Delving into data, study aims to improve and personalize massive online learning

2 min read

HarvardX-affiliated researchers have received a grant to study how massive open online courses (MOOCs) might be adapted and personalized based on the demographic data and usage patterns of students.

The study, called “MOOCs Personalization for Various Learning Goals,” will be led by Sergiy Nesterko, a HarvardX research fellow, and Svetlana Dotsenko ’10, founder of the online educational platform Project Lever.

“We are excited about the current scale of online learning,” said Nesterko, who earned a doctorate in statistics from Harvard and a bachelor’s degree in applied math from the University of Toronto. “The data from this study could help us to tailor learning experiences for individual students around the world.”

The $21,450 award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) will help fund research for HarvardX, a University-wide effort to support faculty innovation in the use of technology in teaching and research. The Gates-funded MRI is part of a wider push to both explore the potential of MOOCs and expand access to new forms of credentialing through more personalized and lower cost educational avenues.

Using aggregate data from HarvardX courses offered via the edX learning platform, Nesterko and Dotsenko aim to test whether there are substantive differences in learning outcomes (such as course completion and grades) and usage (time spent engaging with the course videos, assignments, and exams) between various student populations based upon self-reported information.