Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Lisa C. Yamagata-Lynch

Committee Members

Michael J. Palenchar, Gary J. Skolits, Barbara J. Thayer-Bacon


I come to this dissertation with my experiences on synchronous courses as a student and an instructional designer. Through these direct experiences I have come to realize the benefits of synchronous online courses as a course delivery format, and observed the difficulties of designing and delivering synchronous online courses. I have come to recognize the limited support of synchronous online course design. Even though there is an increased interest and use of synchronous courses, existing studies on synchronous online courses are limited, and offer little practical support to instructors about synchronous course design. The purpose of this study is to understand synchronous course design activities in order to support instructor’s effort to develop their own synchronous courses. To achieve this purpose, this dissertation looks at how five instructors design their synchronous online course with two goals: first, to identify design constraints and second, to capture the design experience and knowledge embodied in the synchronous course design cases. With a multiple case study approach, I collected data though interview, course materials and website resources about course design environments from five instructors. I analyzed the data with constant comparative method and activity system analysis. As a result, this dissertation identified various design constraints that emerged in the overall synchronous online course design process. I identified 48 design constraints and categorized those into eight categories: adaptation of synchronous course formats; converting existing face-to-face courses; instructor (designer) characteristics; learner characteristics; technology; organizational rules; environmental and cultural factors; and physical learning environments. In addition, I wrote five design cases about participants’ synchronous course design experiences. Each synchronous course design case includes information about the designer, the design situation, related design strategies, design tensions, and identified solutions to specific tensions. Specifically, I describe how the design constraints interact with one another and how interactions lead to further design tensions, and instructors’ solutions to those tensions. I will present common characteristics of synchronous course design, and implications for both designing synchronous online courses and supporting synchronous online course design at universities.

Available for download on Thursday, August 15, 2019

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