You are here:

A Journey on Refining Rules for Online Discussion: Implications for the Design of Learning Management Systems Article

, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore ; , University of Alabama - Birmingham, United States ; , Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Journal of Interactive Learning Research Volume 20, Number 2, ISSN 1093-023X Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Waynesville, NC


Research on asynchronous online discussions has primarily focused on their efficacy in relation to learning outcomes. Rarely are there investigations on how the design of online learning activities or how discussions could be incorporated into student learning experience. We contend that successful online activities need careful and meticulous design. We are particularly interested in how the design of 'rules' or protocols for group interactions contributes to the quality of student learning experience. This article reports a three-year study on designing and refining such rules for online discussions. Specifically, we studied how rules support or inhibit online discussions. Reported in the article are the processes and rationales for each refinement of the rules based on real interactions. We argue that existing learning management systems still fall short in supporting various learning activities afforded by these rules. Therefore, various tools are proposed based on our findings. These tools should be integrated into existing learning management systems such as Blackboard or Moodle.


Chen, D.t., Wang, Y.m. & Hung, D. (2009). A Journey on Refining Rules for Online Discussion: Implications for the Design of Learning Management Systems. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 20(2), 157-173. Waynesville, NC: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved November 16, 2018 from .


View References & Citations Map


  1. Bakhtin, M.M. (1984). Speech genres and other late essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.
  2. Beaudin, B.P. (1999). “Keeping online asynchronous discussions on topic.” Asynchronous Learning Networks, 3(2), 41-53.
  3. Biesenbach-Lucas, S. (2003). “Asynchronous discussion groups in teacher training classes: perceptions of native and non-native students.” Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(3), 24-46.
  4. Brown, J., Collins, A., and Duguid, P. (1989). “Situated cognition and the culture of learning.” Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42.
  5. Chen, D., and Hung, W.L. (2002). “Personalised knowledge representations: the missing half of online discussions.” British Journal of Educational Technology, 33(3), 291-299.
  6. Cole, M., and Engeström, Y. (1991). “A cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition.” In G. Salomon (Ed.), Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
  7. Gibson, E.J., and Pick, A.D. (2000). An ecological approach to perceptual learning and development. NY: Oxford University Press.
  8. Gibson, J.J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.
  9. Hara, N., Bonk, C.J., and Angeli, C. (2000). “Content analysis of online discussion in an applied 172 Chen, Wang, and Hung
  10. Hung, W.L., and Chen, D. (2001). “Situated Cognition, Vygotskian Thought, and Learning from the Communities of Practice Perspective: Implications for the Design of Web-based E-Learning.” Educational Media International, 38(1), 3-12.
  11. Hung, W.L., and Chen, D. (2003). “Learning within the Context of Communities of Practices: ARe-Conceptualization of Tools, Rules, and Roles of the Activity System.” Educational Media International, 39(3/4), 247-255.
  12. Hung, W.L., Chen, D., and Tan, S.C. (2005). “How the Internet facilitates learning as dialog: Design considerations for online discussions.” International Journal of Instructional Media, 32(1), 37-46.
  13. Jenlink, P.M. (2001). “Activity Theory and the Design of Educational Systems: Examining the Mediational Importance of Conversation.” Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 18(4), 345-359.
  14. Kester, L., Sloep, P.B., Rosmalen, P.V., Brouns, F., Kone, M., and Koper, R. (2007). “Facilitating community building in learning networks through peer tutoring in ad hoc transient communities.” International Journal of Web Based Communities, 3(2),198-205.
  15. Klemm, W.R. (1998). “Eight ways to get students more engaged in online conferences.” Technology Horizon of Education, 26(1), 62-64.
  16. Klemm, W.R., and Snell, J.R. (1996). “Enriching computer-mediated group learning by coupling constructivism with collaborative learning.” Instructional Science and Technology. Retrieved June 2005 from
  17. Klemm, W.R. (2000). “What’s wrong with on-line discussions and how to fix it.” Paper presented at WebNet 2000 World Conference, (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No ED 448 755).
  18. King, K.P. (2001). “Educators revitalize the classroom ‘Bulletin Board’: A Case study of the influence of online dialogue on face-to-face classes from an adult learning perspective.” Research on Computing in Education, 33(4), 337-355.
  19. Knowlton, D., Knowlton, H.M., and Davis, C. (2000). “The Whys and hows of online discussion.” Syllabus, 13(13), 54-56.
  20. Kuutti, K. (1996). “Activity theory as a potential framework for human-computer interaction research.” In B.A. Nardi (Ed.), Context and consciousness: Activity theory and human-computer interaction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  21. Lang, D. (2000). “Critical thinking in Web courses: An Oxymoron?” Syllabus, 14(2), 20-24. Lave, J., and Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  22. Lee, Y-W., Chen, F-C, and Jiang, H-M. (2006) “Lurking as Participation: A Community Perspective on Lurkers' Identity and Negotiability.” Proceedings of the 7th international conference on Learning sciences, pp 404 410. New York: ACM Press.
  23. Meyer, K.A. (2003). “Face-to-face versus threaded discussions: The role of time and higherorder thinking.” Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(3), 55-65.
  24. Northover, M. (2002). “Online discussion boards– Friend or foe?” Proceedings of Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education, Melbourne, Australia, pp. 169-177.
  25. Oliver, M., and Shaw, G.P. (2003). “Asynchronous discussion in support of medical education.” Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1), 56-67.
  26. Rosmalen, P.V., Sloep, P., Brouns, F., Liesbeth, K., Kone, M., and Koper, R. (2006). “Knowledge match-making in learning networks: Alleviating the tutor load by mutually connecting learn-A Journey on Refining Rules for Online Discussion 173
  27. Scardamalia, M., and Bereiter, C. (1999). “Schools as knowledge-building organizations.” In D. Keating, and C. Hertzman (Eds.), Today's children, tomorrow's society: The developmental health and wealth of nations (pp. 274-289). New York: Guilford.
  28. The Design-Based Research Collective (2003). “Design-based research: an emerging paradigm for educational inquiry.” Educational Researcher, 32(1), 5-8.
  29. Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  30. Vygotsky, L.S. (1981). “The genesis of higher mental functions.” In J.V. Wertsch (Ed.), The concept of activity in Soviet psychology. White Plains, New York: M. Sharpe.
  31. Wang, F., and Jannafin, M.J. (2005). “Design-based research and technology-enhanced learning environments.” Educational Technology, Research and Development, 53(4), 5-23.
  32. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  33. Winiecki, D.J. (1999). “Keeping the Thread: Adapting Conventional Practice to Help Distance Students and Instructors Manage Discussions in an Asynchronous Learning Network, DEOSNEWS.” Retrieved June 3, 2005 from Wu, D., and Hiltz, S.R. (2004). “Predicting learning from asynchronous online discussions.”

These references have been extracted automatically and may have some errors. If you see a mistake in the references above, please contact

View References & Citations Map

Cited By

  1. Evaluating and Comparing the Usability of Web-based Course Management Systems

    Zafer Unal, University of South Florida, United States; Asli Unal, Turkey

    Journal of Information Technology Education: Research Vol. 10 (Jan 01, 2011) pp. 19–38

These links are based on references which have been extracted automatically and may have some errors. If you see a mistake, please contact