Sex differences in E-learning: navigation and learning outcomes

Christa Van Mierlo, Paul A. Kirschner, Liesbeth Kester

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterAcademic

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    Hypertext learning environments with just-in-time conceptual and strategic support based on the expertise of the learner facilitate the learning of complex skills (Kester & Kirschner, 2009). Individual differences are usually not considered in the design of such environments. However, significant differences have been found between men and women in navigation and exploration for new knowledge in similar information-rich environments (Meyers-Levy & Maheswaran, 1991; Roy & Chi, 2003; Pan et al., 2004). Women appear to construct initially broad but low-detailed schemata. Details are added to each branch as they gain more practice with the skill. At start, men’s schemata appear to be less branched but high-detailed. As they get more training, knowledge that is transferable across instances is used to branch out. Men and women’s mental models of the same skill become more similar as they learn, resulting in more alike navigation and search patterns in later phases of the training than in early. Are these gender differences apparent in learning in hypertext environments? We explore this by logging learners’ manual responses and tracking their eye movements during learning. Women’s manual response sequences and scan paths should include more fixated areas and clicked links within the first windows than those of men. These differences should get smaller as people progress further in the environment. We aim to develop a hypertext environment in which the information presentation and the contextual and strategic support can be fully adjusted to the individual needs of the learner (gender, age and expertise), resulting in a faster and deeper acquisition of the complex skill in question.


    Conference14th Biennial EARLI Conference for Research on Learning and Instruction
    Abbreviated titleEARLI 2011
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


    • hypertext learning
    • sex differences


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