The War of the Sexes and Online Learning
Is there a gender difference in online learning? The question harks back to age old debate about the sexes and learning in general. With the increasing popularity of online training or online education, the topic has arisen again. In other words: Does it matter if you’re male or female when taking online training? Some earlier studies have shown that there indeed are differences between the sexes and the way they perceive the world as far as visual cues are concerned. The latest study to confirm this finding is a UK study, published in PLoS ONE. The researchers found that when viewing still images, women differed from men (and not just in the Mars and Venus way). Women made fewer, but longer eye movements than their male counterparts, as well as viewed more parts of the image. Interestingly, those differences were most pronounced when the images were of people. According to the scientists, we instinctively move our eyes to gather information about our environment, which subconsciously shapes our interpretation of the world. In turn, this subconscious process influences the information we look for and affects where we look for it. The study not only verified that there are differences in the way men and women visually gather information, but also showed that the sexes look at different things because they interpret the world before them differently. Interestingly, the study discovered that the human eyes are attracted to those parts of an image with the most information (such as the face of a human image or the picture part of a printed page), and are averted from regions that contain the largest potential for threat or danger. Women, in particular, are more sensitive to the latter than are men, the study found out. The researchers said their findings have important implications for future research and technological applications that involve eye movement. One such application is online training. So, is one gender more suited to learning online than the other? To answer the question, researchers from the Universiti Teknologi MARA in Malaysia endeavored to find out the online learning habits of male and female students. Five variables were investigated: internet literacy, internet anxiety, motivation, self-monitoring, and concentration. ScienceDaily.com reported that the study showed no statistically significant differences existed in the online experiences of both genders. The study indicated high motivation, high concentration, and high self-monitoring in both sexes when studying online. As for the differences between the sexes when variables were considered, the study revealed none. Male and female students exhibited no significant differences in motivation, self-monitoring, level of internet literacy, and level of concentration when doing online learning—suggesting that both sexes were equally matched and that they were able to learn at the same proficiency. So for online learning, it’s a tie!