User engagement with Micro-lessons on Khan Academy

A few years ago, one of our MSc students at the Oxford Internet Institute and I analysed some log data (aka big data) that Khan Academy had kindly shared with us. We wanted to see how course-takers interact with videos and quizzes. The analyses were fruitful and the results were interesting (for example, there are generally two types of students, those who fully engage, see many videos and finish them, and those who just click on this and that and soon leave), but we were not very lucky with publishing the paper.

This year, of course as a result of the pandemics, people’s attention once again was drawn towards online learning. So we seized the opportunity and sent the paper to a conference on the topic and the paper is now finally published. Here is the abstract:

With the rise of different forms of online learning platforms and the new ways that people learn in these platforms, new methods of conceptualizing and measuring learning engagement and progression are needed. The availability of large and detailed data about learners’ actions online can provide insight into different aspects of the learning trajectory. This paper (1) highlights micro-lessons as a type of open online learning that is different from other online platforms in its pedagogical approach and affordances, (2) characterizes user interactions with learning resources on a prominent micro-lesson provider, Khan Academy, and (3) constructs and analyzes measures of learning progression based on the theoretical concepts of learners’ grit and growth mindsets using log data of over 300,000 users of micro-lessons. The findings indicate that micro-lessons are most used for just-in-time learning (indicated by single-visits to the platform), rather than attempting to get a more holistic educational experience. Learners’ performance in terms of time taken and the number of attempts to get to a correct answer in practice exercises indicated learning progress over time. This work lays the groundwork for future research to understand how micro-lessons can cater to different learner motivations and how learners’ interactions with micro-lessons fit with their broader learning experience and goals. Future research can also extend this study’s measures of learning progression in other online platforms that do not offer formal assessments.

Published by Taha Yasseri

Associate Professor, School of Sociology, University College Dublin