Dark Patterns in the Digital Classroom

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Brief Abstract

A benefit of online learning is the expanding variety of tools being employed. Discussion boards, cloud-based collaboration, video, and even social media. While these tools enable more rounded educational experiences, many also use Dark Patterns – a malicious design that unknowingly manipulates users. Join us in discussing warning signs of dark patterns and how to support students’ digital autonomy.

Extended Abstract

One of the bright spots of moving to online learning has been the expanding variety of digital learning tools that instructors are employing. Discussion boards, cloud-based collaboration tools, video conferencing, and even social media. While all of these tools are enabling more rounded educational experiences, we must pause and think critically about the tools we choose. Many online tools use Dark Patterns - an intentionally malicious design meant to manipulate users without their knowledge. Popular opinion on dark patterns suggests a focus on manipulation literacy (simply informing people that dark patterns exist) rather than condemning their use. In the education world, however, we must be aware of students' vulnerability to manipulation, particularly for neurodiverse students and students with mental health differences. In addition, we must recognize the influence of instructor authority in making these tools seem trustworthy. In this talk we will discuss warning signs of dark patterns and how instructors can support students’ digital autonomy.