European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning

Gender, Intrasexual Competition, and Online Learning

 Maryanne Fisher1, Anthony Cox2, Melissa Gray1

1Saint Mary's University, 2Dalhousie University


It has been well established that women are more likely to complete online courses than men (e.g., Young, Dewstow, & McSporran, 1999). The existing literature attempts to elucidate the reasons for this gender difference. Often, the provided explanations are based on the idea that such courses allow for flexibility in time management which permits students to better balance work and family life while completing a course. As an alternative, we suggest that anonymity and the fact that it removes the student from any possibility of intrasexual competition is of even greater significance for women, especially younger women. We first review the existing literature pertaining to online learning and gender, followed by a discussion on intrasexual competition. We then propose that the reason young women turn to online courses is to decrease intrasexual competition. The remainder of the paper provides suggestions for course instructors and important considerations for reducing intrasexual competition in online learning environments.

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