Fostering student engagement in online discussion through social learning analytics

Bodong Chen, Yu Hui Chang, Fan Ouyang, Wanying Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


This paper reports on the initial stage of a design-based research program that aims to devise student-facing social learning analytics in a postsecondary setting. In order to foster student discussion in online classes, we devised an analytics toolkit that turns discussion forum data into information for students to reflect upon. The first pilot study conducted in an online course showed both early promises and challenges with this effort. In particular, students reported usefulness of the toolkit for monitoring posting behaviors and setting participation goals. Content analysis of post content linked tool usage with students' increased attempts to solicit peer responses to their posts and increased reflection on individual participation. However, the tool was not found useful or easy to use by some students, and it did not show benefits in other aspects of online discussion, such as crafting stronger argumentation or reflecting on group processes. These findings highlight the need of social learning analytics to strive for tool simplicity, scaffold students' development in data literacy, and bring analytics and pedagogical designs into close coordination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-30
Number of pages10
JournalInternet and Higher Education
StatePublished - Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Inc.


  • Design-based research
  • Higher education
  • Learning analytics
  • Online discussion
  • Social network analysis


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