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Extending SNAPP forum analysis toll for Sakai CLE (v2.8x & v2.9x).

SNAPPSakai is an adaptation and enhancement of SNAPP(Social Network Analysis & Pedagogical Practices) forum analysis tool for Sakai Collaborative Learning Environment (v2.8 & v2.9) by Marist College.

SNAPP was developed as part of a joint project, “‘Seeing’ networks: Visualizing and evaluating student learning networks” - an Office for Learning and Teaching (previously Australian Learning and Teaching Council) funded project focused towards the development of ICT mediated data visualization resources. The project included both National and International research partners:

  • University of Wollongong (Lead Institution) – Dr Shane Dawson and Associate Professor Lori Lockyer
  • RMIT University – Professor Phil Poronnik
  • Murdoch University – Associate Professor Rob Phillips
  • The University of Queensland – Professor Phil Long and Ms Aneesha Bakharia
  • University of British Columbia (Canada) – Dr Leah Macfadyen

What is SNAPP?

SNAPP is a software tool that allows users to visualize the network of interactions resulting from discussion forum posts and replies. The network visualizations of forum interactions provide an opportunity for teachers to rapidly identify patterns of user behavior – at any stage of course progression. SNAPP has been developed to extract all user interactions from various commercial and open source learning management systems (LMS) such as BlackBoard (including the former WebCT), Moodle and now Sakai. SNAPP is compatible for both Mac and PC users and operates in Chrome and Firefox.

Most of the student data generated from Learning Management Systems (LMS) include reports on the number of sessions (log-ins), dwell time (how long the log-in lasted) and number of downloads. This tells us a lot about content retrieval in a transmission model of learning and teaching, but not about how students are interacting with each other in more socio-constructivist practice. Discussion forum activity is a good indicator of student interactions and is systemically captured by most LMS. SNAPP uses information on who posted and replied to whom, and what major discussions were about, and how expansive they were, to analyse the interactions of a forum and display it in a Social Network Diagram.

The screenshot below shows SNAPP in action on one of the live forum discussions in one of the courses at Marist Sakai CLE 2.9.1 instance. (Show names options is disabled).

The nodes correspond to the students in the discussion and the edges in the graph represent the interactions between them. The node scaling utilizes the Page Ranking algorithm to denote the level of participation of a student with in the forum.

SNAPP in Sakai v2.9

What can a network diagram tell me?

A network diagram is a visual depiction of all interactions occurring among students and staff. This information provides rapid identification of the levels of engagement and network density emerging from any implemented online learning activities. Social network visualisations provide a snapshot of who is communicating with whom and to what level. A network diagram of your students’ discussions online can:

  • identify disconnected (at risk) students;
  • identify key information brokers within your class;
  • identify potentially high and low performing students so you can plan interventions before you even mark their work;
  • indicate the extent to which a learning community is developing in your class;
  • provide you with a “before and after” snapshot of what kinds of interactions happened before and after you intervened/changed your learning activity design (useful to see what effect your changes have had on student interactions and for demonstrating reflective teaching practice e.g. through a teaching portfolio)
  • allow your students to benchmark their performance without the need for marking.


SNAPP for Sakai demo

A short screen movie showing the tool deployment & tool nuances.




Install & Deployment of SNAPP

Refer to

To host SNAPP at your institution you will be requiring


Install/Verify Java

  1. Download Java from
  2. Run the .exe file and install
  3. Set up JAVA_HOME environment variable as C:\Program Files\Java\jdk1.7.0_40
  4. Set up PATH variable as ;$JAVA_HOME\bin
  5. Verify Java installation in terminal/cmd using java -version.

Tomcat 7

  1. Apache Tomcat - Note: Always do a fresh install of Tomcat Note: Windows users should ensure that there are no spaces in the complete tomcat path as this causes errors with JSF tools in Sakai GOOD: C:\tomcat\, C:\SNAPP\installs\tomcat\ BAD: C:\program files\tomcat\, C:\opt\apache tomcat 7.0.1\
  2. Extract the files to C:\Tomcat
  3. Set environment variable: CATALINA_HOME=C:\Tomcat. Add $CATALINA_HOME\bin to PATH

WAMP/ LAMP server

1) Download the WAMP stack from . Run the .exe file 2) Run start Wampsever(wampmanager.exe)

Note: This step can be eliminated if you configure php in tomcat.

Steps to host SNAPP on server


  1. Download the SNAPP source available in github
  2. Place this folder in the webapps folder of Tomcat.
  3. Start Tomcat by running the C:\Tomcat\bin\startup.bat.
  4. Open Firefox and enter the URL http://localhost:8080/SNAPP/index.html
  5. Right click on SNAPP V2 Beta link and bookmark the link.

File Saver

  1. Download the FileSaver project from github
  2. Place it in C:\wamp\www\ folder.

After these steps you can share the bookmarklet link at http://localhost:8080/SNAPP/index.html with faculty, students, researchers etc and deploy SNAPPSakai as a Bookmarklet in Firefox.

Deploying SNAPP on Forums

Currently works with latest version of Firefox & Chrome.

  1. SNAPP is a client-side bookmarklet application which can be deployed via the browser.
  2. Login to your Sakai CLE(v2.8 & v2.9) instance. Choose a course with Forums.
  3. Expand the Forum thread(View mode - by Conversation) for the forum to be analysed.
  4. Run the SNAPP V2 Beta bookmarklet application on the expanded forum.
  5. Accept the permissions to run the app and click on Run button.
  6. Scroll to the end of the forum thread and you should see the SNAPP visualization embedded with in your forum page

Future areas of Inspection.

  1. Introduce single forum analysis on Multiple forum threads. The current integration can perform run SNAPP on an open forum. The next logical step would be implement the Multi forum thread miner.
  2. SNAPP consists of an Annotation tool that can be used add metadata to the forum interpretation and save the results for future references
  3. Embed SNAPP within Sakai Forums tool as a plug in rather than a bookmarklet.
  4. Provide LTI integration on SNAPP so that it can be rendered on any LMS platform. The advantage of this would be seamless integration of SNAPP and also collect the rich insights from SNAPP within Sakai.
  5. The data collection will provide options to run more analytics on student engagement on a portfolio level. Hopefully this can be used a prediction metric in OAAI academic early warning system.
  6. Another dimension to explore would be to improve content analysis on the discussion threads to capture the quality of the posts to gain additional insights on deeper learning.    

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