Enabling Real-Time Adaptivity in MOOCs with a Personalized Next-Step Recommendation Framework

Zachary A. Pardos, Steven Tang, Daniel Davis, Christopher Vu Le

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we demonstrate a first-of-its-kind adaptive intervention in a MOOC utilizing real-time clickstream data and a novel machine learned model of behavior. We detail how we augmented the edX platform with the capabilities necessary to support this type of intervention which required both tracking learners' behaviors in real-time and dynamically adapting content based on each learner's individual clickstream history. Our chosen pilot intervention was in the category of adaptive pathways and courseware and took the form of a navigational suggestion appearing at the bottom of every non-forum content page in the course. We designed our pilot intervention to help students more efficiently navigate their way through a MOOC by predicting the next page they were likely to spend significant time on and allowing them to jump directly to that page. While interventions which attempt to optimize for learner achievement are candidates for this adaptive framework, behavior prediction has the benefit of not requiring causal assumptions to be made in its suggestions. We present a novel extension of a behavioral model that takes into account students' time spent on pages and forecasts the same. Several approaches to representing time using Recurrent Neural Networks are evaluated and compared to baselines without time, including a basic n-gram model. Finally, we discuss design considerations and handling of edge cases for real-time deployment, including considerations for training a machine learned model on a previous offering of a course for use in a subsequent offering where courseware may have changed. This work opens the door to broad experimentation with adaptivity and serves as a first example of delivering a data-driven personalized learning experience in a MOOC.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationL@S'17 Proceedings of the Fourth (2017) ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4503-4450-0
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event L@S '17 The Fourth (2017) ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale: Engineering Learning Environments - Cambridge, United States
Duration: 20 Apr 201721 Apr 2017


Conference L@S '17 The Fourth (2017) ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale
CountryUnited States


  • Adaptivity
  • Personalization
  • Real-time intervention
  • MOOC
  • RNN
  • Behavioral modeling
  • Navigational efficiency
  • edX


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