Engagement is a critical element of good instructional design and elearning. A theory of engagement, designed to serve as a framework for using technology in learning, was articulated by Kearsley and Shneiderman in 1998.
According to Kearsley and Shneiderman, a learning opportunity should allow a learner to:
- Relate—through collaboration and social networks
- Create—through project-based learning challenges
- Donate—through learning that’s grounded in real-world problems
Although Kearsley and Schneiderman recognized that engagement certainly occurs without technology, they also recognized the power of technology to enhance engagement in innovative ways. At the same time, they stressed the differences in types of interactivity that can occur in an elearning course. They note that engagement theory is a shift away from the idea that the learner benefits most from interactivity with a computer interface to the idea that the learner benefits most when the interface facilitates connections with other human beings.
The role of technology in the theory is to facilitate all aspects of engagement. The use of email, online conferencing, web databases, groupware, and audio/videoconferencing significantly increases the extent and ease of interaction amongst all participants, as well as access to information. The vast array of software tools available for analysis, design, planning, problem-solving and making presentations enable students to do sophisticated and complex tasks. Technology provides an electronic learning mileux that fosters the kind of creativity and communication needed to nourish engagement.
Written more than a decade ago, I think their article is still very relevant.
Kearsley, G., & Shneiderman, B. (1998). Engagement theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Educational Technology, 38(5), 20. Retrieved from http://home.sprynet.com/~gkearsley/engage.htm