The folk involved in the Indicators project are always on the lookout for interesting correlations between student activity on the learning management system (LMS) and their resulting grade. One of the first correlations we found was the following, that shows a relationship between the number of clicks students make on the LMS and their resulting grade. It also shows number of clicks each grade group made on discussion forums. Note that flex students in the CQUniversity context typically refers to students who are pursuing their studies via distance education and this is often facilitated via the Moodle LMS.
The ‘Y’ axis is the number of clicks (hits) on Moodle while the ‘X’ axis is the different grades the students received. While the sample size is somewhat small by Indicators project standards (5872), it does show that, on average, the more students use the LMS, the better their results. Of course, and like most of the correlations we have found, they are quite distinct when looked at by average over large sample sizes, but become far less clearly defined when the number of students being sampled is reduced.
One of the things I am particularly interested in, are the patterns around student utilization of LMS discussion forums. At a basic level there are three different types of interaction in any online learning situation:
- Interactions with content. This is represented by clicks on web pages, links and files such as PDF and PPT.
- Interactions with other learners. Often this is represented by forum posts, replies and reads amongst the student group.
- Interactions with the instructor. This is also often represented by forum posts, replies and reads between the students and the instructor.
The following chart shows the relationship between the number of flex student clicks within the LMS discussion forum and their resulting grade. Note that n=8928.
As you will notice, the pattern is similar to what we saw before with the overall hits on the LMS; the more the flex student interacts with the LMS discussion, the better their result. To further expand on this the following chart shows the relationship between the number of forum posts and replies the flex students make and their resulting grade.
Again the trend is fairly clear. The students receiving the higher grades have a tendency to make more posts on the LMS discussion forums. None of this should really come as any great surprise to anyone involved in online education. There is ample research that shows the link between student engagement and their resulting grades and one of my earlier research projects suggested that there is some value in using hits on the LMS as a proxy measure for student engagement. This is based on the fact that online students are ‘invisible’ to the instructor in that the instructor cannot see the ‘glint in their eye’ and this makes it hard to determine if their motivation is waning.
Over the weekend, I was trying to develop a script that produced ratios of the three engagement types that I mentioned earlier. Just to see what correlations, if any, were present. One of the first results from the script is in the following chart and shows something that is both very interesting and also quite perplexing. It shows what percentage of each grade group of flex students are hits on the discussion forum.
Why on earth do the failing students spend more energy (for the want of a better word) on discussion forums than pass or even credit students. Sure the number of clicks the failing students make on discussion forums is less than both pass and credit students, but in terms of the proportion of their hits that are forum based, they exceed the pass and credit students. So give that, in the past, we have shown that instructor interaction with students on discussion forums has a significant influence the level of effort that online students make, I compared this result with students from courses where instructors demonstrated high levels of forum against students from courses where instructors demonstrated low levels of forum activity.
Interestingly, aside from showing the same pattern as the previous chart where failing students exhibited a higher proportion of forum hits than passing and credit students, this chart also suggests that higher instructor activity on the forums leads to proportionally higher student activity on the forums. Not a great surprise I guess but I am really curious as to the dip in the chart lines when looking at student forum activity in relation to their overall activity. Any ideas anyone?