What data is available about posts, to design analytics to understand student engagement and understanding?

I’m thinking about using Discourse in an educational setting and wonder what data is available about posts. The data will help me design analytics to understand student engagement and understanding.

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Hi John, do you mean what stats are available? If you install data explorer you can access the entire database.


Is there a list of all of the data items?

The data explorer plugin includes all of the tables. Also, discourse is open source, so it’s all at github. You can look in /app/models and each file includes the associated table at the bottom.

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Thanks. Those models spelled it out nicely. I see that there are user-defined fields, but they look like they extend the user profile. If I wanted to create custom post-level data (for analytics), how difficult would it be to do the calculations and them to another table in Discourse or another database entirely?

You can customise Discourse to your hearts content with plugins, the main constraints being time :mantelpiece_clock: and money :moneybag: (though some things are harder than others of course)

However, have you thought about coming at this from the other direction?

What do you actually want?

There are quite a lot of analytics at your disposal out of the box. Something might already exist that in some way meets your requirement …

Also make sure you make the explicit distinction between Topics and Posts in whatever you specify.


It sounds like you are making trouble. Plugins can add post and topic custom fields.

Indeed. I use a lot of EdTech tools and it would be nice if they were written on top of existing, mainstream products. In this educational use case, schools need SSO and a way to pull class rosters to set up discussion groups. Discussions are underutilized in education because they lack analytics teachers need to easily monitor and advance discussions. They are also underutilized because most teachers haven’t used it enough to become proficient. In all of my grad classes, the online discussions were poorly moderated and viewed as a to-do item instead of intellectual discourse. The growth of virtual classrooms and speect-to-text tools make it an even more attractive platform for schools.

Yup. Back when I was an open source software zealot and an idealistic freshly minted PhD from Top Tier university working at Large Public University in the Southeast, I got great support from the tech folks when I wanted to to hook into their SSO when I used Moodle (rather than the university-supplied Blackboard). At the small 3rd-tier university where I started using Discourse, I went to some length to keep the tech folks from even knowing about it.

My colleagues (and now my wife, who’s now tenure track at a Flagship in the west) who studied conversation analysis wouldn’t even consider trying to do anything other than use the prescribed tools. Even with SSO in place, it’s a tough transition.

If you have a budget, or maybe a Discourse-vs-whatever platform study that my wife could co-author, I might be able to help beyond what you can get here. The SSO stuff is pretty well developed now, so if you get even minimal help from the folks who hold the keys to the kingdom, it shouldn’t be that hard, and if your instition uses Google or Office365, you can follow existing howtos and not even tell them.


I have budgetary support. If the addon could be a viable EdTech tool, I’m happy to fund it myself.

I like Jay’s approach. Do it and ask for forgiveness later. Online community is hard to do well. Many thankless hours of tending, begging, cultivating and growing one person at a time.

People don’t like to write well. Social media has taught us to write poorly and sometimes even lie. It’s a bad state of affairs that I hope educational institutions can address through positive online experiences.