TLL work highlights initial results of edX MOOC study

By: Jennifer DeBoer, Postdoctoral Associate for Education Research

As a result of the ongoing collaboration between TLL, MIT’s RELATE, Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and edX, we were delighted to release preliminary findings from our yearlong investigation of the first edX class, 6.002x. The findings appeared in the online journal “Research & Practice in Assessment” (RPA) in its special summer 2013 issue on MOOCs. You can download our paper here

In the study, we outline the investigation we have undertaken as part of a multidisciplinary, cross-institution team in order to make sense of the massive quantities of rich data from 6.002x.  Our work is funded by a one-year NSF grant (information here).  We address four basic research questions: who are the 6.002x students, what behaviors and background factors predict achievement and persistence, how do students form groups and interact with each other, and what is the 6.002x experience for residential MIT students?  We hope this foundational work on the first edX class will not only serve as a basis for more complex investigations but also help us to track the ongoing development of how MOOCs are used.

The data we used in this study come from multiple sources, including, most importantly, the clickstream logs from 6.002x students.  Using these logs, we were able to match student IP addresses to their approximate location using a geolocation database.  To augment the data generated by students’ interactions with the website, we worked with the edX team to create and disseminate an end-of-course survey. This generated valuable information on the responding students, many of whom were certificate earners, but some of whom did not earn any points in the course.  6.002x students were highly diverse--students logged in from 194 countries, virtually all of the countries the world.  The paper also details our work with predictive modeling. We examine the simultaneous interplay between time spent on different resources for the course (e.g., homework, e-text), a student’s first homework score (as a proxy for “prior ability”), student background characteristics (e.g., self-reported language and country) with success (achievement or persistence) in the class.  Finally, we describe areas of ongoing work on the discussion forum and with residential students.  We will continue to post as more results are released!