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Balancing Family and School…eConcordia.com
February 27, 2008, 12:07 am
Filed under: 2008

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Cheris Kramarae wrote a report in 2001 for the American Association of University Women on women and distance education. It was called The Third Shift: Women Learning Online/

From the blurb online:

Proving that multi-tasking is more that just a buzzword, a new report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Educational Foundation has found that distance—or online—learning is on the rise and women make up the majority of students. Sixty percent of these nontraditional online learners are over 25 years of age and female.

Working mothers interested in furthering their education are doing so online and adding a difficult “third shift” to their responsibilities as mothers and employees, according to the study, The Third Shift: Women Learning Online, by Cheris Kramarae, the AAUW Educational Foundation’s 1999-2000 Scholar-in-Residence.

“Technology does not create more hours in a day, but leaves women—who shoulder most of the family and household responsibilities—improvising to squeeze in education,” said Jacqueline Woods, AAUW’s Executive Director. “We need to deal with the time bind that all parents and older students face if we want to make the rhetoric of ‘lifelong learning’ for the ‘information economy’ a reality.”

Women give distance learning high marks for many of its qualities:

Family and flexibility—they can be home for their family, learn at their own pace, and do course work when they can fit it in

Minimizing costs—saving money and time on commuting and childcare

Fulfillment—from obtaining a degree or gaining useful knowledge to fulfilling personal goals

Despite the positive aspects of online learning, the women surveyed found a number of factors discouraging, including the cost of tuition and equipment, the often-difficult course load, and the fact that not all distance learning programs are accredited.

Among the report’s recommendations:

Expand financial aid programs to support part-time students currently unable to qualify because they are taking small course loads.

Involve more women administrators, teachers, and students in the planning process for online courses.

Educate policy-makers concerning the difficulties faced by working mothers who are seeking to continue their formal education through distance learning.

Broadly disseminate information on distance learning to reach populations of women—for example, welfare-to-work participants or older women—unlikely to visit traditional sites for information.

Treat distance learning students as responsible and intelligent beings, not as passive educational consumers.

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