By Anthony C. Robinson
Teaching an online course that 49,000 students have signed up for presents an unprecedented challenge when it comes to an important aspect of instruction: knowing your audience.
I could see from my course “dashboard” in Coursera that the students hailed from 190 countries, with 6 percent from India, 31 percent from the United States, and so on, but these numbers only took me so far. I wondered which places had lots of students earning a passing grade? Which places had students who were really engaged with the course?
Since I’m a cartographer, it made sense to make some maps.
Relatively little has been done so far with mapping student engagement in MOOCs, so I worked with colleagues in the past year on a research project supported by the Center for Online Innovation in Learning at Pennsylvania State University. Using the Internet addresses logged by more than 49,000 students in my MOOC called “Maps and the Geospatial Revolution,” my graduate assistant, Sterling Quinn, geocoded student locations and tied this information to survey responses and course interactions that Coursera tracks for every student. Using this data set, Carolyn Fish, a graduate student, then created a series of maps to help us explore geographic patterns in MOOC participation.
We began by looking beyond just the number of students from each country, using a technique called hexbin mapping to show places that had at least 10 students, which helps us focus on areas with significant enrollments.
[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/article/Mapping-a-MOOC-Reveals-Global/234795 ]