In this paper the researchers reflect on the use of various communication technologies from the first online offering of our introductory thermodynamics course. The asynchronous (i.e., forums) and synchronous communication technologies such as Centra™ were employed for instruction and explication of useful feedback and self-explanation to promote students’ collaboration. The instructors outline the types of questions used in these guided activities that challenged students to search for multiple ways to demonstrate their conceptual understanding of very fundamental physical notions. The discussion in this paper outlines ways to improve forum questions, instructor’ feedback, and the frequency of the feedback to improve students’ metacognitive strategies in learning and the application of the course material. The observational data are also examined to note if there were any differences in forum contributions online versus students’ contributions in a face-to-face class. This paper provides a platform for research about learning and evaluation of instruction in abstract engineering courses in an online environment. The study is significant and of interest to faculty and administrators who have taught courses in traditional classrooms and who are now considering online teaching to increase access to engineering education.

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