How widely used are MOOC forums? A first look

Analysis of the use of online discussion forums, based on Coursera data (so it’s xMOOC data). It’s cross-referenced with student grades where applicable.

T.A.s etc. are ruled out of the data. Forum viewing data was not made available (though Coursera presumably have that).

The article is based on 23 Stanford Courses, from early 2012 – early 2013.

In all courses, fewer than 10% of registered students post once, and in most, fewer than 5% post once.

Personally, I think this might be an issue. This doesn’t seem to be a great way to wiinnow out the merely curious. Who else are you losing here? The reports of enthusiastic students who dropped courses before this stage are easy to find…how about students who find the interfaces annoying, or the ones who don’t engage with forums for multiple reasons…

The article adjusts for the low barriers to entry. Thje assumption – though this isn’t referenced – is that with such low barriers, many people sign up with no intention of engaging. So they reset the bar – they looked at students whose total grade was below 10% – theyb turned in no, or little graded work. This is a constant assumption in MOOCs, but very few people query, quantify and present evidence for it. And., it strikes me, it would be easy enough to quantify this. Given the incredibly low participation rates, and the low test scores coming out of MOOCS, the time for unsupported assumptions is past.

They found that the non-engagers make up about 86% of the enrollment.

One course, with mandatory posting, soared above the rest, but the percentage of students with more than one post ranged from 7 tp 22 %, with a median of 12.7.

Looking at students with a grade of 60% or more, the percantage increases somewhat – 19.3, and at 90% grades, it’s 21.7%.

Superposter grades tend to be high, but not universally. In one course superposter grades were in the mid seventies.

“Considering only students who posted more than once, so that we weren’t counting those who only introduced themselves, it looks as though for most courses, fewer than 20% of even quite engaged students (scoring 60% or above in the course) were active forum participants, and numbers weren’t much different even for students scoring 90% and above.”

Class size does not seem to have been a determiner.

The findings here somewhat mirror aspects of Udacity’s report, where forum posting was not the major predictor of success (although there was some correlation between accessing the help facilities before week 5 and scoring higher than studnets who didn’t…this wasn’t included in the predictors though, as there were multiple issues with accessing help which clouded quantifying it;s effect).

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