CCE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Getrude W. Abramson

Committee Member

Gerorge K. Fornshell

Committee Member

Timothy Ellis


Rapid, ongoing advancements in the growth of the Internet and web-based technology coupled with the steadily increasing number of older adults in our society create a significant need for the design of safe, convenient, and accessible online learning communities for this demographic. The primary goal of this dissertation was to conduct formative research into methodologies for developing a new instructional-design theory for establishing online learning communities for older adults. The aim of this work was to apply formative research, which is a type of developmental research used to create a new design theory or improve an existing theory, to the task of identifying what aspects of the model work, what needs to be improved, and how improvements should be implemented.

This type of research is recommended for expanding the knowledge base in instructional design theory. The methodology began with the selection of a situation to which the new design theory applied. Next, a case was structured based on the design theory. To design the case, the researcher used related descriptive and experimental studies in the fields of adult learning theory, instructional-design theory, human-computer interaction, learning technologies, experience, intuition, and trial and error. Then, the tentative design theory was formulated in parallel with the development and implementation of the case.

Each element of the design theory was incorporated into the case so that the case became an instance of the theory. Formative data was collected (i.e., observations, documents, questionnaires, and interviews) and analyzed, and results were used to revise and elaborate the tentative design theory. The designed case was subsequently revised and additional data collected in order to fully develop the tentative design theory. Finally, recommendations for further research were offered to help further develop the theory. The results of this study have added significantly to the knowledge base for instructional design theory by providing guidelines and heuristics for the creation of online learning communities for the adult learner population.

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