Exploring Interpersonal Language in MOOC Lectures: A Comparison of High- and Low-Rated Courses

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Wednesday 05 July 2023

01:00 PM - 02:00 PM


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Join the Centre for Global Learning and guest speaker Dr Xiaoyu Xu, Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the City University of Hong Kong for an event focused on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). 

In the past decade, online lecturing in highe education has grown exponentially. It is now common for universities to offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) to millions of students, worldwide. Many lecturers, however, find delivering these MOOCs challenging. The asynchronous, pre-recorded, monologic nature of MOOCs can make establishing interpersonal connection difficult, and ultimately lead to a high student dropout rate.

Interviews with students have revealed that a lecturer's interpersonal tone is crucial in reducing psychological distance when viewing pre-recorded videos. Despite its importance, there is a paucity of applied linguistic research on interpersonal language in MOOC lectures; it is unclear how the interpersonal tone preferred by students can be realized discursively.

This paper aims to capture discursive instances of interpersonal language. It does so by modelling a novel engagement framework and identifying useful discursive strategies by comparing a high-rated and a low-rated engineering MOOC course delivered on Coursera. Findings show that the high-rated course lecturer constantly anticipated learners' state of mind and constructed a discourse that performed several interpersonal functions to address these anticipations, including: ‘salutations’, ‘preemptive corrections/instructions’, ‘entertainment’, ‘community building’, ‘relating to familiar scenarios’, ‘offering alternatives’, ‘motivation’, ‘reassurance’, ‘empathy’, and ‘Q&A’.

In contrast, the lecturer delivering the low-rated course mostly anticipated and addressed ‘knowledge gaps’ and ‘difficulty’ but overlooked ‘emotions’. These findings shed light on how lecturers can use interpersonal language in pre-recorded lectures to engage students, increase the completion rate of online courses, and promote a sense of connection and belonging. By providing a model for identifying and implementing effective discursive strategies, this study offers practical insights for educators seeking to improve the quality of their MOOC lectures


For enquiries please contact Research Centre for Global Learning (GLEA)