Dealing with the vast quantities of text that students generate in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is a daunting challenge. Computational tools are needed to help instructional teams uncover themes and patterns as MOOC students write in forums, assignments, and surveys. This paper introduces to the learning analytics community the Structural Topic Model, an approach to language processing that can (1) ﬁnd syntactic patterns with semantic meaning in unstructured text, (2) identify variation in those patterns across covariates, and (3) uncover archetypal texts that exemplify the documents within a topical pattern. We show examples of computationally-aided discovery and reading in three MOOC settings: mapping students’ self-reported motivations, identifying themes in discussion forums, and uncovering patterns of feedback in course evaluations.
Reich, Justin and Tingley, Dustin H. and Leder-Luis, Jetson and Roberts, Margaret E. and Stewart, Brandon, Computer-Assisted Reading and Discovery for Student Generated Text in Massive Open Online Courses (September 22, 2014). HarvardX Working Paper Series Number 6.