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Classifying MOOC forum posts using corpora semantic similarities: a study on transferability across different courses

A Correction to this article was published on 22 April 2021

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Abstract

Information overload in MOOC discussion forums is a major problem that hinders the effectiveness of learner facilitation by the course staff. To address this issue, supervised classification models have been studied and developed in order to assist course facilitators in detecting forum discussions that seek for their intervention. A key issue studied by the literature refers to the transferability of these models to domains other than the domain in which they were initially trained. Typically these models employ domain-dependent features, and therefore they fail to transfer to other subject matters. In this study, we propose and evaluate an alternative way of building supervised models in this context, by using the semantic similarities of the forum transcripts with the dynamically created corpora from the MOOC environment as training features. Specifically, in this study, we analyze the case of two MOOCs, in which the models that we built are classifying forum discussions into three categories, course logistics, content-related and no action required. Furthermore, we evaluate the transferability of the derived models and interpret which features can be effectively transferred to other unseen courses. The findings of this study reveal the main benefits and trade-offs of the proposed approach and provide MOOC developers with insights about the main issues that inhibit the transferability of these models.

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Acknowledgements

This research is performed in the frame of collaboration of the University of Patras with online platform mathesis.cup.gr. Supply of MOOCs data, by Mathesis is gratefully acknowledged. Doctoral scholarship “Strengthening Human Resources Research Potential via Doctorate Research – 2nd Cycle” (MIS-5000432), implemented by the State Scholarships Foundation (IKY) is also gratefully acknowledged. This research has also been partially funded by the Spanish State Research Agency (AEI) under project Grants TIN2014-53199-C3-2-R and TIN2017-85179-C3-2-R, the Regional Government of Castilla y León Grant VA082U16, the EC Grant 588438-EPP-1-2017-1-EL-EPPKA2-KA.

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Correspondence to Anastasios Ntourmas.

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Ntourmas, A., Daskalaki, S., Dimitriadis, Y. et al. Classifying MOOC forum posts using corpora semantic similarities: a study on transferability across different courses. Neural Comput & Applic (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00521-021-05750-z

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Keywords

  • Massive Open Online Courses
  • Supervised modeling
  • Transferability
  • Forum discussion classification