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The purpose of this study was to develop and validate a content analysis model for assessing students' cognitive learning in asynchronous online discussions. It adopted a fully mixed methods design, in which qualitative and quantitative methods were employed sequentially for data analysis and interpretation. Specifically, the design was a "sequential exploratory" (QUAL→ quan) design with priority given to qualitative data and methods. Qualitative data were 800 online postings collected in two online courses. Quantitative data were 803 online postings from the same two courses but from different discussion topics and different weeks. During the qualitative process, a grounded theory approach was adopted to construct a content analysis model based on qualitative data. During the quantitative process, chi-square tests and confirmative factor analysis (CFA) which used online postings as cases or observations and was the first of its kind were performed to test if the new model fit the quantitative data.

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This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. The final publication is available at Copyright restrictions may apply. DOI: 10.1007/s11423-010-9166-1