Comprehensive analysis of discussion forum participation: from speech acts to discussion dynamics and course outcomes

Srecko Joksimovic, Jelena Jovanovic, Vitomir Kovanovic, Dragan Gasevic, Nikola Milikic, Amal Zouaq, Jan Paul Van Staalduinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Learning in digitally connected, computer-mediated settings represents a complex, multidimensional process. This complexity calls for a comprehensive analytical approach that would allow for understanding of various dimensions of learner generated discourse and the structure of the underlying social interactions. Current research, however, primarily focuses on manual or, more recently, supervised methods for discourse analysis. Moreover, discourse and social structures are typically analyzed separately without the use of computational methods that can offer a holistic perspective. This paper proposes an approach that addresses these two challenges i) by using an unsupervised machine learning approach to extract speech acts as representations of knowledge construction processes and finds transition probabilities between speech acts across different messages; and ii) by integrating the use of discovered speech acts to explain the formation of social ties and predicting course outcomes. We extracted six categories of speech acts from messages exchanged in discussion forums of two MOOCs and each category corresponded to knowledge construction processes from well-established theoretical models. We further showed how measures derived from discourse analysis explained the ways how social ties were created that framed emerging social networks. Multiple regression models showed that the combined use of measures derived from discourse analysis and social ties predicted learning outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8713903
Pages (from-to)38-51
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • learning analytics
  • online discussions
  • massive open online course
  • speech act
  • computational lingustics
  • Social network analysis

Cite this