Webcam-based Attention Tracking in Online Learning: A Feasibility Study

Tarmo Robal, Yue Zhao, Christoph Lofi, Claudia Hauff

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

22 Citations (Scopus)


A main weakness of the open online learning movement is retention: a small minority of learners (on average 5-10%, in extreme cases <1%) that start a so-called Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) complete it successfully. There are many reasons why learners are unsuccessful, among the most important ones is the lack of self-regulation: learners are often not able to self-regulate their learning behavior. Designing tools that provide learners with a greater awareness of their learning is vital to the future success of MOOC environments. Detecting learners' loss of focus during learning is particularly important, as this can allow us to intervene and return the learners' attention to the learning materials. One technological affordance to detect such loss of focus are webcams---ubiquitous pieces of hardware available in almost all laptops today. In recent years, researchers have begun to exploit eye tracking and gaze data generated from webcams as part of complex machine learning solutions to detect inattention or loss of focus. Those approaches however tend to have a high detection lag, can be inaccurate, and are complex to design and maintain. In contrast, in this paper, we explore the possibility of a simple alternative---the presence or absence of a face---to detect a loss of focus in the online learning setting. To this end, we evaluate the performance of three consumer and professional eye/face-tracking frameworks using a benchmark suite we designed specifically for this purpose: it contains a set of common xMOOC user activities and behaviours. The results of our study show that even this basic approach poses a significant challenge to current hardware and software-based tracking solutions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationACM Annual Meeting of Interactive User Interfaces (IUI)
Place of PublicationTokyo, Japan
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventIUI 2018: 23rd International Conference on Intelligent User Intefaces - Tokyo, Japan
Duration: 7 Mar 201811 Mar 2018
Conference number: 23


ConferenceIUI 2018
Abbreviated titleIUI'18
Internet address


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