Networks for social capital building in tourism higher education

Edward Elgar Publishing
Publication Type:
Handbook of Teaching and Learning in Tourism, 2017, pp. 564 - 574
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Higher education institutions form a micro-cosmos in which students build social connections both inside and outside of the classroom. Some relations can be considered affective (e.g. friendships), some can be considered functional (e.g. group work). Some relations are formed voluntarily, some are induced. Some relations endure beyond the university context and reach into the private sphere; some relations are of limited duration. At any point in time, students engage in multiple social relationships and the networks these relationships form have, in turn, a significant effect on student academic performance (Baldwin et al. 1997; Cho et al. 2007; Rizzuto et al. 2009). The interdependence of social relationships and academic performance builds on the theory of social capital. The mastery of building and using relationships and thereby social capital has been defined as a key element of (higher) education and thus should find a place in modern curricula (Wilson 1997). Preparing students to become responsible leaders in tourism requires that students get the opportunity 1) to learn how to build social capital and use it to their own and society’s benefit and 2) to develop and capitalize on a range of relations among each other at present and in the future. In order for universities to match this expectation, they need to go beyond a revision of classroom teaching and get a thorough understanding of the characteristics of student networks and the effects these features have on the network members before being able to actively encourage social capital building. The exploratory study presented in this chapter touches on these questions examining an intercultural tourism student setting and the characteristics of selected student networks. It also considers the impacts of those network characteristics on student performance. While the case study is context-specific and exploratory in nature, it can provide indicative insights into the interplay of network features and network development and highlights the opportunities of applying social network analysis (SNA) to investigate social capital building.
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