Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership, Research and Counseling

Document Type



Over the past decade calls for reform in higher education have emphasized that education should become less instructor centered with students taking a more active role in their learning. Moreover, there is increasing pressure on university professors to implement student centered teaching strategies that negate time and place restrictions of the classroom by integrating technologies that support the active engagement of students through Internet based applications. The goal of this study was to gain insights into the interactions that occur in online communications in a project-based learning activity. Twenty-one undergraduate students participated in the study while completing a component of a course that incorporated a collaborative project as part of the requirements for completion. A multi-case study was conducted on six collaborative groups, focusing on the types and frequencies of interactions that occurred within each group and the perceptions that students had of their experiences in this type of learning environment. It was found that the interactions that occurred online closely followed established steps in the problem solving process. There were also indications that the type of system used for online communications (asynchronous and synchronous) is an important factor in task appropriateness. The findings of this study also revealed that high and low achieving groups differ in frequency and temporal aspects of their online interactions. Students also differentiated between asynchronous and synchronous systems as to the type of tasks that are best suited for each. Their was a general consensus that asynchronous systems are best for tasks that require reflection time and deeper thought and synchronous systems are best for brainstorming and as a forum for the free flow of ideas. The latter also seems to be more conducive to situations that require solidarity building and group social connection. The findings of this study provide valuable information that contributes to the body of literature in online learning, provided practitioners with insights into the importance of the interactions that occur, and provides researchers with possible future studies that are relevant to this immerging field of education.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Kim Macgregor



Included in

Education Commons