A paper published in June in the journal Research & Practice in Assessment examined the MOOC “Circuits and Electronics,” the first course developed by edX.

The researchers found that 88 percent of the MOOC’s participants that responded to a survey said they were male.

The researchers noted that the finding was somewhat predictable. The low number of women typically involved in science, technology, engineering,  and mathematics (STEM) fields is a well-known discrepancy and growing concern in academia.

Though not explored in the study, the gap can also be found in the genders of MOOC instructors. Out of the more than 60 courses offered by edX, only 8 are taught by women. Only two of MOOC platform Udacity’s nearly 30 courses are not taught by men.

“[The percentage] was indeed predictable because it tracks historical averages, in particular, in the United States, of STEM participation,” said Jennifer DeBoer, a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the authors of the study.  “One should be cautious with using this as generalizable to other MOOCs, though, as this was the first edX course. It is just one specific content area, and the field of MOOCs is rapidly growing and changing.”

Material from McClatchy was used in this report.


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