In this recent two-year longitudinal study conducted in New Zealand, it was shown that despite having access to online forums students chose not to participate. Students were indifferent to online discussions when they realized they made no impact on their assessment.
The authors conclude that students often see learning as a chore where the goal is to get the job done as quickly as possible. When students use this strategy, and assessment is summative, sharing and engagement in online discussions is minimal at best. When assessment is in process with the discussion , and the learning outcomes valued the process of learning, strategic learners will better understand the need for further engagement.
The authors of the paper conclude, “The current alignment between learning tasks, experience, conditions, and assessment criteria that are summative removes participation in a learning community to the periphery of the learning process, reinforcing a strategic approach for both tutor and student.”