Inadvertently designed for disengagement?

Most online and blended courses are making greater use of Web 2.0 tools, regardless of their closed or open enrollment. There are wiki or other collaborative documents for participants to expand, revise and edit. There are forums with threaded discussion lists to contribute to and follow others' inputs. There are course archives or links to public platforms where writing, slide shows, graphics, recordings and/or videos can be uploaded, tagged, linked to and commented upon. There may be real time gatherings via phone call, meeting or collaboration software. There are usually subscriptions to RSS/Atom feeds from most archived uploads pages as well as from periodic searches for keywords. All this is expected to increase learner engagement with a course's content offering and fellow participants.

As more instructors, curriculum developers and course designers try out this abundance of "tools for engagement", there is increasing evidence of inadvertent disengagement. There are always a few active participants just like the front row in a conventional classroom. There are also the exceptional few who engage with the subject matter deeply and balance the formalized experiences with considerable personal reflection. Yet the majority of "participants" seem to be showing either no change in their level of engagement or a regression to increased disengagement. These unintended consequences of Web 2.0 tools has raised many questions in my mind for further reflection:
  1. Do learners need "something to say" before tools for sharing, publishing, uploading and/or archiving will seem beneficial to them?
  2. Do the tools yield no positive effects like making it seem easy, inviting or emblematic of membership to contribute shared content?
  3. To what extent are the active users of the Web 2.0 tools actually getting "used by the tools" like the user of a "hammer that makes everything look like a nail"?
  4. How competent does a learner need to feel about using the tools or about expressing themselves to use the tools as intended?
  5. To what extent do the tools merely replicate the dysfunction of F2F class discussions where most students get silenced, intimidated or bored?
  6. How could the Web 2.0 technologies be functioning as "the wrong tool for the job" even though they appear very well suited for increasing engagement?
  7. How could the Web 2.0 tools be making delivered content seem even more boring, propagandistic or insensitive than it comes across as in conventional classrooms?
  8. To what extent do the tools invite the formation of echo chambers, collusion and self confirming evidence rather than contrasts and comparisons?
  9. How easy is it to hide in classes making use of the tools of engagement and keep one's lack of interest, motivation or comprehension out of sight?
  10. How could the use of the tools be made more effective in combination with some other methods, strategies or contexts?

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