Open Source, Big Data, MOOC Registrant Analysis Software

MIT & Harvard’s new technology allows for greater insight into MOOC student persona data.

Estimated MITx registration by country.

Estimated Harvardx registration by country.

MIT and Harvard have released a collection of open source interactive visualization tools to better identify MOOC student persona data. The release is built on the same data previously collected from 17 MOOCs and used to write a series of articles by the universities.

The graphs update in almost real-time, crunching the ‘big data’ generated by the MOOCs. They are also interactive, allowing users to highlight more specialized information from the MOOC registrants.

The open source program was developed by Sergiy Nesterko (HarvardX research fellow) and Dr. Daniel Seaton (MIT post-doc). They hope that the program, which harnesses information from over 1 million registrants, will showcase the possibilities of ‘big data’ and the power of MOOCs to collect it.

According to Nesterko, “These tools provide our faculty and course developers, as well as the general public, usable, visually interpretable data from course offerings in near-real time … This can help to guide instruction while courses are running and deepen our understanding of the impact of courses after they are complete.”

The graphs allow for data to be analyzed based on a variety of metrics including certificate attainment, enrollment, education, gender and even age. The data can be seen country-by-country, on a world map, or as pie and bar charts.

 “Our hope is that these tools will be useful to everyone, including researchers, journalists, course developers, and the public, for the purpose of understanding how these courses work and who our students are,” says Seaton.

Estimated MITx certification by country.

Estimated Harvardx certification by country.

With the charts, users can make insights about their MOOCs. They can see how the blockage of certain websites, like YouTube, can affect participation, or how individuals with a lower level of education are taking these courses in higher numbers than one might expect.

The charts also show how MOOCs are a numbers game with respect to low certifications. Though the certification rates hover around 10%, registrations in the 100,000s still mean more people can be educated using MOOCs than through traditional education formats.

Finally, as the code and data is downloadable and open source, users can even tweak the functionality to their own needs and research. What will you use it for?

Source and images courtesy of Harvardx

Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.