Public Response to “the MOOC Movement” in China: Examining the Time Series of Microblogging


  • Jingjing Zhang Beijing Normal University
  • Kirk Perris Beijing Normal University
  • Qinhua Zheng Beijing Normal University
  • Li Chen Beijing Normal University



MOOCs, microblogging, data mining, time series, Weibo


In China, microblogging is an extremely popular activity and is proving to be an effective mechanism to gauge perceptions about social phenomena. Between 2010 and 2015 Sina Weibo, China’s largest microblogging website, generated 95,015 postings from 62,074 users referencing the term massive open online courses (MOOCs), a method of online course delivery popularized in North America that has spread globally. Time series analyses revealed distinct patterns in the volume of postings during a four-year period, and subsequently by month, by week, and by the time of day. The volume of postings during the week, for example, peaked on Monday and declined daily to a low point on Saturday. Relative to maximizing learner engagement, the findings may provide insight to parties who deliver MOOCs to employ or test strategies on timing (i.e., time of year to offer/not offer a MOOC, time of week to release/not release new material, time of day to schedule/not schedule chat sessions). The paper also serves to demonstrate a mechanism to retrieve big data from social media sources, otherwise underutilized in educational research.

Author Biography

Jingjing Zhang, Beijing Normal University

BSc (BNU/Gakugei); MRes (UCL), MSc (Oxford), DPhil (Oxford)

Associate Professor, Research Centre of Distance Education, School of Educational Technology, Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University

Academic and Professional BackgroundZHANG Jingjing received her BSc in Computer Science from BNU, an MRes from University College London (UCL), an MSc and a DPhil from the University of Oxford. As an undergraduate, she was awarded 2003 AIEJ Scholarship for a one-year exchange study at Tokyo Gakugei University. At Oxford (MSc, DPhil), she was a Clarendon scholar and a member of Brasenose College (funded by ORS scholarship).
She is now an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education of BNU, specialising in learning and technology. Before joining BNU, she was first trained in Directorate for Education, OECD Paris, and then interned at the Department of Management, the UN headquarters New York.Research InterestsHer early research in machine learning and information visualisation has led to an educational product to analyse university curriculum structure. In the past few years, her research has been involved in work with educationists, sociologists and anthropologists. This has led a change of her research interests initially in machine learning in laboratory settings to social constructivism of learning in real-world settings.
She is now particularly interested in how learning occurs between people engaging in communication that is situated in daily work environments online and offline. As well as to her recent research on the social sciences of learning and technology, she is also interested in the change to varies forms of human relationships in the networked society, such as leadership and trust; the development of open educational resources; the emergence of MOOCs, and the design of knowledge visualization.



How to Cite

Zhang, J., Perris, K., Zheng, Q., & Chen, L. (2015). Public Response to “the MOOC Movement” in China: Examining the Time Series of Microblogging. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 16(5).