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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

MIT Researchers Study MOOC Content

With all the talk about completion rates in massive open online courses (MOOCs), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology decided to conduct a study on how students interact with MOOC content. That led researchers from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) to develop LectureScape, which they call a YouTube for MOOCs.

The study used data supplied by edX, the online learning platform run by MIT and Harvard University, on the second-by-second viewing habits of more than 100,000 learners watching more than 6.9 million video sessions. Researchers found that six minutes is about as long as students will watch. They also get more from watching instructors casually seated at a desk rather than standing behind a podium. In addition, lively visuals work better than PowerPoint slides, while the most engaging professors spoke at 254 words per minute and provided more time during the presentation to allow students to understand diagrams.

LectureScape gives instructors tools to identify the most frequently watched parts of a video and to create an interactive transcript that allows users to enter keywords to find segments of interest. The tool also compiles summaries of individual sections and the entire presentation, and presents popular slides automatically so students can refer back to them.

“Our findings reflect the fact that, to maximize student engagement, instructors must plan their lessons specifically for an online video format,” the authors of the study wrote. “Presentation styles that have worked well for centuries in traditional in-person lectures do not necessarily make for effective online educational videos.”

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