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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Should Your MOOC Forum Use a Reputation System?

  • Author(s): Coetzee, D
  • Fox, Armando
  • Hearst, Marti
  • Hartmann, Bjoern
  • et al.

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Massive open online courses (MOOCs) rely primarily on discussion forums for interaction among students. We investigate how forum design affects student activity and learning outcomes through a field experiment with 1101 participants on the edX platform. We introduce a reputation system, which gives students points for making useful posts. We show that, as in other settings, use of forums in MOOCs is correlated with better grades and higher retention. Reputation systems additionally produce faster response times and larger numbers of responses per post, as well as differences in how students ask questions. However, reputation systems have no significant impact on grades, retention, or the students' subjective sense of community. This suggests that forums are essential for MOOCs, and reputation systems can improve the forum experience, but other techniques are needed to improve student outcomes and community formation. We also contribute a set of guidelines for running field experiments on MOOCs.

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