Key Terms & Definitions

Asynchronous Technology: Asynchronous technologies are web-based communication technologies that permit participants with 24-hour access and during times that may not include other participants. For example, a participant can listen to a podcast created by an instructor at any time after downloading the audio file. Asynchronous technologies can include, but are not limited to, emails, audio or video files, online documents, web sites, etc.

Blended Learning: Blended learning is a learning environment that combines both asynchronous and synchronous online tools and face-to-face instruction. (Zenger & Uehlien, 2001) . The percentage of instruction completed in the face-to-face environment is typically less than thirty percent, according to Allen & Seaman (2008).  In their article on defining Blended Learning, Osguthorpe et al. sugguest, “the important consideration is to ensure that the blend involves the strengths of each type of learning environment and none of the weaknesses“ (p. 228).

Blogs: Blogs are online accessible writing areas that are usually owned by one author, or company.  The sharing of blogs and assignments online has provided students with experiences that enhance their learning and promote mentoring, critical thinking and socialization (Tallent-Runnels et al, 2006).

Cognitive Presence: Cognitive presence is an indicator used in the Community of Inquiry framework (Arbaugh et al., 2008). This indicator identifies how students connects, applies and exchanges information within an online learning environment.

Community of Inquiry framework: The cross-discipline measurements of social presence, cognitive presence and teaching presence can be identified in the collaborative and constructivist experience as outlined by Arbaugh et al. (2008). The Community of Inquiry is a framework for a survey instrument that can identify data that demonstrates the external validity of the constructivist teaching model in an online course structure.

Discussion Forum: A discussion forum is an online area used in a Learning Management System for communication between students and instructors. Communication can be in text form, images and include links.

Learning Management System (LMS): A Learning Management System (LMS) is a secured online area for students to access online course content and interact with instructors and fellow students using course specific communication tools. Examples of LMS include Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn (D2L), Angel, etc.

mp3: An .mp3 an audio-based encoded file. This type of file can be played in iTunes or other digital audio player.

Online Learning: The definition of online learning includes a range of responses to describe the tools used for course interaction, as well as the amount of course time a student be accessing online course content. According to Allen & Seaman (2008), an online course is defined within the range of having “at least 80 percent of the course content” (p. 4) delivered online. While this range may differ in many higher educational institutions, it is a helpful starting point to realize that online learning does lean heavily on specific course content accessible online.

Podcast: A podcast is a series of .mp3 episodes that can be released automatically to listeners via RSS or iTunes subscriptions.

Social presence: Social presence, or social engagement, includes the elements of interactive communication in an online learning environment as defined in the Community of Inquiry framework Arbaugh et al. (2008).

Synchronous Technology: Synchronous technology is a form of communication technology that is accessed by participants at the same time. It can be text-based, audio or video-based. Examples of synchronous technology tools include: Elluminate, Skype, iChat, etc.

Teaching presence: Teaching presence is the connection of the teacher with an online course. The elements of instructional strategy, online course contents and the organization of the course combine help engage students with learning. Findings purport the significant role of teachers before and during online courses to facilitate student’s low-level understanding through higher-level cognitive application (Arbaugh et al., 2008).



Akyol, A., & Garrison, D. R. (2008). The development of a community of inquiry over time in an online course: understanding the progression and integration of social, cognitive and teaching presence. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 12, 3-22.

Allen, Elaine & Seaman, Jeff. (2008). Staying the course: Online education in the United States, 2008. The Sloan Consortium. Retrieved from

Arbaugh, J.B., Cleveland-Innes, M., Diaz, S., Garrison, D. R., Ice, P., Richardson, J., & Swan, K. (2008). Developing a community of inquiry instrument: testing a measure of the Community of Inquiry framework using a multi-institutional sample. Internet and Higher Education 11, 133-136.

Osguthorpe, R. T., & Graham, C. R. (2003). Blended Learning Environments: Definitions and directions. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 4(3), 227–233

Tallent-Runnels, M., Thomas, J., Lan, W., Cooper, S., Ahern, T., Shaw, S., & Liu, A. (2006). Teaching courses online: a review of the research. Review of Educational Research 76, 93-135.

Zenger, J., & Uehlein, C. (2001). Why blended learning will win: The lion and the lamb lie down together. Training and Development, 55(8), 55-60.

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