A quest for a one-size-fits-all neural network: Early prediction of students at risk in online courses

David Monllao Olive, Du Huynh, Mark Reynolds, Martin Dougiamas, Damyon Wiese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


A significant amount of research effort has been put into finding variables that can identify students at risk based on activity records available in Learning Management Systems (LMS). These variables often depend on the context for example, the course structure, how the activities are assessed or whether the course is entirely online or a blended course. To the best of our knowledge, a predictive model that can generalise well to many different types of courses using data available in the LMS does not currently exist in the Learning Analytics literature. In this study, early prediction of students at risk is tackled by training a number of neural networks to predict which students would likely submit their assignments on time based on their activity up to 2 days before assignments' due dates. 5 different datasets that cover a total of 78,722 student enrolments in 5,487 courses have been used in our study. In order to improve how well the neural networks generalise, our networks can perform different forms of feature engineering using course peers data. The different architectures of these networks have been compared to find the one with more predictive power. To validate the models trained from the networks, both new datasets and unseen examples extracted from the same datasets have been used for training. Our research show that adding contextual information results in better prediction accuracies and F1 scores. Our networks are able to give predictions with accuracies in the 67.46-81.63% range and F1 scores in the 71.30-83.09% range.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8691622
Pages (from-to)171-183
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2019


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