Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation


Tiffany Koszalka


asynchronous online discussions;deep learning;epistemic curiosity;parallel mixed methods study;surface learning


Collaborative asynchronous online discussion (AOD) is a widely used tool in higher education. AODs have shown to help students engage in deep learning and, therefore, they are a promising instructional tool. The problem of low student contributions in AODs persists, thereby undermining the utility of AODs. This parallel mixed methods study addressed this problem by investigating the relation between epistemic curiosity (EC) and surface/deep learning in AODs in a real-world context of an introductory instructional design course with graduate students (n = 43). For the quantitative strand of the study, the students were randomized into the control and quasi-experimental groups. The treatment was three theoretically derived instructional prompts which were aimed at inducing curiosity in the students. The control group received a standard instructional prompt during AODs. Surface and deep learning were content-analyzed from students’ discussion postings in the AODs, using an existing modified codebook. The levels of curiosity were self-reported by the students. The results of the two-way repeated-measures ANOVAs suggested that the quasi-experimental group participated more in the AODs than the control group. However, there were no differences between the groups in terms of surface/deep learning. There were also no differences in the levels of state EC between the two groups. Finally, a series of hierarchical multiple regressions showed that EC did not predict participation rates or surface/deep learning in AODs. For the qualitative strand of the study, students (n = 12) were interviewed about when they experience curiosity in AODs and why they participate in them. Thematic analysis was employed, and the results suggested that the students were most curious when peers shared relevant personal experiences, when the information was potentially useful in the future, when the postings presented fresh perspectives and were non-repetitive, and when there was an opportunity to answer questions rather than ask questions. Also, the students reported that they participated in the AODs primarily to comply with the course requirements. The students also mentioned that they selectively chose with whom to interact in the AODs. They preferred peers who were familiar to them, who posted early in the AODs, and who offered insightful thoughts. Taken together, the findings from the dissertation suggest that while EC did not statistically predict surface/deep learning in the AODs and more research is needed to investigate this relation, curiosity was a contributing factor to student participation in the AODs. While curiosity did not manifest itself in information seeking in this study, the interview findings strongly suggested that students’ preferences for pragmatic information may be a fruitful avenue of tapping into their curiosity in the future. Additionally, prompting students to share relevant personal experiences and reflections about the content may be helpful for student curiosity in AODs.


Open Access