Stanford study reveals instructor bias in online courses
- A Stanford University survey of 124 massive online open courses released this week revealed that professors were 94% more likely to respond to questions posed in discussion groups by fictional students with names suggesting that they were white males — a bias rate that did not correlate with the responses of most students to other classmates, with the exception of white women, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Researchers developed a list of 32 common comments for online discussion forums in math, science, epidemiology and computer programming MOOC courses. They attributed the comments to ethnically distinct names for white, black, Indian and Chinese learners, and discovered that "social" questions drew different responses from professors than "academic" questions about course support or additional learning resources.
- Most of the courses included in the survey were taught by white male instructors at four-year institutions.
The number of students enrolling in online degree and credential programs is quickly rising, but colleges and universities many have a hard time retaining students who feel overwhelmed by the task of mastering technology to complete work and assignments, and the cultural isolation created by classmates receiving more discussion support seemingly based upon race.
This mirrors much of the anxiety that minority students feel on campus from professors and fellow students. If they are made to feel that there is no place safe from racism or isolation, then enrollment numbers for community and historically black colleges could continue to increase while traditionally institutions scramble to make up the difference for enrollment diversity goals.
Academic executives can ensure that questions from all students taking online courses receive a response within a certain period of time and that the answers are beyond marginal contact. Add-ons like this, or providing surveys with each classroom topic, can help to reduce opportunities for bias to occur, or to impact the discussion experience for online learners.
- The Chronicle of Higher Education Bias affects instructors' interactions with online students, study finds
- Inside Higher Ed Race and gender bias in online courses
- Education Dive HBCU enrollments up as students of color continue to search for safe spaces