant. People love to text on their mobile devices because it’s a convenient way to engage with others. You’re not alone when you communicate in realtime. Instant texting is a fast and effective way to get a message across to one or more people. Chatbox texting in live online classes while someone is presenting or teaching allows attendees to communicate, make friends, and learn. However, according to a study on Chatrooms in MOOCs: All Talk and No Action by Derrick Coetzee Armando Fox Marti A. Hearst, and Bjorn Hartmann from Berkeley University (See published work from March 4-5, 2014), adding realtime live chatboxes to MOOCs or online courses may be no different than asynchronrous discussion forums.

Chatboxes in a Virtual Class

Can you capture the great conversations you have with friends and colleagues at a bar? Well, you could use your smart phone to record the conversations, but will you be able to hear anything? This is where chatboxes outsmart face-to-face socialization because attendees can copy the text and links shared in a live online chatbox of a Virtual Class (VC). Live online classes or VCs, offer realtime interactive learning engagement with the content, presenter, and attendees via the chatbox.

Being able to text in a chatbox, while listening to a presenter lecture in a live online class, allows me to focus, have fun, and sustain learning. Yet, some presenters and learners find the chatbox distracting.  Where do you stand? If you’re like me, you’ll cherish texting comments, adding links, sharing emoticons, and copying the chatbox with everyone’s content and personal information.

In When to Talk, When to Chat: Student Interactions in Live Virtual Classrooms, Phi Vu and Peter J. Fadde explore “students’ choices of verbal and text interaction in a synchronous Live Virtual Classroom (LVC) environment that mixed onsite and online learners” using Adobe Connect as their live online class. The findings of the study indicate that students preferred texting in a chatbox while the teacher was presenting the lecture. According to the authors, “The emergent pedagogical strategy of integrated text interaction during lecture suggests a benefit of synchronous online learning” (Vu & Fadde, 2013, p. 41). What’s makes interactive texting in a chatbox so powerful?

Generosity among Strangers

Have you ever wondered why strangers approach you and seem to feel comfortable sharing personal information with you? You ma find it annoying, but I find it complementary that strangers would trust me with personal information. Facebook and other social networks offer opportunities for strangers to share openly.

I often marvel at the speed and number of responses I get from strangers when I ask for information via social networks. Why is information sharing generosity more prevalent online than in face-to-face environments? Apparently, the answer lies in being physically remote from the person (Rogers, 2003). The reason members of social networks and online connections are more willing to share information and learning is due to the strength-of-weak-ties theory. The theory postulates that close friends do not offer information as readily as distant friends or strangers would from social networks.

Social Networking

The value of a network should perhaps be measured by the amount and effectiveness of the information it provides. I find social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google plus, and LinkedIn excellent when I need information. You can count on followers to respond to a call of help in most areas. There’s a reason for that.

According to a study conducted by Mark S. Granovetter (1983), successful job seekers found more success in chance encounters and from strangers than from friends. Granovetter claims that close friends, relatives, and people in our proximity do not share information as readily as distant ones do. 

Theory of Strength of Weak Ties

Does the theory of strength-of-weak-ties provide answers to both online and offline connections? Most of teachers at my school settings have not been as willing to collaborate on school projects as my distant friends throughout the world. I have had people from other countries mention similar occurrences. Can I assume, then, that the reason many of us are spending countless hours connecting online is based on the theory of strength-of-weak-ties? Similarly, can connectivism be explained by the strength-of-weak-ties theory?

Online Virtual Conferences

The success of many online courses, conferences, and webinars is linked directly to the presenters and the attendees of the live online classes in real time. The presenters of webinars do an amazing job connecting to the attendees in the chatbox. The chat box generally beams with energy as the attendees ask questions, make comments and connect with the content, one another, and the presenters.


Derrick Coetzee, Armando Fox, Marti A. Hearst, and Bjoern Hartmann. 2014. Chatrooms in MOOCs: All talk and no action. In Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning @ scale conference (L@S ’14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 127-136. DOI=10.1145/2556325.2566242 Retrieved from 

Granovetter, M. (1983). The strength of weak ties: A network theory revisited. Sociological Theory, 1, 201-233. Retrieved from

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations(Fifth Edition). New York: Free Press.

Vu, P. &  Fadde, P. J. (2003, Summer). When to talk, when to chat: Student interactions in live virtual classrooms.  Journal of Interactive Online Learning,  12(2), 41-52. Retrieved from

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