Stanford University Study Finds Bias in Online Classes

March 19, 2018

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Title: Bias in Online Classes: Evidence from a Field Experiment

Source: Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis

Date: March 2018

A new study by the Center of Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University has found that racial and gender bias is prevalent within online courses. The researchers examined 124 MOOC’s (Massive Online Courses) by creating fake student accounts using common race-affiliated and gendered names within each racial group (white, black, Indian, and Chinese).

To test instructor responsiveness, researchers used the aliases to comment in course discussions and compared instructor response rates. The study found that white male students had a 12 percent response rate from instructors, as compared to 7 percent for all students, overall. Instructor response gaps persisted in varying subjects, including STEM-related courses. Additionally, the study found that some students (white, Indian, and female students) were generally more likely to respond to discussions from aliases that appeared to be most like them.

The authors do note some limitations of the study, including that they were not able to capture student or instructor reactions to names that were considered ambiguous by race or gender. Additionally, the researchers noted that the study cannot capture the impact of instructor response variation on students.

To read the paper in full, click here.

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