Behavior-Based Grade Prediction for MOOCs Via Time Series Neural Networks

Tsung Yen Yang, Christopher G. Brinton, Carlee Joe-Wong, Mung Chiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


We present a novel method for predicting the evolution of a student's grade in massive open online courses (MOOCs). Performance prediction is particularly challenging in MOOC settings due to per-student assessment response sparsity and the need for personalized models. Our method overcomes these challenges by incorporating another, richer form of data collected from each student - lecture video-watching clickstreams - into the machine learning feature set, and using that to train a time series neural network that learns from both prior performance and clickstream data. Through evaluation on two MOOC datasets, we find that our algorithm outperforms a baseline of average past performance by more than 60% on average, and a lasso regression baseline by more than 15%. Moreover, the gains are higher when the student has answered fewer questions, underscoring their ability to provide instructors with early detection of struggling and/or advanced students. We also show that despite these gains, when taken alone, none of the behavioral features are particularly correlated with performance, emphasizing the need to consider their combined effect and nonlinear predictors. Finally, we discuss how course instructors can use these predictive learning analytics to stage student interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7917237
Pages (from-to)716-728
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Journal on Selected Topics in Signal Processing
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Signal Processing
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Clickstream data analysis
  • MOOC
  • learning analytics
  • student performance prediction


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