Although online learning platforms are gradually becoming commonplace in modern society, learners’ high dropout rates and serious academic performance require more attention within the virtual learning environment (VLE). This study aims to predict students’ performance in a specific course as it is continuously running, using the statistic personal biographical information and sequential behavior data with VLE. To achieve this goal, a novel recurrent neural network (RNN)-gated recurrent unit (GRU) joint neural network is proposed to fit both static and sequential data, where the data completion mechanism is also adopted to fill the missing stream data. To incorporate the sequential relationship of learning data, three kinds of time-series deep neural network algorithms: simple RNN, GRU, and LSTM are first taken into consideration as baseline models. Their performances are compared in identifying at-risk students. Experimental results on Open University Learning Analytics Dataset (OULAD) show that simple methods like GRU and simple RNN have better results than the relatively complex LSTM model. The results also reveal that different models have different peak performance time, which results in the proposed joint model that achieves over 80% prediction accuracy of at-risk students at the end of the semester.
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