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Study Related Terms and Definitions


Within the online teaching and learning framework, accessibility refers to the ability for anyone, regardless of disability or special needs to access, and interact with every component within the online course, institutional materials, and supporting services. Every institution will have an accessibility policy for online students and instructors.

Adaptive Learning

Technology mediated learning that takes into consideration the preferences and competencies of individual students and adapts to meet learning styles, individual deficiencies and skill gaps. Many learning management systems (LMS) have adaptive learning functionality built in so that instructors can review student activity within an online course, and enable features to better serve targeted student needs. and instructors.


The art, science, and craft of teaching adults. Andragogy encompasses the manifestation of the practice of an individual instructor in a situation that includes adult learners only.


Shortened form of “application”, typically referring to an application or utility that can be accessed and used on a mobile device.

Asynchronous Learning

In an asynchronous course, learning materials, interactions, and assignments can be accessed at any time. Instructors and students access the course at their convenience, within a set schedule established by the instructor. Specific time frames can (and should) be established, but the main premise is that there is no requirement for everyone to be in the same place online at the same time.


See Digital Badges.


A measure of the capacity of a networked connection to conduct the transfer of digital information. Some online course materials require greater bandwidth (audio and video) to be delivered and downloaded. Some institutions require that instructors and students have a specific minimum range of digital bandwidth in order to access and participate in online courses.

Big Data

Large data sets that can be analyzed and leveraged to reveal patterns and trends. Big data is mentioned in the online teaching and learning context as a key component of adaptive learning, as data exploration is integrated into learning management systems to provide access to student behavior, achievements and interactions. This information informs new opportunities to support instructor competencies and student success in the online environment.

Blended Learning

A course in which students learn in part situated in a face-to-face setting, and in part online. There is no set recipe for a perfectly blended course, as content, interaction, and assessment components will be different within different courses, and instructor preferences. The underlying idea is to match learning objectives to the best delivery medium to support student learning.


Course Management System. See Learning Management System.

Cognitive Presence

The manifestation of scaffolded learning – when students are moved from the lower learning levels of knowledge and comprehension toward the higher learning levels of application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.


A group of students that progress together through a program. Some online programs have cohorts of students start courses at the same time, and complete a group of core courses together. Cohorts enable online students to get to know each other better and form supportive networked learning communities.

Community of Inquiry

The Community of Inquiry (COI) is research-based framework for teaching and learning based on social constructivist education theory and research. The CoI identifies and measures three principle elements critical to a successful online learning environment – social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presences.

Constructivist Learning

A research-based learning theory that supports the concept that learners construct their own knowledge and understanding based on experiences and understanding that they already have. While learning in a constructivist environment, students are expected to actively reconcile new knowledge with existing knowledge, and then advance to create novel ideas.

Digital Badges

Online credentials that validate specific knowledge or achievement, akin to a certificate of completion. Badges can be awarded within online courses, and can be displayed on websites, online resumes, or social media sites to indicate expertise or achievement.

Discussion Forum

An online discussion board where students can interact with classmates and the instructor to answer questions, and participate in dialogue. Most discussion forums are asynchronous, with requirements to post within a specific time frame.

Distance Learning

Any learning that takes place over different places, where the students and instructor are dispersed geographically. Distance learning does not always take place online, as some correspondence courses are still in place.


A book or article that can be read on a digital device, including computer, tablet, mobile phone or dedicated eBook reader, such as a Kindl or Nook.

Effective Practice

A method or approach that has consistently shown exemplary results that can inform a specific practice. In online teaching and learning, effective practices are typically tied to research that serves to prove the significance of integrating the practice into teaching and learning.

Face-to-Face Learning

The situation of teaching and learning in a traditional classroom environment where the instructor and students are in the same place.

Flipped Classroom

A blended learning approach in which instructors assign videos, readings, and other learning content and activities to students to complete on their own in advance of time spent in the face–to-face classroom. The time in the classroom is then used for more interactive and hands-on participatory exercises.


A teaching approach that integrates game elements into the classroom to better engage students in the learning process. Gamification may include technology-based games in the online classroom, including mobile applications.


Hybrid is another term commonly used to describe blended courses. The important thing to remember is that there is no set formula for hybrid or blended courses. It is up to the instructor to determine the best combination of face-to-face and online content, interaction and assessment to meet the learning goals and objectives.

Intellectual Property

The ownership of online course materials is an intellectual property issue, and each campus institution will have specific intellectual property rules and regulations in their faculty handbook. These regulations will relate to ownership of online class materials, and whether or not an instructor may teach a course that another instructor has developed.

Learning Management System (LMS)

A technology based application that is used to structure, develop, delivery, and assess learning. The LMS is the means through which the instructor delivers content, provides avenues for student interaction, and assesses the mastery of learning within the online course.

Mobile Learning

Learning that is enabled through the use of a mobile device, including tablets, phones, MP3 players, and eBook readers. Mobile learning implies that the instructor and students have access to these devices and can access materials from any location using these devices.Mobile Learning:


Massive Open Online Course, a large-scale online course that may or not be offered for free. There is no limit on attendance in these courses, and some MOOCs run with thousands of students. In some (but not all) cases MOOCs are offered for credit for students enrolled within the university offering the MOOC. In other cases, MOOCs have no credits associated with course completion.


Set rules of conduct for speaking, writing and behavior in online spaces, including email, announcements, discussion forums, and webinar sessions.

Non-Traditional Student

Traditional learners are considered the typical 18-22 year old student who is enrolled full time on a college campus. Non-traditional learners may be adult learners who are taking courses part time while working, perhaps returning to college after a long gap. They may be working full or part time, and juggling work, family, and school at the same time.

Open Educational Resources (OERs)

Teaching and learning materials that are available online for free to instructors and students. Examples include full courses, modules, assignments, exams, labs, games, simulations, and other digital media. OER libraries used most widely within Open SUNY include OER Commons, and Merlot.


The art, science, and craft of teaching. Pedagogy encompasses the manifestation of the practice of an individual instructor. Some research proposes that the term refers to the teaching of children only, whereas the term andragogy refers to the teaching of adults.

Personal Learning Community

Personal learning communities are made up of individuals who come together to interact and create learning experiences. Within this network, members intentionally connect in groups structured around topic areas, and participate according to their individual learning preferences.

Personalized Learning

An approach to tailoring learning to meet the strengths, needs, and interest of students on an individual basis. Unlike adaptive learning, personalized learning does not rely on the integration of technology, but focuses on engaging the student in determining the best approaches to meeting learning goals and standards.


Online exams can be proctored to ensure that students are not cheating. Students taking exams online may be proctored at assigned testing centers, remote proctors, or proctoring technology. Proctoring technology includes identity verification techniques, and/or webcam utilities. Instructors should check with institutional supports in place to determine the availability of online proctoring services.

Screen Casting

A video recording of computer screen activity typically including audio narration. Online teachers use screen casting to create and share tutorials, overviews, lessons, labs, and step-by-step guides. Online students use screen casting to share their work and to create narrative online projects.

Social Media

Online spaces that enable users to create and share content, and to join and participate in networking and collaborative activities. Social media includes applications like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google Plus. Social media application support online teaching and learning by providing options to connect and collaborate, and a “hallway” of sorts to continue conversations, and connect around topics of interest.

Social Presence

A measure of how well online students and instructors are able to establish and communicate out their personal identities into an online course and feel like a “real” person. Social presence examples include: allowing risk-free expression; drawing in participants; encouraging collaboration; establishing instructor presence; and engaging in supportive contact and interactions.

Streaming Media

Audio and video files that are streamed over the web in real time, with no downloading required. Streaming media servers are available at most institutions for faculty to upload media files to for their online courses, so that students do not need to download large files in order to review assigned materials.

Synchronous Learning

When synchronous components are introduced to an online course, then time is set aside for the students and instructor to meet online via webinar applications (inside or outside of the LMS), or other communication technologies. An online course can be taught completely synchronously, in which case the students would meet with their classmates and the instructor online at specific times, and communicate through available technologies.

System Requirements:

Many institutions have minimum requirements for student and faculty computers, operating systems, applications, and bandwidth for access to and guaranteed feature functionality in online courses.

Teaching Presence

Teaching presence relates to the design and structuring of an online course (instructional design), and the way the instructor leads the students through the learning experience (direct instruction), including feedback and dialogue.

Threaded Discussion

A common feature of online discussion forums that allow students and faculty to display posts and responses in such a way as to visualize the thread of conversations. In some cases, the term “threaded discussion” is used in place of “discussion forum” in online courses.

Video Conferencing

Real time communication including audio (and video if desired), where a whiteboard area on the screen is used to draw, deliver presentations, collaborate on materials, and share screens. Video conferencing enables students and instructors to meet synchronously, and to record meetings to access later as online class resources.


See Video Conferencing.