Ardelle Pate

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Smaldino, Sharon E.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment


Web-based instruction--Public opinion; Graduate students--Attitudes


Working within the parameters of an online graduate course, this paper deals with the interactions within required academic discussion forums, optional academic discussions forums, and an optional nonacademic social discussion forum. As research demonstrates, the dynamics of a group affect one's attitude and action within a learning environment. Some data from prior studies suggests that students feel "less social" and more isolated within the online environment. To help alleviate the feelings of isolation, the design of instruction in one specific online course has included not only academic discussion forums that are opportunities for students to interact, but also optional academic discussion forums and an optional nonacademic social discussion forum. This study demonstrates that even though students appreciated the optional social forum, this forum may be extraneous and unnecessary and in some cases superfluous. Community building can be effectively implanted in the overall course design and can be positive enough to create the desired sense of social presence without the necessity of the optional forums. This research study determined that by using both academic and optional discussion forums within an online environment, an instructor could create a learning environment in which learning and cognitive development are not separated from the social context.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [129]-136).


vii, 179 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type