The gender communication gap in online threaded discussions

David Gefen, Nitza Geri, Narasimha Paravastu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Threaded discussions are one of the central tools of online education. These tools enhance student learning and compensate for the lack of social interaction. This study examines whether these social interactions are affected by some typical gender related conversational behaviors, despite the fact that these threaded discussion are designed to operate in a seemingly gender neutral online environment. That men and women communicate differently in open conversation due to their different respective social objectives in communication is at the core of sociolinguistic theory. A direct result of these differences is a tendency toward same-gender oral conversations. To some extent, according to sociolinguists, cross-gender communication resembles cross cultural conversations. This study analyzes threaded discussions in online courses through the lens of sociolinguistic theory, and conjectures that these gender differences should be reflected in mild gender segregation in the threaded discussions as well as men showing a greater inclination to dominate the discussion. Data from 233 students in 27 online courses support these hypotheses and enable a significant identification of the gender of the student based on whom they reference in the threaded discussion and the way they reference others. Theoretical and practical implications on managing threaded discussions are discussed along with directions for further research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInformation Communication Technologies for Enhanced Education and Learning
Subtitle of host publicationAdvanced Applications and Developments
PublisherIGI Global
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9781605661506
StatePublished - 2008


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