Pathways of students' progress through an on-demand online curriculum

Jim Morgan, Euan Lindsay, Colm Howlin, Maartje E.D van den Bogaard

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review


Charles Sturt University makes its underpinning technical curriculum available to its students using an on-demand online system they call their Topic Tree. The tree is a directed a cyclic graph where nodes represent topics to be learned, and edges represent the prerequisite relationships that exist between the topics. Branches on the topic tree represent concentrations in an area of knowledge, sub-branches (water quality, fluid mechanics, etc.) represent distinct subsets of knowledge - specialty. Delivery of the technical content is in three-hour modules, and students are free to choose the order in which they engage with these topics. Previous work has identified that students engage with the on-demand curriculum much as they engage with on-demand entertainment platforms such as Netflix, completing long sequences of topics with short periods between them – the traditional “binge” model of consumption. This paper presents a more fine-grained analysis of students’ pathways through the topic tree, focusing on the distance between successive topics completed by the students. Students’ progress is characterized by a three-dimensional framework – time, distance, and purpose.
In general, pathways through the tree fall into one of four patterns:
- Forward movement along a branch of the tree,
- Movement backward along a branch of the tree,
- Repeating the same topic,
- Switching to a different branch of the tree (backward distance to the junction of the branches combined with a forward distance along the new branch).
Different students engage with the topic tree using different combinations of these pathways, distance absolute distance traveled through the topics, and different time gaps between activities on the topics. This paper will identify the different combinations that can be found in the student log data.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2019 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9781713824756
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event2019 ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) Annual Conference and Exposition - Tampa Convention Center, Tampa, United States
Duration: 15 Jun 201919 Jun 2019


Conference2019 ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) Annual Conference and Exposition
Abbreviated titleCharged up for the next 125 years
Country/TerritoryUnited States
OtherThe 126th Annual American Society For Engineering Education (ASEE) Conference and Exposition will be held on June 15 -19, 2019 at Tampa Convention Center, Florida. ASEE is committed to fostering the exchange of ideas, enhancing teaching methods and curriculum, and providing prime networking opportunities for engineering and technology education stakeholders such as: deans, faculty members, and industry and government representatives. The conference features more than 400 technical sessions, with peer-reviewed papers spanning all disciplines of engineering education.
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