Rising Stars 2020:

Dilrukshi Gamage

PhD Candidate

University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka

Areas of Interest

  • Education
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Information, Data, Network, and Communication Sciences
  • Education Technology
  • Learning Science


Rapid Communities on MOOCs: Scaffolding the Social Presence in Massive Open Online Course by Communitiesof Practice


MOOC forums provide a great place for course focused communications — asking questions and getting support — but they fail to provide learners a community to socially interact and learn. This lack of social presence is associated with increased attrition, reduced motivation to learn and thereby result ineffectiv elearning experience. Drawing on methods to establish effective communities of practice, we introduce rapid communities on MOOCs (RCOM), a four phase community building process which scaffolds social presence into MOOCs. RCOM groups students into loosely cohesive clusters, and then helps them self organize with leadership rolls and networking activities to cultivate social presence. An exploratory case study conducted to integrate RCoM to a course in MOOC platform which had over 15,000 registered learners. We evaluate the possibilities of RCoM to impend social presence in MOOC and surrounding challenges in this process. Through network and content analysis, we found that RCOM incubated social presence and establish communities of practices. This work provides early in-field evidence that social presence can be established in MOOCs atscale with minimal technical modification. "Rapid Communities on MOOCs (RCoM)" will trigger the value of social learning in MOOCs and act as a re-designed space for MOOC platforms. Not just the social presence,we aspire the RCoM to be the force to cultivate a learning and knowledge creating atmosphere to MOOCs than participants consuming content.


I am a Ph.D. student, just submitted my thesis titled “Improving the effectiveness of MOOCs to meet the 21st centrally challenges” at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. I study large-scale open online courses, specifically MOOCs focusing on designing and building systems to improve discourse, collaboration, and interaction among MOOC participants. I am very interested in social systems which can systematically enhance learning in a community by building trust and facilitation. My general interests are in social computing, HCI, and computational social science. Previously I was part of Stanford Crowsourse Research Collective for 3+ years under Prof. Michael Bernstein and during my Ph.D., I often collaborated on research with Dr. Mark Whiting - a Postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Thomas Staubits - Postdoc at HPI, University of Potsdam Germany. During my Ph.D., I have been awarded the Google WTM APAC scholarship, Grace Hoppers Conference scholarship by Anita B.org, ACM Richard Tapia Diversity Scholarship, Young Researcher at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum (HLF), ACM- W Scholarship, IEEE Women in Engineering Scholarship. As a passionate Women in STEM advocate, I drive D&I activities in my country while bridging the gap of diversity in University and Industry with a national initiative - Diversity COllective Lanka. I am also an advocate of Open Science, Open Research, and been a Mozilla Open Leader and the facilitators for the Mozilla Open Leaders program. My aspiration is to be a role model to my own baby girls to be fearless in deciding their field and to open every opportunity for women to lead in STEM.

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