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Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are redefining the education system and transcending boundaries posed by traditional courses. With the increase in popularity of online courses, there is a corresponding increase in the need to understand and interpret the communications of the course participants. Identifying topics or \emph{aspects} of conversation and inferring sentiment in online course forum posts can enable instructor interventions to meet the needs of the students, rapidly address course-related issues, and increase student retention. Labeled aspect-sentiment data for MOOCs are expensive to obtain and may not be transferable between courses, suggesting the need for approaches that do not require labeled data. We develop a weakly supervised joint model for aspect-sentiment in online courses, modeling the dependencies between various aspects and sentiment using a recently developed scalable class of statistical relational models called hinge-loss Markov random fields. We validate our models on posts sampled from twelve online courses, each containing an average of 10,000 posts, and demonstrate that jointly modeling aspect with sentiment improves the prediction accuracy for both aspect and sentiment.

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