lets-discuss: Analyzing Student Affect in Course Forums Using Emoji.

Ariel Blobstein, Kobi Gal, Hyunsoo Gloria Kim, Marc Facciotti, David Karger, Kamali Sripathi

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Emoji are commonly used in social media to convey attitudes and emotions. While popular, their use in educational contexts has been sparsely studied. This paper reports on the students' use of emoji in an online course forum in which students annotate and discuss course material in the margins of the online textbook. For this study, instructors created 11 custom emoji-hashtag pairs that enabled students to quickly communicate affects and reactions in the forum that they experienced while interacting with the course material. Example reporting includes, inviting discussion about a topic, declaring a topic as interesting, or requesting assistance about a topic. We analyze emoji usage by over 1,800 students enrolled in multiple offerings of the same course across multiple academic terms. The data show that some emoji frequently appear together in posts associated with the same paragraphs, suggesting that students use the emoji in this way to communicating complex affective states. We explore the use of computational models for predicting emoji at the post level, even when posts are lacking emoji. This capability can allow instructors to infer information about students' affective states during their "at home" interactions with course readings. Finally, we show that partitioning the emoji into distinct groups, rather than trying to predict individual emoji, can be both of pedagogical value to instructors and improve the predictive performance of our approach using the BERT language model. Our procedure can be generalized to other courses and for the benefit of other instructors.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
StatePublished - 18 Jul 2022
EventInternational Conference on Educational Data Mining (EDM) - Durham, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Jul 202227 Jul 2022


ConferenceInternational Conference on Educational Data Mining (EDM)
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Affect recognition
  • Course Forums


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