Abstract: 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 theWeb, 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 subpopulations.
We find that making badges more salient produced
increases in forum engagement.