Race and Gender Bias in Online Courses

March 08, 2018

By Scott Jaschik

Study finds instructors are much more likely to respond to comments from white male students than from others.

Many proponents of online education have speculated that the digital learning environment might be a meritocracy, where students are judged not on their race or gender, but on the comments they post.

A study being released today by the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University, however, finds that bias appears to be strong in online course discussions.

The study found that instructors are 94 percent more likely to respond to discussion forum posts by white male students than by other students. The authors write that they believe their work is the first to demonstrate with a large pool that the sort of bias that concerns many educators in face-to-face instruction is also present in online education.