Edited by Pierre Benckendorff and Anita Zehrer
Chapter 38: Networks for social capital building in tourism higher education
The role of social interactions in the student experience has long been acknowledged and forms the basis of many modern pedagogical approaches. The exploratory study presented in this chapter builds on the concept of network-based social capital and discusses network formation and network characteristics in an intercultural tourism student setting. Social capital describes the opportunities embedded in social relations, thus the resources of others, paired with social relations to these others, occupy critical significance. The dynamics of social network evolution and the consequences of network formations are highly context specific. Here, the interest lies in social relations among tourism students and the impact of those relations on student performance. Social network analysis is the methodological basis of this study, thus driving data collection as well as analysis. The study showed that the formation of relationships between students who recently commenced their studies does not occur randomly, but is largely driven by attribute similarities such as gender and nationality. The study also showed that network structure and student performance are associated – students who are sought after in friendship networks perform better in their studies. The objective of this chapter is to raise awareness among tourism educators of the importance of social capital building among students. Tourism educators, who are faced with an increasingly international and heterogeneous student base, may use the relational approach and findings presented here to engage the student body and foster social relations in the classroom to benefit the student experience.
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