The Gender Communication Gap in Online Threaded Discussions

The Gender Communication Gap in Online Threaded Discussions

David Gefen (Drexel University, USA), Nitza Geri (The Open University fo Israel, Israel) and Narasimha Paravastu (Metropolitan State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-150-6.ch002
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Threaded discussions are one of the central tools of online education. These tools enhance student learning and compensate for the lack of social interaction. This study examines whether these social interactions are affected by some typical gender related conversational behaviors, despite the fact that these threaded discussion are designed to operate in a seemingly gender neutral online environment. That men and women communicate differently in open conversation due to their different respective social objectives in communication is at the core of sociolinguistic theory. A direct result of these differences is a tendency toward same-gender oral conversations. To some extent, according to sociolinguists, cross-gender communication resembles cross cultural conversations. This study analyzes threaded discussions in online courses through the lens of sociolinguistic theory, and conjectures that these gender differences should be reflected in mild gender segregation in the threaded discussions as well as men showing a greater inclination to dominate the discussion. Data from 233 students in 27 online courses support these hypotheses and enable a significant identification of the gender of the student based on whom they reference in the threaded discussion and the way they reference others. Theoretical and practical implications on managing threaded discussions are discussed along with directions for further research.
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Conversation, as we all know, is more than a mere exchange of words and the meaning these words convey. Language, being a central aspect of culture and social interaction, also carries a social message and the resulting social segregation and hierarchy such a message creates. This unconscious inclusion of a rich social message is common in conversations by both men and women, albeit each inserts a different social meaning. The problem is that men and women communicate with very different social objectives. So different, in fact, that men and women may totally misunderstand the underlying meaning an opposite gender member is making. Think of shopping as an example. When a woman discusses her shopping it is often with the intent of including the other in the conversation, nothing to do with asking permission, but too often men understand this communiqué as a request of approval. This is because men, more than women, typically communicate with an objective of establishing and maintaining their social status. Commenting on and approving a communiqué establishes their importance. On the other hand, women, more than men, communicate to broadcast rapport. Sharing their shopping excursion story is a good opportunity to involve others or be involved oneself in a conversation. The opposite approach to communication often results a cross cultural misunderstanding (Tannen, 1994). A direct consequence of these differing social objectives and cross cultural misunderstanding is the emergence of gender segregated discussions, as evidenced in many cocktail parties. Men prefer to talk to other men, and women prefer to talk to other women. This is the basic premise of sociolinguistics (Yates, 2001).

Although sociolinguistics research has dealt mainly with the context rich scenarios of oral discourse, the applicability of this idea to the Internet with its more lean social context has received some verification in recent years (Gefen & Ridings, 2005). Virtual communities are online meeting places in which people freely interact as though they were interacting in a face to face manner in a social club. Virtual communities apparently exhibit much of the same gender related behavior predicted by sociolinguistics. Men join these communities to gather and share information, women join to give and share social support. Moreover, although many virtual communities are voluntarily mostly single gender communities, when men seek social support in virtual communities they go to mixed gender communities, supporting the typically stereotyped tendency of women to center their communication on the social side of things. Likewise, when women seek information they go to mixed gender communities, supporting the typically stereotyped tendency of men to center their communication on information exchange (Gefen & Ridings, 2005). These cross gender boundary preferences portray the characteristic gender behavior observed in oral communication (Hannah & Murachver, 1999). And, across cultures, business related email messages, although generally not there to serve a social purpose, are perceived differently by men than by women, with women significantly sensing more social presence in these emails and as a result perceiving them as a more useful medium in their work (Gefen & Straub, 1997). Similar results were reported about the differences of reaction to online purchases by men and women, men being more impulsive online shoppers than women (Zhang, Prybutok, & Strutton, 2007).

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Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Mara H. Washburn
Many Western nations face a critical shortage of skilled professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). However, despite... Sample PDF
Media and Women in Technology
Chapter 2
David Gefen, Nitza Geri, Narasimha Paravastu
Threaded discussions are one of the central tools of online education. These tools enhance student learning and compensate for the lack of social... Sample PDF
The Gender Communication Gap in Online Threaded Discussions
Chapter 3
Princely Ifinedo
In this study, we investigate the influence of two external influences i.e., Ease of finding and Computer anxiety on the technology acceptance model... Sample PDF
The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) and the Continuance Intention
Chapter 4
Thanakorn Wangpipatwong
In this article, the study of how a constructivist e-learning system affects students’ learning outcomes was explored and a two-phase study was... Sample PDF
The Influence of Constructivist E-Learning System on Student Learning Outcomes
Chapter 5
Andreas Wiesner-Steiner, Heike Wiesner, Heidi Schelhowe, Petra Luck
This article presents substantial results from two projects that deal with teaching and learning with digital media in basic and higher education... Sample PDF
The Didactical Agency of Information Communication Technologies for Enhanced Education and Learning
Chapter 6
Daniel J. Shelley
E-learning and e-pedagogy continues to grow in importance in the delivery of higher education, due in part to the cost of higher education, a... Sample PDF
Comparative Analyses of Online and Traditional Undergraduate Business Law Classes: How Effective is E-Pedagogy?
Chapter 7
Ido Millet
Data Flow Diagrams and Use Cases are two popular methodologies in teaching as well as in practice. For the last 4 years, we have been using both... Sample PDF
Student Perceptions of Data Flow Diagrams vs. Use Cases
Chapter 8
Hong Lin
Agent-oriented design has become one of the most active areas in the field of software engineering. The agent concept provides a focal point for... Sample PDF
Promoting Undergraduate Education with Agent Based Laboratory
Chapter 9
Tony Jewels, Rozz Albon
For optimum workplace effectiveness in knowledge-intensive industries in which principles of knowledge management need to be applied, it is... Sample PDF
Supporting Arguments for Including the Teaching of Team Competency Principles in Higher Education
Chapter 10
Lawrence Tomei
This article helps classroom teachers create an “Interactive Lesson,” a self-paced, student-controlled, individualized learning opportunity embedded... Sample PDF
Creating an Interactive PowerPoint Lesson for the Lesson
Chapter 11
Chris Thompson, Zane L. Berge
This chapter briefly profiles three virtual schools, each at a different stage of development, yet each dependent upon a successful and sustained... Sample PDF
Planning Staff Training for Virtual High Schools
Chapter 12
MarySue Cicciarelli
Research shows that training prospective online instructors in an online learning environment is advantageous. One effective training topic is on... Sample PDF
Training Prospective Online Instructors: Theories Utilized by Current Online Instructors
Chapter 13
Michael Fedisson, Silvia Braidic
Seventh grade students were tested on their knowledge of sentences and nouns in a language arts classroom. This study was conducted over a two-year... Sample PDF
The Impact of PowerPoint Presentations on Student Achievement and Student Attitudes
Chapter 14
Henry H. Emurian
Information systems students in a graduate section and an undergraduate section of an introductory Java graphical user interface course completed... Sample PDF
Teaching Java™: Managing Instructional Tactics to Optimize Student Learning
Chapter 15
John DiMarco
This research project investigated the existence of web portfolios on academic websites in New York State. It cites disappointing results when... Sample PDF
Toward an Increase in Student Web Portfolios in New York Colleges and Universities
Chapter 16
Marianne Döös, Eva R Fåhræus, Karin Alvemark, Lena Wihelmson
Conducting a dialogue on the Web is a matter of linking thoughts in digital conversations. Dialogue differs from discussion by not being aimed at... Sample PDF
Competent Web Dialogues: Text-Based Linking of Thoughts
Chapter 17
Jeffrey Hsu
A number of new communications technologies have emerged in recent years which were originally used primarily for personal and recreational... Sample PDF
Employing Interactive Technologies for Education and Learning: Learning-Oriented
Chapter 18
Matthew Shaul
As a socially constructive learning tool, discussion forums remain central to online education. They have continued to evolve in functionality... Sample PDF
Assessing Online Discussion Forum Participation
Chapter 19
Solomon Negash, Michelle Emerson, John Vandegrieft
An empirical analysis was conducted to compare synchronous hybrid e-Learning environment with traditional classrooms. Empirical study with 165... Sample PDF
Synchronous Hybrid E-Learning: Empirical Comparison with Asynchronous and Traditional Classrooms
Chapter 20
Diane Hui, Donna L. Russell
Effectiveness of professional development is affected by the quality of social interaction. This study examines how online collaborative dialogues... Sample PDF
Understanding the Effectiveness of Collaborative Activity in Online Professional Development with Innovative Educators through Intersubjectivity
Chapter 21
Silvia Braidic
Teaching is a complex activity that involves careful preparation, delivery and reflection. As an educator, it is essential to create a sense of... Sample PDF
Effective Questioning to Facilitate Dynamic Online Learning
Chapter 22
Cindy S. York
This article briefly reviews two important goals in online education: interaction and presence. These are important goals in online education... Sample PDF
Transitioning from Face-to-Face to Online Instruction: How to Increase Presence and Cognitive/Social Interaction in an Online Information Security Risk Assessment Class
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