Education Doctorate

Year Approved


First Advisor

Frederickson, Joel


With the growing proportion of blended and online courses in higher education, it is increasingly important to understand how the online learning environments of these courses can impact student engagement. One important element of these online learning environments that is not yet understood is the role of expressive aesthetics. In this study, thirty graduate students participated in two different online environments of approximately equal usability – except for expressive aesthetics – to determine how this difference might affect student engagement in a blended learning course. Using a quantitative experimental repeated measures design, students encountered both a high expressive aesthetics and a low expressive aesthetics environment and their level of engagement in each environment was compared. The results of this study showed that there was no significant difference in student engagement between these two environments. These findings suggest that the usability of an online learning environment is more important than the “look” of that environment. The outcomes of this study can help educational leaders consider the role of instructional designers and online instructors in course development, the impact of the online environment on blended learning, and the optimal level of aesthetic emphasis in the design of learning management systems that will encourage student engagement.

Degree Name

Education Doctorate

Document Type

Doctoral dissertation