Deep Learning for Discussion-Based Cross-Domain Performance Prediction of MOOC Learners Grouped by Language on FutureLearn

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Duru I., Sunar A. S., White S., Diri B.

ARABIAN JOURNAL FOR SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING, vol.46, no.4, pp.3613-3629, 2021 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 46 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s13369-020-05117-x
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Aerospace Database, Communication Abstracts, Metadex, Pollution Abstracts, zbMATH, Civil Engineering Abstracts
  • Page Numbers: pp.3613-3629
  • Keywords: Deep learning, English as a second language, FutureLearn, MOOCs, Natural language processing, Predictive models
  • Yıldız Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Analysing learners' behaviours in MOOCs has been used to identify predictive features associated with positive outcomes in engagement and learning success. Early methods predominantly analysed numerical features of behaviours such as the page views, video views, and assessment grades. Analysing extracted numeric features using baseline machine learning algorithms performed well to predict the learners' future performance in MOOCs. We propose categorising learners by likely English language proficiency and extending the range of data to include the content of comment texts. We compare results to a model trained with a combined set of extracted features. Not all platforms provide this rich variety of data. We analysed a series of a FutureLearn language focused MOOCs. Our data were from discussions embedded into each lesson's content. Analysing whether we gained any additional insights, over 420,000 comments were used to train the algorithm. We created a method for identifying one's possible first language from their country. We found that using comments alone is a weaker predictive approach than using a combination including extracted features from learners' activities. Our study contributes to research on generalisability of learning algorithms. We replicated the method across different MOOCs-the performance varies on the model though it always remained over 50%. One of the deep learning architecture, Bidirectional LSTM, trained with discussions on the language learning 73% successfully predicted learners' performance on a different MOOC.