The Heroine’s Learning Journey applied to the MOOC: Machine Learning, Maths & Ethics

Published by Heroic Journeys on

Luis Felipe Coimbra Costa UFRJ – Federal University of Rio de JaneiroRio de Janeiro, Brazil

   Ana Moura Santos Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon Lisbon, Portugal

Geraldo Xexeo UFRJ – Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


The Heroine’s Learning Journey is a motivational approach, using an appropriate discourse, for decreasing the underrepresentation of women and girls in STEM courses. With the MOOC of Machine Learning, Maths & Ethics our goal is to design and produce the first of a series of online courses that can give young women a flavor of careers in CS together with relevant content from different topics of ML. We envisage to use specific guidelines for designing gender balance content, which includes texts, images and interviews, focused on practical and real-life projects. Then, during the running of the online course(s), various resources will be available through an educational plugin, as motivational videos, narratives and gamification, which will support the learning journey of girls enrolled in the MOOC(s).  The project is therefore connected to the Fostering Women to STEM MOOCs (FOSTWOM), and it is also part of the “Igualdade de Gênero em STEM”, a partnership between the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the Instituto Superior Técnico. The indicators that show how many women are affected, can be found in studies from organizations like UNESCO[1], and the European Commission[2]. Some factors that contribute to this problem (and are related to our proposal) are: a lack of visibility for projects developed by female STEM students; insufficient inclusive language; lack of specific groups/rooms where they are welcomed; general prejudice in technology groups and finally, very few internship opportunities granted. The motivational solution is a narrative, adapted from the Hero’s Journey, developed by Joseph Campbell [3], and Heroine’s Journey developed by Murdock [4] for the educational area, focusing on female learners in STEM courses. In this talk we aim to present the general outline of the MOOC, and the narrative of the learning journey designed especially for supporting female students throughout the online activities.

This study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nı́vel Superior – Brasil (CAPES) – Finance Code 001. 
  1. UNESCO (2016). Measuring Gender Equality in Science and Engineering: The SAGA Science, Technology and Innovation Gender Objectives List (STI GOL) – Working Paper 1 in SAGA Project, 2016.  ISBN: 978-92-3-100154-3. Retrieved from
  2. European Commission Report by Iclaves, SL. in cooperation with UOC (2018). Women in the Digital Age. Retrieved from
  3. Campbell, J. (2008). The hero with a thousand faces (Vol. 17). New World Library.
  4. Murdock, M. (1990). The Heroine’s Journey. Boston, Mass.: New York, N.Y.: Shambhala.

Categories: ArticlesGeral