The changing patterns of MOOC discourse

Nia Dowell, Christopher Brooks, Vitomir Kovanovic, Srecko Joksimovic, Dragan Gasevic

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


There is an emerging trend in higher education for the adoption of massive open online courses (MOOCs). However,despite this interest in learning at scale, there has been limited work investigating how MOOC participants have changed over time. In this study, we explore the temporal changes in MOOC learners’ language and discourse characteristics.In particular, we demonstrate that there is a clear trend within a course for language in discussion forums to be of both more on-topic and reflective of deep learning in subsequent offerings of a course. We measure this in two ways, and demonstrate this trend through several repeated analyses of different courses in different domains. While not all courses show an increase beyond statistical significance,the majority do, providing evidence that MOOC learner populations are changing as the educational phenomena matures.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationL@S '17 Proceedings of the Fourth (2017) ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherACM Press
ISBN (Print)978-1-4503-4450-0
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Apr 2017
EventFourth (2017) ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale - Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Duration: 20 Apr 201721 Apr 2017


ConferenceFourth (2017) ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale
Abbreviated titleL@S '17
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityCambridge, Massachusetts
Internet address


  • learning analytics
  • MOOCs
  • learning at scale
  • discourse complexity
  • data science
  • discussion forums
  • on-topic discussion


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