Beyond the MOOC platform: gaining insights about learners from the social web

Paper presented at the 8th ACM Conference on Web Science in Hanover, Germany.


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have enabled millions of learners across the globe to increase their levels of expertise in a wide variety of subjects. Research efforts surrounding MOOCs are typically focused on improving the learning experience, as the current retention rates (less than 7% of registered learners complete a MOOC) show a large gap between vision and reality in MOOC learning.

Current data-driven approaches to MOOC adaptations rely on data traces learners generate within a MOOC platform such as edX or Coursera. As a MOOC typically lasts between five and eight weeks and with many MOOC learners being rather passive consumers of the learning material, this exclusive use of MOOC platform data traces limits the insights that can be gained from them.

The Social Web potentially offers a rich source of data to supplement the MOOC platform data traces, as many learners are also likely to be active on one or more Social Web platforms. In this work, we present a first exploratory analysis of the Social Web platforms MOOC learners are active on — we consider more than 320,000 learners that registered for 18 MOOCs on the edX platform and explore their user profiles and activities on StackExchange, GitHub, Twitter and LinkedIn.


Guanliang Chen, Dan Davis, Jun Lin, Claudia Hauff, and Geert-Jan Houben. 2016. Beyond the MOOC platform: gaining insights about learners from the social web. In Proceedings of the 8th ACM Conference on Web Science (WebSci ’16). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 15-24. DOI=


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