As a project for my graduate Sociolinguistics class this year, I organized a paper around the differences between how females and males interact with their instructors or professors in a freshman, on-campus classroom. Not surprisingly, women tended to ask more questions and interact with their instructors. However, both genders seemed to be more informal with their professors than I previously thought. This research made me curious: Is it the same with online classes? Who, exactly, makes up an online class? While I have discussed in previous posts that the popularity with online classes is on the rise with adults, I began to think about the gender differences in participants of online classes. Is there a trend amongst participants in these classes?
Doing a little research, I came across an article from U.S. News by Devon Haynie that found that not only are younger students becoming more drawn to online classes, but females seem to be the majority of these students. This statistic actually surprised me, but upon further reading, it shouldn't have. The article states that "At the undergraduate level, 70 percent of students were women. Among graduate students, 72 percent of students were female" (Haynie). While this particular article is from 2015, the numbers continue along the same trajectory. Aslanian Market Research suggests this could be because of the types of careers that women choose--namely social work, health, and medication.
One statistic, however, did not surprise me. Haynie reports that other research shows that business administration is the number one online degree, followed closely by nursing. This fact was not surprising to me for the simple fact that I witness this phenomenon every day at the university where I teach. As a Humanities teaching assistant, I am well aware of the fact that these degrees are highly sought after for their practicality and career outlook. Both of these degrees are extremely popular, and many of the students I teach go down these paths. Another statistic from the study shows that self-motivation is another problem for these online students. I know this well as it was an issue for me as I attempted a number of online classes to complete my undergraduate degree.
The questions still remain, however. Will these gender-specific trends continue? Will these online degrees remain the most popular options for industrious men and women? Only time will tell.