Comprehensive Analysis of Discussion Forum Participation: From Speech Acts to Discussion Dynamics and Course Outcomes

Srecko Joksimovic*, Jelena Jovanovic, Vitomir Kovanovic, Dragan Gasevic, Nikola Milikic, Amal Zouaq, Jan-Paul van Staalduinen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Learning in computer-mediated setting represents a complex, multidimensional process. This complexity calls for a comprehensive analytical approach that would allow for understanding of various dimensions of learner generated discourse and the structure of the underlying social interactions. Current research, however, primarily focuses on manual or, more recently, supervised methods for discourse analysis. Moreover, discourse and social structures are typically analyzed separately without the use of computational methods that can offer a holistic perspective. This paper proposes an approach that addresses these two challenges, first, by using an unsupervised machine learning approach to extract speech acts as representations of knowledge construction processes and finds transition probabilities between speech acts across different messages, and second, by integrating the use of discovered speech acts to explain the formation of social ties and predicting course outcomes. We extracted six categories of speech acts from messages exchanged in discussion forums of two MOOCs and each category corresponded to knowledge construction processes from well-established theoretical models. We further showed how measures derived from discourse analysis explained the ways how social ties were created that framed emerging social networks. Multiple regression models showed that the combined use of measures derived from discourse analysis and social ties predicted learning outcomes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number8713903
    Pages (from-to)38-51
    Number of pages14
    JournalIEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


    • Discourse analysis
    • learning outcome
    • social networks
    • speech acts
    • statistical network analysis


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