April 16, 2014

Research Paper: “Learning About Social Learning in MOOCs”

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Here’s a research/workshop paper that was made available on arXiv the other day.

It was written by researchers at Princeton, Boston University, and Microsoft.

Title

Learning about social learning in MOOCs: From statistical analysis to generative model

Authors

Christopher G. Brinton
Princeton University

Mung Chiang
Princeton University

Shaili Jain
Microsoft 

Henry Lam
Boston University 

Zhenming Liu
Princeton University 

Felix Ming Fai Wong
Princeton University 

Source

via arXiv

Note: This paper was presented during a poster session at the Workshop on Information in Networks, New York University; (October 4th-5th, 2013).

From the Abstract

We study user behavior in the courses offered by a major Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) provider during the summer of 2013.

Since social learning is a key element of scalable education in MOOCs and is done via online discussion forums, our main focus is in understanding forum activities. Two salient features of MOOC forum activities drive our research: 1. High decline rate: for all courses studied, the volume of discussions in the forum declines continuously throughout the duration of the course. 2. High-volume, noisy discussions: at least 30% of the courses produce new discussion threads at rates that are infeasible for students or teaching staff to read through. Furthermore, a substantial portion of the discussions are not directly course-related. 

We study user behavior in the courses offered by a major Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) provider during the summer of 2013. Since social learning is a key element of scalable education in MOOCs and is done via online discussion forums, our main focus is in understanding forum activities. Two salient features of MOOC forum activities drive our research: 1. High decline rate: for all courses studied, the volume of discussions in the forum declines continuously throughout the duration of the course. 2. High-volume, noisy discussions: at least 30% of the courses produce new discussion threads at rates that are infeasible for students or teaching staff to read through. Furthermore, a substantial portion of the discussions are not directly course-related.

We investigate factors that correlate with the decline of activity in the online discussion forums and find effective strategies to classify threads and rank their relevance. Specifically, we use linear regression models to analyze the time series of the count data for the forum activities and make a number of observations, e.g., the teaching staff’s active participation in the discussion increases the discussion volume but does not slow down the decline rate. We then propose a unified generative model for the discussion threads, which allows us both to choose efficient thread classifiers and design an effective algorithm for ranking thread relevance. Our ranking algorithm is further compared against two baseline algorithms, using human evaluation from Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Direct to Full Text (11 pages; PDF)

See Also: Who Are They? New Study Reports on MOOC Participants (November 22, 2013)

 

share save 171 16 Research Paper: Learning About Social Learning in MOOCs
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Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.