Follow the successful crowd: Raising MOOC completion rates through social comparison at scale

D.J. Davis, Ioana Jivet, René F. Kizilcec, Guanliang Chen, Claudia Hauff, Geert Jan Houben

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

61 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Social comparison theory asserts that we establish our social and personal worth by comparing ourselves to others. In in-person learning environments, social comparison offers students critical feedback on how to behave and be successful. By contrast, online learning environments afford fewer social cues to facilitate social comparison. Can increased availability of such cues promote effective self-regulatory behavior and achievement in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)? We developed a personalized feedback system that facilitates social comparison with previously successful learners based on an interactive visualization of multiple behavioral indicators. Across four randomized controlled trials in MOOCs (overall N = 33, 726), we find: (1) the availability of social comparison cues significantly increases completion rates, (2) this type of feedback benefits highly educated learners, and (3) learners' cultural context plays a significant role in their course engagement and achievement.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLAK 2017 Conference Proceedings of the 7th International Learning Analytics and Knowledge Conference
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4503-4870-6
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventLAK 2017: 7th International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge - Vancouver, BC, Canada
Duration: 13 Mar 201717 Mar 2017
Conference number: 7


ConferenceLAK 2017
Abbreviated titleLAK'17
CityVancouver, BC
Internet address


  • Cultural differences
  • Feedback
  • Framing
  • Learning analytics
  • Massive open online course
  • Social comparison


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