Explore Most Comon Terms in E-Learning


Understanding E-Learning: A Glossary of Essential Terms.


Academic Advisor – A staff or faculty member who is tasked with helping students in academic-related matters, such as selecting a major, choosing courses to take, and developing a degree plan or academic curriculum that meets the requirements of a particular department or degree.

Accredited – The formal recognition of an institution by an accrediting agency or body as meeting certain standards or requirements with regards to quality.

Asynchronous Communication – Non-synchronous, two-way communication in which there is a delay between when a message is sent and when it is actually received. In distance learning, asynchronous communication most often take the form of email (e.g. your professor emails you with feedback on an assignment), voicemail (e.g. you leave a message for your professor on his/her office phone), and discussion boards (e.g. you post a reply to a classmate’s question in a threaded class discussion.)

Asynchronous Learning – Any learning event where interaction is delayed over time. This allows learners to participate according to their schedule, and be geographically separate from the instructor. Could be in the form of a correspondence course or e-learning. Interaction can take use various technologies like threaded discussion.

Audio Conferencing – Voice communication delivered through standard telephone lines or Internet-based software sometimes used in distance learning.

Audit – To enroll and participate in an individual course without receiving academic credit. A popular option for lifelong learners who seek to indulge their love of learning.


Bandwidth – Refers the capacity of a connection to transport digital content. It is usually measured in transfer speed (bits-per-second). Generally speaking, text transfers more quickly and requires less bandwidth than audio or video. Very effective compression can change that somewhat.

Blog – Short for “web log.” A blog is an updatable website that is chronologically arranged, and updated at the user’s discretion. What makes a blog different than a regular website is the fact that it can be syndicated so that others can subscribe and have the content delivered to a certain place automatically. Weblogs started out as journals and chronologically arranged websites. However, it is common now for blogs to include audio, video, graphics, and text. It is common for blogs to be available as RSS or Atom feeds.

Broadband – As opposed to the connection speeds and capacity that one can obtain over a phone line with a modem, a broadband connection can accommodate the rapid transfer of large amounts or packets of information. Generally, Internet connections provided by cable or DSL are broadband. Most distance learning courses will recommend that you have a broadband connection.

Browser – Software that allows you to access view Web sites on the Internet from your PC, laptop, or handheld PDA. Examples of browsers include Firefox, Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Opera, and Safari.


Chat – When two or more users communicate in real-time by typing messages which are sent instantly within the chat room or instant messaging program. In distance learning, a chat may be used for a class discussion, or so that students may ask the instructor questions or receive feedback from an instructor as a group.

Cohort – A cohort is a group of students that move together through an educational program. Cohorts allow a small number of learners, usually starting courses at the same time, to take a group of core classes over a period of time. However, students in a cohort may not necessarily progress through the program at the same rate or graduate at the same time. Cohorts can be very beneficial, because students can get to know each other really well and provide a supportive learning environment for each other.

College – A postsecondary school that offers a general or liberal arts education, usually leading to an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctor’s, or first-professional degree. A college can also refer to a division within a university system (e.g. the College of Business, or College of Nursing)

Computer Based Training (CBT) – Training or instruction where a computer program provides motivation and feedback in place on a live instructor. CBT can be delivered via CD-ROM, LAN or Internet. Creation is done by teams of people including instructional designers, and often has high development costs.

Concentration – A program of study, usually a set of courses with a degree program, that allows a student to focus on a particular subject within or related to the major area. For example, an MBA-seeking student may choose a concentration or specialization in Accounting or Marketing.

Cookies – These are not programs, even though many people think that they have viruses or spyware in them. Instead, cookies consist of information that is sent by the browser to a web-server and back. They are very useful because they store information about the website one has visited and make it easier and faster to load the website the next time one visits. Some learning management systems require cookies in order for the user to log in or have access to certain sites. Other applications, such as shopping carts used in e-commerce also use cookies. Cookies are used to track web-browsing patterns and behaviors. They are also used to monitor a person’s activities. For that reason, cookies have been held out as examples of how one’s privacy can be violated in the Internet.

Correspondence Course – Also called “home study.” Now considered somewhat old-fashioned, this form of distance learning, which first became popular in the 1890’s, is education conducted via postal mail. Course materials, which may include textbooks, study guides, assignments, and tests are sent to the learner. Instructors communicate with students through mail, email, telephone, and FAX. which is a course in which you study at home, receiving your work by post and sending it back by post.

Course Management System – Also shortened to “CMS.” The software, usually web-based, used by colleges and universities, as well as corporations and government, that facilitates distance learning by centralizing the development, management, and distribution of instructional-related information and materials. A CMS provides faculty with a set of tools that allows the easy creation of course content – syllabi, course modules, lecture notes, assignments, tests and quizzes, etc. – and is the framework in which they teach and manage the class. To an online student, a CMS is simply the vehicle by which you, the instructor, and your fellow learners interact using asynchronous discussion boards and live chat tools; access course information and materials, submit assignments, check your grades, etc.


Distance Education – The formal process of distance learning. This term has traditionally implied the higher education level, but can include K-12 education, as well as continuing education.


e-Learning or elearning – Any learning that utilizes a network (LAN, WAN or Internet) for delivery, interaction, or facilitation. This would include distributed learning , distance learning (other than pure correspondence ), CBT delivered over a network, and WBT . Can be synchronous , asynchronous , instructor-led or computer-based or a combination.

ECE – Abbreviation for “Excelsior College Examinations.” Formerly called Regents College Examinations, students can earn credit towards a college degree by taking an ECE. Most Excelsior College Exams are objective, consisting of multiple-choice questions. Some are entirely essay exams. Exams are based on coursework covered in undergraduate-level courses and examine how well one knows facts and terminology, along with how well one can apply essential concepts and skills.

Enrollment Advisor – Also “Enrollment Counselor.” A college or university employee who is in charge of contacting, managing, recruiting and enrolling prospective, usually through through extensive telephone and email contact. An enrollment advisor/counselor guides new students through the enrollment and initial registration process.


Face-to-Face – Also shortened to “F2F.” A term used to describe a “traditional” classroom environment where the instructor and students are not separated by geographic distance or time.


Graduate Student – A students who hold the bachelor’s or first-professional degree, or the equivalent, and who are working toward a master’s or doctor’s degree.

Graduate Studies – Coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree that leads to a master’s degree, professional, or doctoral degree.


HTML – Abbreviation for “HyperText Markup Language.” The programming language used to create web pages in hypertext, which refers to the code used to arrange the text on the page and to create formatting so that the pages appear a certain way on the World Wide Web.

HTTP – Abbreviation for “HyperText Transfer Protocol.” An Internet protocol that is used by a web server and a web browser to transfer data (such as text, images, sound, video, and other multimedia files) between them. When you enter a URL in your web browser, this actually sends an HTTP command to the Web server directing it to fetch and transmit the requested web page.


Instant Messenger – Also shortened to “IM.” Software that lists a user’s buddy list (who may consist of friends, family, co-workers, classmates, etc.) who are also online and enables users to exchange text-based messages. Some instant messenger programs also include voice chat, file transfer, and other applications. Popular instant messaging programs are available for free by ICQ, AOL, Yahoo!, and MSN. IM may be used in distance learning to facilitate communication between two students or between a learner and his or her instructor.

Internet Service Provider – Also shortened to “ISP.” A company that provides Internet access to consumers and businesses, usually for a monthly fee. Services include e-mail, the World Wide Web, FTP, newsgroups, etc. Popular ISPs include America Online, Earthlink, CompuServe .


Lifetime Learning Tax Credit – The Lifetime Learning Tax Credit is available to people beyond the first two years of undergraduate studies, graduate students or working U.S. citizens taking classes to improve or upgrade their job skills. It can be used for qualified tuition and related expenses (i.e. tuition and fees) paid by a taxpayer.


Master Degree – An advanced degree awarded for the successful completion of a program generally requiring at least one year of full-time graduate-level study beyond the bachelor’s degree. One type of master’s degree, including the Master of Arts degree (M.A.) and the Master of Science degree (M.S.), is awarded in the liberal arts and sciences for advanced scholarship in a subject field or discipline and demonstrated ability to perform scholarly research. A second type of master’s degree is awarded for the completion of a professionally oriented program, for example, an M.Ed. in education, an M.B.A. in business administration, an M.F.A. in fine arts, an M.M. in music, an M.S.W. in social work, or an M.P.A. in public administration. A third type of master’s degree is awarded in professional fields for study beyond the first-professional degree, for example, the Master of Laws (LL.M.) and Master of Science in various medical specializations.


Netiquette – Informal rules of conduct for how to behave on the Internet. For example, in a distance learning course, it is poor netiquette is to use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS in a messages, as this is the equivalent of shouting.

Non-Traditional Student – Also called “adult student”, “adult learner”, “re-entry student”, or “returning student.” According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a non-traditional student has one or more of the following characteristics: delays enrollment (does not entering postsecondary education right after high school); attends part time; works full time (35 hours a week or more); is financially independent for purposes of determining eligibility for financial aid; has dependents other than a spouse (usually children, but sometimes others); is a single parent; or does not have a high school diploma (has completed high school with a GED or other nontraditional diploma or has not finished high school).


Online Learning – e-Learning delivered over the Internet (as opposed to a local or wide area network).


Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) – A process available at some colleges and universities by which you can earn academic credit for what you already know and can do, though the formal evaluation of a experiential or prior learning portfolio that identifies, documents, and assesses significant college-level learning acquired through informal or independent study, work experience, community service, non-credit courses, and other life experiences. PLA is based upon the belief that college-level learning is not limited to the classroom.

Private Institution – A school or institution that is controlled by an individual or agency other than a state, a subdivision of a state, or the federal government; that is usually supported primarily by other than public funds; and the operation of whose program rests with other than publicly elected or appointed officials.

Public Institution – A school or institution controlled and operated by publicly elected or appointed officials and generally deriving its primary support from public funds.


Streaming Video – Video sent in compressed form over the Internet that you view as it is being received, rather than waiting until for the entire file to be downloaded first. There may be two versions available: a dial-up version is usually a smaller file, with a smaller video screen and a slower frame rate, for 56k dial-up users and a high-speed version, a larger file with higher quality image, is designed for users with faster broadband Internet connections.

Syllabus – A document provided by an instructor at the start of a class that offers an overview of the course. The syllabus usually covers course objectives, topics to be studied, assignments, required textbooks, grading policies, due dates for assignments, examination dates, and other relevant course information.

Synchronous Communication – Live, real-time communication. Examples include a conversation at the grocery store, phoning your children to say hello when you’re traveling on business, instant messaging or chatting in an AOL chat room.

Synchronous Learning – Any learning event where interaction happens simultaneously in real-time. This requires that learners attend class at its scheduled time. Could be held in a traditional classroom, or delivered via distributed or e-Learning technologies.

System Requirements – The technological conditions required to run a software application. Includes the operating system, programming language, database, hardware configuration, bandwidth, processing power, and so forth.


Threaded Discussion – A common feature of distance learning that allows students to interact with their classmates and instructor. A threaded discussion is a series of messages on a particular topic posted in a discussion forum. A threaded discussion is asynchronous, not fixed in time or space, so students can log on at any time from any Internet-enabled computer to seek clarification for issues they encounter in their coursework, to discuss topics raised in class, or to initiate new discussions on related topics. A good online discussion has the same effect of group or in-class discussion, in which students build on one another’s perspectives to gain a deeper understanding of the materials.


Undergraduate Student – A college student who is pursuing a certificate, two-year associate degree, or four-year bachelor’s degree.

University – A postsecondary institution that consists of at least one graduate school or professional school that award advanced degrees (master’s degrees and doctoral degrees), as well as an undergraduate division that awards bachelor’s degrees.


Video Conferencing – Real-time visual and audio communication using a computer, video camera or web camera, and a network, such as the Internet. Examples of video conferencing include an instructor delivering a live lecture from one central point to many different students, all geographically separated, or a meeting between two students collaborating on a group project.

Virtual – Simulated or conceptual, not physical in nature. In distance learning, the term “virtual classroom” refers to the online environment in which students and instructors interact.


Web Based Training (WBT) – Training which is delivered over a network (LAN, WAN or Internet). Can be either Instructor-led or Computer Based. Very similar to e-Learning, but usually implies that the learning is in the professional or corporate level.

Whiteboard – The electronic equivalent of a blackboard and chalk on a computer screen that allows multiple, remote users to add text, create drawings or diagrams in a shared electronic workspace that is visible to all participants. Whiteboards are a common feature of distance learning course management software systems because it can be used for online instruction the same way a blackboard is used in a traditional classroom.