Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Michael M. Grant


The purpose of this action research is to evaluate and examine the strategies and methods that were used to improve interactions and engagement of students enrolled in a computer applications course at a large university in the southeast part of the United States. A mixed methods research model that included both quantitative and qualitative measures was used. Quantitative data were collected from 162 students who participated in the course discussion boards and forums and from 124 students who took part in the Online Student Engagement survey (OSE). Qualitative data were derived from interviews with five student focus groups and from open-ended questions included on the OSE..

Quantitative findings revealed that there was a significant positive correlation between final grade and required posts, r(162) = .61, p < .001.So, as the number of required posts increased, the final grade did as well. Furthermore, three prominent themes emerged from the analysis of the qualitative data. The three themes were: 1) the types of assignments and how they are structured have an impact on student engagement and interaction, 2) the management and implementation of the different methods of communication play an important role in interaction and engagement, 3) the use of technology is considered a mean to improve engagement, interaction, and collaboration in the course. Students in the course conveyed that course engagement was improved when course assignments were related to real-world situations and when they were allowed to interact with their peers and instructor on the discussion board. Students consistently expressed their desires to have access to technology that allows for synchronous communication. Students’ suggestions about how engagement could be improved in the course align with prior research about online engagement that encourages meaningful interaction between learners, their instructor, their peers and the content on the course.

Implications from this action research study is important because of the potential they have to affect engagement and interaction in online courses. Implications include the ability to impact how instructors design online courses, how technology should be implemented to foster improved communications, and how discussion boards should be effectively managed online courses.