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Online learning, which began in the area of tertiary and adult learning and professional development, has been spreading rapidly as an alternative way for students to pursue learning in the K-12 sector. While adult learners may be expected to be more experienced students and cope with the variations in the implementation of online learning, younger K-12 students need a more structured approach to organize their online learning experiences. Formative assessment has been promoted as a means of enhancing all learning, including online learning. This study explored the use of the formative assessment process in the design and facilitation of an asynchronous discussion among high school students. The community of inquiry model provided a lens for the evaluation of the learners' experiences, and students' cognitive presence was assessed in this quasi experimental study. The study addressed whether implementation of an assessment for learning approach in the design and facilitation of an asynchronous discussion would result in significant differences in cognitive presence messages. Content analysis was used to classify discussants' statements according to levels of cognitive presence. Chi-squared analysis was performed to determine independence among levels of cognitive presence and assessment for learning. The findings indicated that there was a significant relationship between the incidence of different levels of cognitive presence statements and assessment for learning. The findings also suggested a way to empower K-12 online learners to play a more significant role in their learning and make their experiences more impactful. However, study with more diverse populations and incorporating measures of achievement is recommended.