collaboration, instruction, design, interaction


Higher education funding and student behavior has been changing rapidly (Dervarics,2008). Because of this, there has been an increased focus on the use of alternative tools for course delivery. One of the emerging areas of focus has been an increased interest in the use of communication and information technologies (Curtis & Lawson, 2001). Currently, there are a wide variety of flexible delivery methods that have been used as well as their associated tools. Naturally, questions have been raised about the efficacy of these tools on the quality of student-student, student-teacher, and student-content interaction (Curtis & Lawson, 2001). Interaction and Collaboration may be versatile tools within the online learning environment, but the main concern for instructional designers and instructors is improving student outcomes within the online learning environment. Unfortunately, there isn't much research to guide instructors and developers as to which online collaboration tools promote transformative pedagogy, and research appears non-existent indicating the preferences of students and faculty regarding specific online collaboration tools. A host of interactive events are possible within an online learning environment. Some are viewed as essential and others may assume a more supplemental role. Participants reported that they preferred to interact with other students and their instructor using the discussion board within the online learning environment. Additionally, the participants believe that their interaction with the text was of less importance than their interaction with the instructor. Learners indicated that the discussion board was valued over all other collaboration tools available within the course. However, it is certainly possible that in other learning environments such findings may differ. Further study is needed to determine whether the initial insights of participants reflect reasonable trends in interaction or merely an isolated instance. This study was conducted using a mixed methods research approach. Mixed methods research allows the inclusion of issues and strategies that surround methods of data collection, methods of research, and related philosophical issues (Johnson, Onwuegbuzie & Turner, 2007). When qualitative and quantitative datasets are mixed, the datasets often provide richer insights into the phenomenon than if either qualitative or quantitative datasets alone were used. Additionally, using a mixed methods approach provides strengths that offset the weaknesses inherent in each sole approach (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007; Jick, 1979). Rather than limiting the study to a single ideology, the research was able to utilize all possible methods to explore a research problem. The results of this study provide guidelines for instructional designers developing instructional strategies for online environments. The importance of well-designed instruction was reinforced by this study. The components of "well-designed instruction" can span beyond stimulus-response or drill and practice activities to include a wide range of dynamic interactions using a wide range of increasingly specific tools. Such diverse interactions using the correct tools collectively comprise a dynamic learning environment encompassing one or more learning communities that can expand well beyond the restrictions of any single course selection, thereby connecting learners in unique ways.


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Graduation Date



Kaplan, Jeffrey


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Education


Educational Research, Technology, and Leadership

Degree Program









Release Date

August 2010

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Education Commons