Infoscience

Conference paper

Dynamics of MOOC Discussion Forums

In this integrated study of dynamics in MOOCs discussion forums, we analyze the interplay of temporal patterns, discussion content, and the social structure emerging from the communication using mixed methods. A special focus is on the yet under-explored aspect of time dynamics and influence of the course structure on forum participation. Our analyses show dependencies between the course structure (video opening time and assignment deadlines) and the overall forum activity whereas such a clear link could only be partially observed considering the discussion content. For analyzing the social dimension we apply role modeling techniques from social network analysis. While the types of user roles based on connection patterns are relatively stable over time, the high fluctuation of active contributors lead to frequent changes from active to passive roles during the course. However, while most users do not create many social connections they can play an important role in the content dimension triggering discussions on the course subject. Finally, we show that forum activity level can be predicted one week in advance based on the course structure, forum activity history and attributes of the communication network which enables identification of periods when increased tutor supports in the forum is necessary.

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