Demographic Differences in How Students Navigate Through MOOCs
research paper summary
Millions of students from around 200 countries are now learning on MOOC platforms such as edX. Do student demographics such as age and country of origin affect how they navigate through these courses?
We extracted demographic information and navigation patterns of over 110,000 students taking four edX courses in Fall 2012, 10% of whom earned certificates of completion.
We focused on demographic variables such as age, education level, and country of origin. One interesting variable is the student-teacher ratio of the country of origin. This is a widely-used indicator of educational quality and level of individualized student attention. (However, it is also correlated with economic indicators such as per-capita GDP and median household income, so any observed effects might not be due simply to pedagogical quality.)
One interesting form of navigation is a backjump, which occurs when a student navigates backwards from a resource to another one that was released earlier in the term (e.g., jumping from Lecture 6 to Lecture 3).
EdX students come from diverse backgrounds and navigate through the courseware in many different ways. In particular:
The graph above (click to enlarge) shows the mean number of backjumps per visited sequence for all certificate-earning students in the 30 countries with the most edX students. There is a negative correlation between student-teacher ratio and backjumps. One possible explanation is that students from countries with a higher student-teacher ratio are more accustomed to a linear, teacher-led instructional style and hence do not make as many backjumps when taking MOOCs.
Right now, MOOC user interfaces try to be “one size fits all,” but we have found that students navigate quite differently based on both demographics and enrollment intent. Here are some interface design ideas that could help MOOCs serve a broader audience:
One ideal to strive for is to present each student with a personalized user interface catered to their individual preferences and learning needs.
Read the full paper for details: