You are here:

Fostering focused online discussions

, Michigan State University, United States

Michigan State University . Awarded


This study compared the discussions and learning taking place in a question-embedded anchored discussion environment and a traditional threaded discussion forum. Drawing on research in asynchronous online discussion and learning from text, the anchored discussion environment was designed to encourage online discussion that is richly developed and focuses on text and discussion questions. The anchored environment differs from the threaded forum in three ways: the discussion questions are embedded in the text, the discussion happens close to the text, and the students make comments while they read the text.

Discussions in the two environments differed in frequency of posts, focus, knowledge construction processes, and level of social presence. In the anchored environment, students posted more frequently, focused their discussions more on the texts and peer comments, raised more new topics, and extended on more ideas in previous posts. In the threaded forum, in contrast, discussions focused more on the discussion questions and general issues, and included more self-reflection. Though discussions in the anchored environment were found to be more interactive, there were more affective units in the threaded forum. Students also had higher quiz scores and short essay scores in the anchored environment than when they had discussions in the threaded forum. A follow-up survey and interview were conducted to understand these differences. Implications for online instruction and future research are discussed.


Gao, F. Fostering focused online discussions. Ph.D. thesis, Michigan State University. Retrieved April 12, 2021 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

For copies of dissertations and theses: (800) 521-0600/(734) 761-4700 or