Unconscious bias is a concept relating to the way that we understand context. Often it can be influenced by our subjective understanding of the world, but it can affect us negatively. It can mean that we don’t understand or relate to something impartially.
Put simply, unconscious bias refers to the biases that we all harbour towards our surroundings (i.e. people we encounter, places we visit, products we buy etc.), but over which we have little or no conscious control. These biases occur automatically and affect every area of our lives. Most people like to feel that they think for themselves; in fact, most people would find the idea of being biased as offensive. However, unconscious biases exist in all of us, and it is only through understanding them can we begin to rationalise these biases and ultimately combat any negativity that may be occurring as a result of them.
Of course, bias can be of benefit at times. Biases help us make quick decisions about people and put us on guard if necessary. Often humans can be wary of the unknown, and this can birth feelings of suspicion and mistrust. However, leaving these biases go unchecked can lead to irrationality and unfounded blanket discrimination towards a particular segment of society.
The point, however, is that an unconscious bias isn’t one that the individual understands or realises exists. These biases are automatically triggered and the individual has no control over them. It might be helpful to try and understand them as an innate perspective – one that we don’t question.
Changing the perspective on elearning
The arrival of the internet has provided us with a huge forum on which to air our perspectives. Elearning is a by-product of the internet age and it allows us to learn new things on new platforms. However, elearning isn’t always considered as highly as some of the more traditional forms of education. Indeed, we are inherently creatures of habit that will often resist change. Education has always been conducted by a teacher within a classroom setting – but the concept of elearning challenges this expectation, and we’re not sure if we like it.
It seems fair to say that collectively we harbour an unconscious bias towards elearning – it causes us doubt and mistrust about the legitimacy of this learning method. Elearning challenges the conventions of learning – instead of attending a classroom setting, we now head online and learn from a screen.
Initially the feeling towards elearning is often that of distrust, and many people will automatically be suspicious towards this learning platform. However there are many reasons to consider elearning and the practice has marked benefits – many of which being far better than conventional learning approaches.
Here are some:
- Time is less of an issue as students can learn at their own pace.
- Lessons are no longer constrained to a singular time or location.
- Lessons can be revisited, reused, and repurposed – this makes it a viable budgetary choice.
- Students can access the learning resources from wherever there’s an internet connection – there’s no travel costs.
Negate the unconscious bias towards elearning
The danger with this type of bias is the inherent way that we accept it and disregard new approaches or ideas. This ensures that often our understanding of a new concept is limited to our initial unchallenged reading – we throw it out without proper consideration, all because of an accepted bias. This, obviously, is a deeply flawed way of perceiving the world.
Your bias should change – consciously
Changing your perspective isn’t always easy and it requires honesty. To ‘re-set’ the way you see a given innovation or concept requires an acknowledgement that you want to change, but it also requires a completely fresh start.
This isn’t an easy thing to do, but to truly approach the world differently we need to give up our instinctive understanding – and remember that this itself was actually learned at some point in our lives to begin with. So, we need to unlearn those prejudices that have a negative impact on our lives.
Of course, this is easier said than done, but it’s a valid and worthwhile pursuit. It is undeniably to our benefit if we can see the world clearly without our subjective perspectives impinging on our understanding of new concepts and innovations.
Dealing with your bias
Once you’ve accepted that you have a particular bias, it becomes much easier to deal with it. It can be useful to write a list of pros and cons (as accurately as you can) to see if your perspective is informed or simply innate.
When it comes to elearning this is a valid pursuit. The negative societal connotations that come with removing learning from a classroom aren’t really that valid. Elearning provides an amazing and innovative approach to traditional learning options, and not only does it benefit learners, but the businesses that embark upon it as well.
Challenge your biases and always check that your initial understanding of something isn’t down to things that you’ve learned and picked up along the way. An open mind is attainable – you just have to question the way that you’re seeing something and accept that your feelings on it may be simply contextual.
Elearning provides us with a new way to teach, learn, and connect. Don’t disregard it because it’s not the way that you were taught – embrace it and lose your unconscious bias.