Personalized thread recommendation for mooc discussion forums

Andrew S. Lan, Jonathan C. Spencer, Ziqi Chen, Christopher G. Brinton, Mung Chiang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

21 Scopus citations


Social learning, i.e., students learning from each other through social interactions, has the potential to significantly scale up instruction in online education. In many cases, such as in massive open online courses (MOOCs), social learning is facilitated through discussion forums hosted by course providers. In this paper, we propose a probabilistic model for the process of learners posting on such forums, using point processes. Different from existing works, our method integrates topic modeling of the post text, timescale modeling of the decay in post excitation over time, and learner topic interest modeling into a single model, and infers this information from user data. Our method also varies the excitation levels induced by posts according to the thread structure, to reflect typical notification settings in discussion forums. We experimentally validate the proposed model on three real-world MOOC datasets, with the largest one containing up to 6,000 learners making 40,000 posts in 5,000 threads. Results show that our model excels at thread recommendation, achieving significant improvement over a number of baselines, thus showing promise of being able to direct learners to threads that they are interested in more efficiently. Moreover, we demonstrate analytics that our model parameters can provide, such as the timescales of different topic categories in a course.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMachine Learning and Knowledge Discovery in Databases - European Conference, ECML PKDD 2018, Proceedings
EditorsFrancesco Bonchi, Michele Berlingerio, Thomas Gärtner, Neil Hurley, Georgiana Ifrim
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9783030109271
StatePublished - 2019
EventEuropean Conference on Machine Learning and Principles and Practice of Knowledge Discovery in Databases, ECML-PKDD 2018 - Dublin, Ireland
Duration: Sep 10 2018Sep 14 2018

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume11052 LNAI
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Machine Learning and Principles and Practice of Knowledge Discovery in Databases, ECML-PKDD 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • General Computer Science


  • Discussion forums
  • Hawkes process
  • Personalized thread recommendation


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