Research & Pedagogy

Research & Pedagogy

Working with our xConsortium of university partners, edX is empowering research on pedagogy or learning about learning.

The online environment provides a powerful platform to conduct experiments, exploring how students learn and how faculty can best teach using a variety of novel tools and techniques.

Fundamental questions include:

  • What motivates students to learn and persist?
  • What helps students retain knowledge?
  • What are the best ways to teach complex ideas?
  • How can we assess what students have learned?
  • What is best taught in person vs. online?

By carefully assessing course data, from mouse clicks to time spent on tasks, to evaluating how students respond to various assessments, researchers hope to shed light on how learners access information and master materials, with the ultimate aim of improving course outcomes.

We are not only expanding access to knowledge, but developing best practices to enhance the student experience and improve teaching and learning both on campus and online.

Below you will find a sampling of research papers authored by our xConsortium partners:


HarvardX Working Papers

HarvardX 21 Jan 2014 By
The first two HarvardX courses launched in October of 2012, and four more courses launched in Spring 2013. As of this date, 14 new and returning courses are slated to launch in the winter and spring. Now that data for the first six HarvardX courses have been delivered and analyzed, this is an opportune time to examine these first offerings, in order to inform ongoing course design and research. HarvardX is pleased to make these initial reports available to the public (in tandem with the respective MITx courses). They address simple questions across multiple courses: Who registered? What did they do? Where are they from? more
MIT Office of Digital Learning

MITx Working Papers

MIT Office of Digital Learning 21 Jan 2014 By
The first three MITx courses launched in the Fall of 2012, seven more courses launched in the Spring of 2013, and one in the Summer of 2013. As of this date, fifteen more courses recently completed or are about to commence, and dozens more modules and courses are in development. Now that data for the first 11 MITx courses have been delivered and analyzed, this is an opportune time to examine these first offerings, in order to inform ongoing course design and research. more
Educational Data Mining

Bringing student backgrounds online: MOOC user demographics, site usage, and online learning

Educational Data Mining 6 Jul 2013 ByJennifer DeBoer, Andrew Ho, Glenda Stump, David Pritchard, Daniel Seaton, Lori Breslow
MOOCs gather a rich array of click-stream information from students who interact with the platform. However, without student background information, inferences do not take advantage of a deeper understanding of students’ prior experiences, motivation, and home environment. In this poster, the authors investigate the predictive power of student background factors as well as student experiences with learning materials provided in the first MITx course, “Circuits and Electronics.” more
RPA Journal

Studying Learning in the Worldwide Classroom: Research into edX’s First MOOC

RPA Journal 14 Jun 2013 ByLori Breslow, David E. Pritchard, Jennifer DeBoer, Glenda S. Stump, Andrew D. Ho and Daniel T. Seaton
“Circuits and Electronics” (6.002x), which began in March 2012, was the first MOOC developed by edX, the consortium led by MIT and Harvard. Over 155,000 students initially registered for 6.002x, which was composed of video lectures, interactive problems, online laboratories, and a discussion forum. As the course ended in June 2012, researchers began to analyze the rich sources of data it generated. more

An Integrated Framework for the Grading of Freeform Responses

MIT Learning International Networks Consortium 17 Jun 2013 ByPiotr F. Mitros, Vikas Paruchuri, John Rogosic, Diana Huang
Massive open online classrooms (MOOCs) have the potential to educate millions of people around the world. Initial MOOC courses were in science and engineering disciplines, where the problems involve constrained choices and can easily be graded automatically. MOOCs must still find ways to deal with essays and short answers, which are required for classes in humanities and the social sciences, and are useful to a variety of other disciplines. more

Participation And performance In 8.02x Electricity And Magnetism: The First Physics MOOC From MITx 11 Oct 2013 BySaif Rayyan, Daniel T. Seaton, John Belcher, David E. Pritchard, Isaac Chuang
Massive Open Online Courses are an exciting new avenue for instruction and research, yet they are full of unknowns. In the Spring of 2013, MITx released its first introductory physics MOOC through the edX platform, generating a total enrollment of 43,000 students from around the world. We describe the population of participants in terms of their age, gender, level of education, and country of origin, highlighting both the diversity of 8.02x enrollees as well as gender gap and retention. more

Teaching Electronic Circuits Online: Lessons from MITx’s 6.002x on edX

IEEE 19 May 2013 ByPiotr F. Mitros, Khurram K. Afridi , Gerald J. Sussman, Chris J. Terman, Jacob K. White , Lyla Fischer and Anant Agarwal .
"6.002x is the first electronic circuits course to be taught online to tens of thousands of students. The goal of the 6.002x experiment was to explore ways to use computer-assisted instruction to surpass the quality of traditional residential teaching." more

A New Approach to Developing Interactive Software Modules through Graduate Education 8 Aug 2013 ByNathan E. Sanders, Chris Faesi, Alyssa A. Goodman (Harvard University)
The authors discuss a set of fifteen new interactive, educational, online software modules developed by Harvard University graduate students to demonstrate various concepts related to astronomy and physics. Their achievement demonstrates that online software tools for education and outreach on specialized topics can be produced while simultaneously fulfilling project-based learning objectives. more

Changing “Course”: Reconceptualizing Educational Variables for Massive Open Online Courses

TLL 1 Sep 2013 ByJennifer DeBoer, Andrew D. Ho, Glenda S. Stump, Lori Breslow
Increases in the amount and richness of available educational data require researchers to expand the ways in which they define familiar variables. The authors illustrate that the advent of massive open online courses (MOOCs) is such juncture. more

Development of a Framework to Classify MOOC Discussion Forum Posts: Methodology and Challenges

TLL 1 Oct 2013 ByGlenda S. Stump, Jennifer DeBoer, Jonathan Whittinghill, Lori Breslow
The purpose of this paper is to describe the methodology used to confront one of the challenges associated with analyzing discussion forum data from the inaugural edX MOOC, "Circuits and Electronics." The authors detail the development and testing of a framework to classify large amounts of MOOC data into a manageable number of categories so that further analysis con be conducted in targeted areas of interest. more