May 16, 2022

New Research Paper Looks at Student Engagement With MOOCs (Including Forums and Badges)

The following full text paper comes from researchers at Stanford and Cornell. It will be presented at WWW 2014 (23rd International World Wide Web Conference) that’s scheduled to take place in Seoul, Korea next month.


Engaging with Massive Online Courses


Ashton Anderson
Stanford University

Daniel Huttenlocher
Cornell University

Jon Kleinberg
Cornell University

Jure Leskovec
Stanford University


via arXiv


The Web has enabled one of the most visible recent developments in education—the deployment of massive open online courses. With their global reach and often staggering enrollments, MOOCs have the potential to become a major new mechanism for learning. Despite this early promise, however, MOOCs are still relatively unexplored and poorly understood.

In a MOOC, each student’s complete interaction with the course materials takes place on the Web, thus providing a record of learner activity of unprecedented scale and resolution. In this work, we use such trace data to develop a conceptual framework for understanding how users currently engage with MOOCs. We develop a taxonomy of individual behavior, examine the different behavioral patterns of high- and low-achieving students, and investigate how forum participation relates to other parts of the course.

We also report on a large-scale deployment of badges as incentives for engagement in a MOOC, including randomized experiments in which the presentation of badges was varied across sub-populations. We find that making badges more salient produced increases in forum engagement.

Direct to Full Text Paper (10 pages; PDF)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( 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, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.