Date of Award

Fall 2005

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems - (Ph.D.)


Information Systems

First Advisor

Starr Roxanne Hiltz

Second Advisor

Michael Bieber

Third Advisor

Katia Passerini

Fourth Advisor

Naomi G. Rotter

Fifth Advisor

Karen Swan


Discourse, a form of collaborative learning, is one of the most widely used methods of teaching and learning in the online environment. Particularly, in large courses, discourse needs to be 'structured' to be effective. Historically, technology-mediated learning (TML) research has been inconclusive with often conflicting results. To address this issue, TML research needs greater breadth and depth in pedagogical grounding. The purpose of this research is to build and test an original, technology-mediated, discourse-centered model called the Asynchronous Learning Network Cognitive Discourse Model (ALNCDM) grounded in pedagogy. Cognitive discourse is defined as discourse on conceptual subject matter. The model is aimed at structuring discourse to effect conceptual mastery at the Application level of Bloom's taxonomy. The ALNCDM applies pedagogic principles to provide content and process scaffolding during discourse to increase learning. (Scaffolding is defined as providing support for the learner at his/her level until the support is no longer needed.) The content scaffold consists of a concept structure in the form a matrix, which is unfolded in a sequence following the Veeheuristic. The process scaffold consists of an individual process, modeled after Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction, embedded within a group process, modeled after Gunawardena, Lowe and Anderson's Critical Thinking Model. A research approach was designed and a field experiment conducted to validate the ALNCDM. In the research approach, content and process scaffolds formed the two manipulated variables while the dependent variable, learning effectiveness, was measured using a combination of cognitive and affective assessments. A motivation measure, self-expectancy, was also included in the dependent variables. The main study, a 2X2 between-subjects, pre- and post-test field experiment, was conducted between Fall 2004 and Spring 2005, yielding 172 participants in 58 groups. A major finding from the study is students with SynthesisAnalysis learning approach performed significantly better in two out of three cognitive assessments. While the ALNCDM research approach requires further refinement, correlation/contextual analyses support the overall ALNCDM. Another finding from the study is the lack of undergraduate student motivation.