Democratic or Gendered Domain: Communication and Learning Styles in the Online Classroom
Jennifer A. Bruns, Minnesota State University, Mankato, United States
Minnesota State University, Mankato . Awarded
Computer-mediated communication (CMC) within cyberspace has become a recent pedagogical phenomenon. Cyberspace creates a domain for new learning environments. Using the online classroom has the potential to break down gender barriers and erect a more democratic space for students. Even with this limitless potential, there are competing conceptions regarding these new and promising classrooms--will online education conform to the same standards that shape a gendered society, or will these classrooms create a more equitable environment for both male and female students?
Because of the rising numbers of online female students, gender bias becomes an increasingly important research topic. Yet the past research remains inconclusive regarding the relationships between gender, communication styles, and learning styles in the online environment. The purpose of the current project was to investigate cyberspace through CMC to study the influence of both biological and psychological gender on self-reported communication styles, online communication styles, and learning styles.
This project used a case study approach to investigate thirteen participants' style preferences. Participants completed the Bem Sex Role Inventory, the Communication Styles Q-Set, a demographic survey, the Kolb Learning Style Inventory, and McCrosky's Self-Perceived Communication Competence Scale. As the researcher, I analyzed participants' CMC in an online classroom using a developed Research Coding Scheme. I then compared participants' CMC to the other measures through the calculations of mean scores.
The results revealed differences between male and female participants when it came to participants' CMC and self-reported communication styles, there were style similarities between CMC and self-reported communication, participants' learning style preferences appeared to reflect the online environment, and learning style preferences drew parallels with communication style preferences. These results revealed that the online classroom fell short of a democratic ideal.
Online classrooms have the potential of breaking down barriers to student participation. Still the online classroom within this project did not break down all barriers and continued to mirror a gendered society. The need for further research is imperative. Other researchers should continue investigating these emerging classrooms--hopefully, leading to a better understanding of how to neutralize gender bias within this new cyberspace domain.
Bruns, J.A. Democratic or Gendered Domain: Communication and Learning Styles in the Online Classroom. Master's thesis, Minnesota State University, Mankato.
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