Data from edX’s first course offer preliminary insights into online learning

June 21, 2013 at 1:33 am 8 comments

Really interesting — the data are starting to appear on what’s going on in MOOCs.  I wouldn’t have predicted differences in media preferences in homework vs. exam.

In their analysis of 6.002x resource usage, Pritchard and RELATE postdocs tallied clickstream data, such as where and when users clicked on videos, discussion threads, tutorials or textbook pages when working on homework, in comparison to when they were taking the midterm or final exam.

Interestingly, the group found that in completing homework assignments, users spent more time on video lectures more than any other resource. However, during an exam, students referred most to the online textbook, which they virtually ignored when doing homework. The data, although preliminary, illustrate how students may use different online strategies to solve homework versus exam problems.

While use of the discussion forum was not required in the course, the researchers found it to be the most popular resource for students completing homework assignments. In fact, 90 percent of the clickstream activity on the forum came from users who viewed existing threads without posting comments.

via Data from edX’s first course offer preliminary insights into online learning – MIT News Office.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. rdm  |  June 21, 2013 at 8:45 am

    This might be an artifact of the classification process as much as anything else. In my experience, when you are an MOOC student, viewing the videos is “class”. It’s what you do over time to learn what the MOOC is teaching you. If you run short on time, it’s “better” to view the video than read the text because the video is time consuming, and often presents important clues that you will need to appreciate before you can understand the text.

    So, over time, video is going to be associated with homework simply because video takes time.

    Meanwhile, for tests, when you take the tests you will be confronted with issues that you might not have thought about before. Often, for example, a fine shade of meaning in the question is the only way to distinguish between a correct and an incorrect answer. And you do not have time to review the videos – videos do not let you control the pace at which you cover the material, while you can rapidly search through text to find relevant details.

    Still, I doubt I would have predicted this either, though in retrospect it seems obvious.

  • 2. cchung90  |  June 21, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    I agree it seems obvious after the fact: my explanation is that when doing homework you need to understand the concepts which you just heard explained in lectures, so you go back to that. For exams, you have understood most of the concepts and just need to be reminded of them, you don’t need the full explanation again.

  • 3. alanone1  |  June 22, 2013 at 8:17 am

    In one of his books McLuhan tells an interesting story:

    At the dawn of universities in the West ca 13th century, instruction was oral, with students writing down what the teacher said (who was often simply reading from a book). When the students had written down 20 or so of their own books they got a Master’s robe and degree and continued the process with their books.

    Hundreds of years later, the printing press was invented, and this changed the thought of the West.

    But, McLuhan said, if you go into any classroom in the Northern Hemisphere, you will find a teacher talking and students writing it down!

    In other words, the teachers did not want to be displaced by the much more efficient and scalable book, and found out how to accomplish this by remaining the “priests” between learners and knowledge (vs. c.f. what Martin Luther was trying to accomplish in religion by making and distributing a vernacular Bible that attempted to remove the priests between worshipers and their god and Bible)

    What follows here is not a new observation, but my goodness! No wonder students graduate from university essentially uneducated if the classroom lectures are most of the actual content of the course. Does no one see that this is an archaic disaster perpetrated on the present and messing up the future?

    P.S. Most of the professors are also quite uneducated because they have been passed through the same process.

    Right now, MOOCs perhaps present the worst of all possibilities, but their future could be important if they can learn the real lesson of the book (hint — it’s not an ancillary source of knowledge).

    • 4. Bri Morrison  |  June 26, 2013 at 9:46 am

      I don’t disagree with you, but the vast majority of my students *never* read the text. Many have asked if the text is “really necessary” and others have told me that they expect me to tell them everything they need to know to pass the class during lectures. Most only look at the text if I allow open book tests. I’m not quite sure when (in time) it happened, but the video based generation of today doesn’t want to read, or at least doesn’t value reading and learning from the written word. Sad.

      • 5. alanone1  |  June 26, 2013 at 12:53 pm

        Well, just withhold their degree until they start reading.

        The real problem here is not just the students, but the desire of so many universities to have “retention” as a high if not top priority and to garner more income, that they’ve let the standards of “a university education” slide …

        Don’t you think?

        • 6. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  June 26, 2013 at 2:49 pm

          It is certainly a problem that one of the major criteria for evaluating colleges now is what fraction of their admitted students graduate within 4 (or 6) years. Schools either have the choice of being very selective about who they let in, or being very unselective about who they graduate. It is no longer considered an acceptable strategy to let almost any one try, but to flunk out those who don’t come up to standards. Only community colleges are allowed to do that these days it seems, and then only because they are not allowed to be selective at all on admissions, so even low standards result in a lot of failure.

  • 7. mgozaydin  |  June 28, 2013 at 11:21 am

    We need some better data.
    How many courses fin,ished.
    How many registered
    How many got certificate
    Category of enrollments
    Age distribution
    Dergree distribution
    Country distribution

    Also a question ?
    How many $ were you willing to pay for this course ?
    1.- If it is for credit
    2.- If it is not for credit .

  • […] are now starting to get some real data on what happens when people “take” a MOOC (via Mark’s blog). You’ll note the scare quotes around the word “take”, because I’m not sure […]


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