Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Theory, Policy, and Practice

Document Type



The use of e-learning has been extended beyond simply providing access to information to providing the ability to learn collaboratively via an interactive learning environment. The ability to create an online collaborative and interactive environment is a challenge. This study strove to examine the most effective design and facilitative strategies for fostering student learning and participation in hopes to make design and implementation of online discussions easier and more efficient for teachers. The primary goal of this study was to understand how the degree of instructor presence influenced students’ perception of learning and how students engaged in deeper levels of learning in an online collaborative learning environment. More specifically, the study explored the relationship between design and facilitative strategies in online discussions and student participation, student learning, and students’ perceptions of their online learning experience. An embedded, multiple-case study design was used. Three completely online classes taught by the same instructor were chosen for this study (n = 55). During the Fall 2007 semester, data were collected from observations, discussion transcripts, teacher interviews, student surveys and student grades. Quantitative data included student responses on a perception survey, final course grades, and the frequency of discussion posts. Qualitative data included on-going observations, on-going teacher interviews, open-ended questions on a student perception survey, and discussion transcripts. Results showed that the teacher’s role in online discussions is influential to student participation and learning. More specifically, certain strategies such as participation requirements and question design were related to an increase in participation and learning. Factors such as addressing students by name, providing immediate feedback, providing on-going communication, and providing individual attention may have also contributed to student learning. The findings of this research are consistent with that of previous studies. Consequently, they add merit to the importance of teacher presence in online learning, particularly in the areas of course structure and question design. Implications for practice are discussed.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Yiping Lou



Included in

Education Commons