• xTalks: Digital Discourses

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René Kizilcec: Closing Achievement Gaps in MOOCs with Psychological Interventions

Man With Headphones

Despite providing millions with free access to higher education content, massive open online courses exhibit a global achievement gap, with lower performance in less developed countries. Why might MOOCs, once touted as vehicles for democratizing education, fall short of delivering educational equity? We tested the social psychological account that learners in the developing world contend with social identity threat, a fear that they could be negatively judged because of their background. Identity threat is known to contribute to race-, gender-, and class-based college achievement gaps in the United States. A survey of MOOC learners suggests that members of underperforming countries are negatively stereotyped and experience identity threat. In three randomized experiments, we tested if social psychological interventions known to reduce domestic achievement gaps could ameliorate the global achievement gap in online learning.

René Kizilcec is a Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow, co-founder of the Stanford Lytics Lab, and doctoral candidate in Communication. His research applies social psychological theory in digital learning environments to support academic achievement and evaluates cultural differences in response to Western-centric interventions to develop tailored approaches. René’s recent work focused on evaluating the impact of social cues in audiovisual instruction and understanding behavior and motivation in MOOCs to support learner-centered design.

FIVE THINGS you missed if you missed Kizilcec's talk.