Visual Communications and Technology Education Faculty Publications

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Asynchronous online discussion environments are important platforms to support learning. Research suggests, however, threaded forums, one of the most popular asynchronous discussion environments, do not often foster productive online discussions naturally. This paper explores how certain properties of threaded forums have affected or constrained the quality of discussions, and argues that developing alternative discussion environments is highly needed to offer better support for asynchronous online communication. Using the Productive Discussion Model developed by Gao, Wang & Sun (2009), we analyzed current work on four types of asynchronous discussion environments that have been developed and researched: constrained environments, visualized environments, anchored environments and combined environments. The paper has implications for developing future asynchronous discussion environments. More specifically, future work should aim at (a) exploring new environments that support varied goals of learning; (b) integrating emerging technologies to address the constraints of current environments; (c) designing multi-functional environments to facilitate complex learning, and (d) developing appropriate instructional activities and strategies for these environments.

Publisher's Statement

This is the accepted version of the following article: Gao, F., Zhang, T., & Franklin, T. (2013). Designing asynchronous online discussion environments: Recent progress and future directions. British Journal of Educational Technology, which has been published in final form at

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British Journal of Educational Technology




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