With the aim of better scaffolding discussion to improve learning in a MOOC context, this work investigates what kinds of discussion behaviors contribute to learning. We explored whether engaging in higher-order thinking behaviors results in more learning than paying general or focused attention to course materials. In order to evaluate whether to attribute the effect to engagement in the associated behaviors versus persistent characteristics of the students, we adopted two approaches. First, we used propensity score matching to pair students who exhibit a similar level of involvement in other course activities. Second, we explored individual variation in engagement in higher-order thinking behaviors across weeks. The results of both analyses support the attribution of the effect to the behavioral interpretation. A further analysis using LDA applied to course materials suggests that more social oriented topics triggered richer discussion than more biopsychology oriented topics.
: Xu Wang, Miaomiao Wen and Carolyn Rose (2016). "Towards triggering higher-order thinking behaviors in MOOCs". In Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge (LAK '16). ACM, New York.