MessageLens: A Visual Analytics System to Support Multifaceted Exploration of MOOC Forum Discussions

Jian Syuan Wong, Xiaolong Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) often provide online discussion forum tools to facilitate learner interaction and communication. Having massive forum messages posted by learners everyday, MOOC forums are regarded as an important source for understanding learners activities and opinions. However, the high volume and heterogeneity of MOOC forum contents make it challenging to analyze forum data effectively from different perspectives of discussions and to integrate diverse information into a coherent understanding of issues of concern. In this paper, we report a study on the design of a visual analytics tool to facilitate the multifaceted analysis of online discussion forums. This tool, called MessageLens, aims at helping MOOC instructors to gain a better understanding of forum discussions from three facets: discussion topic, learner attitude, and communication among learners. With various visualization tools, instructors can investigate learner activities from different perspectives. We report a case study with real-world MOOC forum data to present the features of MessageLens and a preliminary evaluation study on the benefits and areas of improvement of the system. Our research suggests an approach to analyzing rich communication contents as well as dynamic social interactions among people.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-49
Number of pages13
JournalVisual Informatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Software


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