Women embraced the live chat feature during pandemic Zoom classes much more enthusiastically than men, according to a new study from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Researchers hope the data could hold a key to broadening underrepresented groups’ access to STEM disciplines as colleges incorporate technology into hybrid and even in-person courses.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, examined the fall 2020 anonymous chat summaries of 230 students, spanning two introductory biology classes for non-majors delivered via remote synchronous video instruction. About half of the students took part in a follow-up survey and nearly two-thirds identified themselves as female, 32% as male and 5% as gender-fluid or transgender.
In the survey, students were asked to rate statements about their live chat experiences on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree), including whether the feature made the class fun, helped them feel more comfortable feel when participating in discussions, or facilitated learning. While both men and women generally agreed, women’s ratings were significantly higher than men’s. In addition, women (5.61/7) were significantly more likely than men (4.06/7) to say they wanted in-person lessons to include a mechanism similar to the live chat feature.
The UNLV research team noted that previous studies have shown that active contact with classmates improves performance and retention. Engagement, even through chat features, enhances students’ sense of belonging – an outcome that is especially valuable for students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM areas due to ethnic background, gender, or lack of family history in higher education.
“Our findings imply that implementing strategies such as live chat can help address persistent gender gaps in STEM degrees and help women feel more comfortable in a space that has not always welcomed them,” said lead researcher , UNLV professor of psychology and gender development expert Rachael D. Robnett.
- When a professor encourages the use of chat during remote instruction via WebEx, Zoom, and other video platforms, it seems to inspire more frequent and widespread participation in classes than teachers typically see during face-to-face lectures.
- According to responses to open survey questions, live chat made students in general — and especially those with social anxiety or disabilities such as stuttering — more comfortable expressing their opinions and asking questions.
- In the post-pandemic return to primarily face-to-face learning, the research team called on future research to explore ways to incorporate live chat into STEM courses. Possible options include hybridizing courses to include more diverse lines of participation in the classroom, or an emerging technology called “backchannels” that allows students to converse in real time during in-person instruction via an app that anonymously projects their comments onto a shared screen.
Online students participate more in lectures than physical participants
Rachael D. Robnett et al, Are synchronous chats a silver lining of remote emergency response? Text-based chat is disproportionately popular with women in a non-major introductory biology course, PLOS ONE (2022). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0273301
Quote: Study: Live chat boosts college women’s participation (2022, Oct. 19) retrieved Oct. 19, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-chat-boosts-college-women-class.html
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