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Online listening responses and e-learning performance

Zhao Du (Business School of Sport, Beijing Sport University, Beijing, China)
Fang Wang (Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada)
Shan Wang (Department of Finance and Management Science, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada)
Xiao Xiao (Higher Education Press, Beijing, China)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 28 June 2022

Issue publication date: 4 May 2023




This research investigates the impact of learners' non-substantive responses in online course forums, referred to as online listening responses, on e-learning performance. A common type of response in online course forums, online listening responses consist of brief, non-substantive replies/comments (e.g. “agree,” “I see,” “thank you,” “me too”) and non-textual inputs (e.g. post-voting, emoticons) in online discussions. Extant literature on online forum participation focuses on learners' active participation with substantive inputs and overlooks online listening responses. This research, by contrast, stresses the value of online listening responses in e-learning and their heterogeneous effects across learner characteristics. It calls for recognition and encouragement from online instructors and online forum designers to support this activity.


The large-scale proprietary dataset comes from a leading MOOC (massive open online courses) platform in China. The dataset includes 68,126 records of learners in five MOOCs during 2014–2018. An ordinary least squares model is used to analyze the data and test the hypotheses.


Online listening responses in course forums, along with learners' substantive inputs, positively influence learner performance in online courses. The effects are heterogeneous across learner characteristics, being more prominent for early course registrants, learners with full-time jobs and learners with more e-learning experience, but weaker for female learners.


This research distinguishes learners' brief, non-substantive responses (online listening responses) and substantive inputs (online speaking) as two types of active participation in online forums and provides empirical evidence for the importance of online listening responses in e-learning. It contributes to online forum research by advancing the active-passive dichotomy of online forum participation to a nuanced classification of learner behaviors. It also adds to e-learning research by generating insights into the positive and heterogeneous value of learners' online listening responses to e-learning outcomes. Finally, it enriches online listening research by introducing and examining online listening responses, thereby providing a new avenue to probe online discussions and e-learning performance.



Funding: This paper has been funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (892-2021-2061) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71901030).


Du, Z., Wang, F., Wang, S. and Xiao, X. (2023), "Online listening responses and e-learning performance", Information Technology & People, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 1509-1532.



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