Learning Behaviour

Are you a Viewer, Listener, Optimizer or Completionist?

These terms have been coined by researchers at MIT and Harvard to describe the behaviour of students who participated in the first wave of EDx MOOCs. Links to the research and a de-identified dataset are available in this news report.

The image below shows grades attained and chapters viewed by 53,340 participants on one of these courses, Health and Environmental Change.

Learning Behaviour

From Reich, J., Nesterko, S., Seaton, D. T., Mullaney, T., Waldo, J., Chuang, I., & Ho, A.D. (2014). Health in Numbers and Human Health and Global Environmental Change: 2012-2013 Harvard School of Public Health course reports (HarvardX Working Paper Series No. 2).

The categories of students identified are:

  • Completionists (at the top right of the graph) – students who viewed most of the material and achieved a high grade.
  • Optimizers (top left) – students who did enough to pass the course, but viewed only a limited amount of course material.
  • Viewers (bottom left) – students who viewed a limited amount of material and did not achieve a passing grade. These students may still have achieved all that they wanted from the course.
  • Listeners (bottom right) – students who viewed more than half of the chapters, but did not achieve a passing grade on the course. Some of these students did not engage with the formal assessment at all.

As the report states:

One of the signature features of these plots is that students can be found at nearly every possible location in the possibility space. Some students focused on earning a certificate by targeting assessment questions; some students viewed all parts of the course, eschewing all assessment; some students dabbled in various dimensions; and some students successfully completed all parts of the course.

On future courses, students will be asked about their motivation for taking the course.


4 thoughts on “Learning Behaviour

  1. Thank you for this. As they say, it is interesting that there are students exhibiting almost every type/level of engagement. I would be interested to know what students intended before they began a course (if indeed they had a plan) and if/how this changed during the course and why.

  2. I believe EdX are now capturing information on student intentions in surveys at the start and end of each course, and so hopefully data on this will be included in future research.

    More from the researchers on how to measure a MOOC:

    “The story of MOOCs is not going to be told with conventional statistics borrowed from brick-and-mortar classroom models. Rather, our research describes an emerging learning ecosystem, one where enrollment can be casual and nonbinding, learning happens asynchronously, and registrants come from all countries in the world, with diverse intentions and patterns of learning. The metrics we choose should respect their intentions and encourage their learning.”

    From http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/01/the-tricky-task-of-figuring-out-what-makes-a-mooc-successful/283274/

  3. Interesting research, although graph rather puzzling at first sight. Will need to read the report further.
    Coursera courses definitely ask about participants’ motivation at first log-in in the class. If I remember well, there is choice of three different learner profiles.

  4. Here’s a paper by staff from Glasgow Caledonian on learner behaviour in a cmooc (Change11 run by Siemens & Downes). http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no2/milligan_0613.htm More qualitative than above but comes up with classifications of lurker, active & passive. Having been a participant of sorts on this one, I identify with this quote from a lurker: “No, because I basically, I got caught up in my own learning and I didn’t feel … [it was worthwhile to contribute my] limited knowledge about what was being discussed. Beyond saying ‘oh that resonates with me’ well how many times have MOOC’ers said that! And I know it does resonate, but beyond that I couldn’t add anything new.” (Participant 18).

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