Examining manual and semi-automated methods of analysing MOOC data for computing education

Michael Morgan, Aletta Nylén, Matthew Butler, Anna Eckerdal, Neena Thota, Päivi Kinnunen

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    We examine a semi-automated approach to the analysis of data from MOOC discussion forums. Previous research had analysed a sample of discussion forum data and developed a manual analysis framework, however this process can be very time consuming, especially given the class size of some online courses. Therefore it is important to investigate appropriate and automated analysis techniques to improve timeliness of analysis and to reveal the topics that emerge from a semi-automated process. An analysis of a data set from a coding MOOC in 2015 using the automated Structural Topic Modeling (STM) technique in R is described and contrasted against a manual analysis conducted on a segment of data from the same course in 2014. The types of analyses available and the relevance to computing education research is highlighted, with a focus on providing a discussion of the contrasting capabilities of each approach. The aim is to enable computing education researchers to assess the relevance of these techniques for further work.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings
    Subtitle of host publication17th Koli Calling Conference on Computing Education Research - Koli Calling 2017
    EditorsCalkin Suero Montero, Mike Joy
    Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
    PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
    Number of pages5
    ISBN (Print)9781450353014
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2017
    EventBaltic Sea Conference on Computing Education Research 2017 - Koli, Finland
    Duration: 16 Nov 201719 Nov 2017
    Conference number: 17th


    ConferenceBaltic Sea Conference on Computing Education Research 2017
    Abbreviated titleKoli Calling 2017
    Internet address


    • Data analysis.
    • MOOC
    • Online discussion
    • Programming

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