Pioneer, Visionary, Author: Dr. Starr Roxanne Hiltz


Dr. Starr Roxanne Hiltz is an award-winning author and pioneer in the field of virtual learning. Just one of her many significant contributions was co-authoring the acclaimed book The Network Nation in 1978 with her husband Dr. Murray Turoff. The book was considered groundbreaking and visionary for the time in the field of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) and the study of the social impacts of computer technology.

I chose to spotlight Dr. Hiltz because the early work she did in the field of virtual learning communities helped shape the Virtual Learning Communities and Learning Management Systems (LMS) of today. Dr. Hiltz was one of few women early in the field of education and technology and through her many career accomplishments provides inspiration to all the women coming after her. A detailed snapshot of her achievements and contributions can be seen here. Dr. Hiltz, a Sociologist, focused on the social impacts of virtual communities and presented a vision of inclusivity and accessibility for those outside of the privileged mainstream student of the times. In an endorsement for The Network Nation, author Teresa Carpenter captures Dr. Hiltz’s vision stating, “Minorities and women compete on equal terms with white males, and the elderly and handicapped are released from the confines of their infirmities to skim the electronic terrain as swiftly as anyone else” (Carpenter, n.d., para.1). As a society still facing many of these issues today, much can be learned from Dr.Hiltz’s early work.

While writing The Network Nation, she invented the idea of a virtual classroom within a CMC system. After several years of work to obtain the necessary support and funding she designed, implemented, and studied the first version of this in 1985 (Hiltz,1986). I find her forward-thinking vision fascinating and inspiring from a time when computers and the internet were largely out of reach for most. (check out her 1986 report)

Dr. Starr Roxanne Hiltz contributed greatly to the field of learning technology and her extensive works surrounding the social impacts of virtual communities and virtual learning can provide valuable lessons for what we are trying to accomplish today.


Carpenter, T. (n.d), [Book Endorsement]. MIT Press.

Hiltz, S. R. (1986). The “virtual classroom”: Using computer-mediated communication for university teaching. Journal of communication36(2), 95-104.


One thought on “Pioneer, Visionary, Author: Dr. Starr Roxanne Hiltz

  1. What a fascinating “pioneer” in the field. I am intrigued by such forward-thinkers, and perhaps even more so since reading Weller’s very pointed perspective on the seemingly perpetual reinvention of the wheel. Thanks for broadening my perspective with this excellent overview of Dr. Starr Roxanne Hiltz.

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