Dissertations, Theses and Capstone Projects

Date of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Teacher Leadership (Ed.D)


Teacher Leadership for Learning

First Advisor

Dr. Jo E. Williamson

Second Advisor

Dr. Corrie Davis

Third Advisor

Dr. M. Leigh Funk

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Julie Moore


The purpose of this study was to investigate how the design of an online learning environment within a learning management system (LMS) could enhance learning experiences for fourth grade students and their teacher in a traditional face-to-face classroom over a five-week period. Online learning activities were developed in coordination with the researcher, the teacher, and the students utilizing a design-based research methodology in order to promote student interaction and collaboration within an online learning environment. Given the dearth of research in online or blended learning in elementary grades, this study was a qualitative exploratory investigation based on the principals of design-based research. The rationale of this study was to attempt to understand on a fundamental level how strategically designed online learning activities within an LMS could facilitate student interaction and collaboration, and the study was guided by three major research questions:

  1. What features and characteristics of an online learning environment within an LMS encourage collaboration in a fourth grade classroom?
  2. How does interaction among students with each other, their teacher, and the content occur and develop within an online learning environment?
  3. How does participating in an online learning environment enhance learning for the fourth grade students involved in this study?

Data collection was on-going throughout this study and included observations of activities in the face-to-face classroom, as well as online open-ended surveys of students, focus group interviews with students, e-mail correspondence, discussions and planning sessions with the classroom teacher, and a review of online documents and artifacts. The researcher considered this data while designing modifications to the online learning environment throughout the course of the study. Trustworthiness and transferability were supported by triangulation of sources of data, multiple session interviews, member checking, and thorough descriptions. Multiple themes emerged from the data of this exploratory study and were embedded within apparently conflicting issues. The following concerns were related to the features and characteristics of an online learning environment within an LMS that encouraged collaboration: (1) the blending of online and face-to-face learning activities; (2) individual responsibility and collaborative work; and (3) asynchronous and synchronous participation. Interaction occurred and developed through the following strategies: (1) teacher-directed activities and student choices; (2) academic standards and personal interests; (3) the shifting roles of the teacher and students; and (4) informal and formal topics of discussion. Finally, benefits of online learning were noted for the participants involved in this study related to interpersonal and intrapersonal changes they experienced through their online collaboration and interaction. The findings from the data were disseminated to discuss specific recommendations for practicing educators for the design of online learning environments for elementary students. These recommendations are as follows: (1) teach netiquette at the onset of the implementation; (2) incorporate time for social discourse and conversation; (3) encourage opportunities for student collaboration; (4) provide the students with choices; (5) encourage asynchronous participation; (6) have teachers model the learning; (7) practice the technical skills; (8) utilize student experts; (9) develop understanding through discussion forums; and (10) explore personal interests.