Wednesday, December 21, 2011

No consensus on what engagement is?

I am taking a break from #change11 to continue some work on a paper that's been in my mind for a while but I haven't had much time to work on just yet.  The overall topic is a proposal for a foursquare type of service for academic environments. Location Based Services fall a bit short because GPS doesn't figure out what rooms you are in, so the article is going to propose a hybrid of Location Based Services (LBS) with Event Based Services (EBS) with a variety of outcomes including incidental learning opportunities, increase in school spirit and student engagement. The idea is still nascent, but I am getting there.

As part of my literature review I came across Vicki Trowler's Student Engagement Literature Review (hey, what better place to get an overview of the field than a recent literature review?).  It was an interesting read and it pointed me to some sources that I want to explore in greater depth. The thing that stood out to me was that there is no universal accepted definition of what engagement is. Considering that my proposed LBS/EBS is meant to engage students, this is a bit problematic.  I suppose this is where I have to define what I mean by the term engagement.

When thinking of engagement, I tend to think, in part, of the old instructional design motto of what's in it for me (which is what learners supposedly ask themselves before they undertake any learning activity). So for me, something is engaging when it piques someone's interest in order to have them act in a certain way. So, something that is engaging is something that doesn't coerce a user to do something, but offers incentives to do something. Of course, one might say that this overlaps with motivation and I think that this is certainly true, but motivation and engament are two different things.  Engagement implies some sort of mental stimulation or mental process that goes beyond that initial hurdle to participate.  Motivation might get you over that initial hurdle, but engagement is what makes you continue.  At least this is what I've come to the conclusion from my initial pondering about the topic.
blog comments powered by Disqus