Gender issues in computer-supported learning
Contemporary research identifies significant gender-related differences in performance and interaction style in computer-supported learning (CSL) environments. Evidence suggests that initial perceptions of these environments as democratic and offering equal opportunities to all students were flawed because interactions that take place through electronic channels lose none of the sociocultural complexity or gender imbalance that already exists within society. This paper presents a summary of gender-related issues identified by international research and academic practice together with the opinions expressed by participants in a discussion forum staged at ALT-C in 2001. Two main questions were addressed during the conference forum. Firstly, if computer access and literacy levels are assumed to be equalizing as the literature suggests, how can educational designers using CSL technologies best serve all student groups? Secondly, does the existence of gender-based differences in behaviour and interaction style in CSL environments mean that any student group is disadvantaged? The paper concludes with suggestions about how educational designers might increase the flexibility of CSL courses to offer equal opportunities to all students. A number of issues for further research are also identified.