A 2013 study by Western International University found that as many as 90% of the students taking massive open online courses (MOOCs) were males. Yet, the same study found that 75% of women who responded view online degrees as more attainable for them than traditional programs.
The prevalence of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses is one reason often given for the enrollment discrepancy. In fact, Coursera researchers took a look at the company’s MOOC enrollment figures and found that to be a valid explanation.
The MOOC provider found less than 20% female enrollment in engineering, computer science, and software engineering. Physics, economics, and finance also saw a significantly lower percentage of female students, according to an eCampus News report. At the same time, 60% of the enrollment for food and nutrition courses was female, followed by professional development courses for teachers, and medicine, arts, and health courses.
Studies show women perform better in MOOCs with more women in the class. Overall female enrollment has increased, rising from 20% in May 2012 to nearly 40% last May.