This paper presents a quantitative approach to multimodal discourse analysis for analyzing online collaborative learning. The coding framework draws together the fields of systemic functional linguistics and Activity Theory to analyze interactions between collaborative-, content- and technology-related discourse. The approach is used to examine how the task subject matter, the activity design, and the choice of interface affected interaction and collaboration for a computing course conducted in a web-conferencing environment. The analysis revealed the critical impact of activity design on the amount and type of discourse that transpired. Student-centred designs resulted in over six times more student discourse as compared to teacher-centred designs and created a learning environment where students took greater ownership over the tasks and contributed more to the content-based discussion. The paper also incorporates a rationale for the approach to coding and a reflection on its efficacy for discourse analysis in technology-based learning environments.