Gender Characteristics: Implication for Cross-Cultural Online Learning

Gender Characteristics: Implication for Cross-Cultural Online Learning

Szufang Chuang (Indiana State University, USA) and Cindy L. Crowder (Indiana State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8286-1.ch013


Demographics in higher education populations have been changing. Females have become the majority population in online learning. Genders are physiologically and psychologically similar yet still different. This chapter provides an overview of cross-cultural gender characteristics of adult learners and discusses the associated challenges that interfere with their online learning effectiveness. Gender differences in behavior and learning are discussed from biological, environmental, and technological perspectives. Strategies to address their challenges and needs in online learning are provided. The chapter then concludes with suggestions for future research on cross-cultural gender issues in the online learning environment.
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Internet used to be a male-dominated technology; yet, the gender gap in Internet usage has narrowed (Price, 2006). The advanced educational technology allows women to balance multiple roles and demands on their life with family responsibilities and financial stresses (Yukselturk & Bulut, 2009). Interestingly, women have become the majority population in online learning (Carr-Chellman, 2014). The student demographics in online higher education populations have reformed, and demands for online programs may require adjustments based on different gender characteristics and needs.

Genders are defined by socio-cultural norms, and their roles may be reinforced by education systems (Ifegbesan, 2010). According to the World Health Organization (2018),

Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men – such as norms, roles and relationships of and between groups of women and men... they are taught appropriate norms and behaviours – including how they should interact with others of the same or opposite sex within households, communities and work places. (1st paragraph).

An ordinary critique or judgment can affect an individual’s behavior or belief when the environment is shaped by the same group pattern or thought. Cultural views of gender-appropriate behaviors have stereotyped both men and women in many ways. Traditionally, women are expected to take over family caregiving responsibilities and behave based on the socially defined gender role and feminine characteristics (e.g., sweetness, gentleness, sensitivity). To challenge stereotypical views of women, Price (2006) examined gender differences and similarities in online contexts and indicated that genders tend to have different interaction and tutoring styles in online learning. Specifically, women seem to be confident and engaged independent learners who may outperform men in aspects of online learning (Price, 2006). While many studies indicated that genders tend to have different performances, motivations, and communication behaviors in learning, some studies argued that gender has no effect on motivation and (self-regulated) learning achievement (Astleitner & Steinberg, 2005; Chyung, 2007; Price, 2006; Yukselturk & Bulut, 2009). Evidently, there has been a debate in the literature on gender differences in online learning. Are genders really different? If they do differ in learning, how and why are they different?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-Directed Learning: A learning strategy which allows learners take charge of their own learning process (diagnosis learning needs, identify learning goals, select learning strategies, and evaluate learning performances and outcomes).

Culture: The characteristics, beliefs, knowledge, customs, arts, religious, social habits, language, etc. of and shared by a particular group of people.

Technological Innovation: New invention derived from research developments and significant technology changes of products and processes.

Transformative Learning Theory: A process of perspective transformation which learners critically reflect their beliefs and experiences and change their particular view of the world.

Gender: The socially constructed characteristics of women and men – such as norms, roles, and relationships of and between women and men.

Gender Stereotype: A positive or negative characteristic(s) ascribed to a specific sex group.

Industry 4.0: The current trend of digitization and automation in manufacturing that seeks quality and performance improvement and involves a network between machines and products without human control.

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