April 26, 2016

The Civic Mission of MOOCs: Measuring Engagement across Political Differences in Forums

Justin Reich, Brandon Stewart, Kimia Mavon, Dustin Tingley


In this study, we develop methods for computationally measuring the degree to which students engage in MOOC forums with other students holding different political beliefs. We examine a case study of a single MOOC about education policy, Saving Schools, where we obtain measures of student education policy preferences that correlate with political ideology. Contrary to assertions that online spaces often become echo chambers or ideological silos, we find that students in this case hold diverse political beliefs, participate equitably in forum discussions, directly engage (through replies and upvotes) with students holding opposing beliefs, and converge on a shared language rather than talking past one another. that focuses on the civic mission of MOOCs helps ensure that open online learning engages the same breadth of purposes that higher education aspires to serve.


Reich, J., Stewart, B., Mavon, K., Tingley, D. (2016) The Civic Mission of MOOCs: Measuring Engagement across Political Differences in Forums. Proceedings of the 2016 Learning@Scale Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland [Best Paper Award]

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