Glossary of Technical and Distance Education Terms

  • Application sharing. A feature that allows two or more people in different locations to work together in a single live software application. In application sharing, one user launches the application and it appears on all participants’ computers simultaneously. Both users can input information and otherwise control the application using the keyboard and mouse. Although it appears that the application is running on both PCs, it actually is running on only one. The person who launched the application may have the option to lock out the other person from making changes, so the locked-out person sees the application running but cannot control it.
  • Asynchronous. A type of communication that occurs with a time delay, allowing participants to respond at their own convenience. Literally “not synchronous”; in other words, not at the same time. Asynchronous capabilities give learners access to course materials, including readings, embedded and streamed multimedia, and external Web sites. They also let learners participate in facilitated  discussions, and complete assignments individually and collaboratively. A more narrow definition is offfered by the ALN Network.
  • Audio Conferencing - In the context of a web-delivered technology, this term generally refers to voice conferencing over the internet. The equivalent of a telephone conference using dial-up internet services, generally through software installed in a web browser. Implementations range from half duplex to full duplex. The term may also be used to refer to standard telephone conferences.
  • Authoring software/tools. High-level computer programs designed for creating computer-based training, interactive presentations, and multimedia. Commands are often presented as simple ter
  • Browser Interface - Denotes that the host software allows use of most product features through Java-enabled browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator/Communicator. There is often implied an assumption that some additional software (generally referred to as a "java applet" or a "plugin") has been added to the browser to increase selected functionality.
  • Chat. Generally refers to real-time, text-based conversation between two or more individuals connected online. As you type, everything you type is displayed to the other members of the chat group. Some implementations provide for private communications between individuals, most packages provide for a group chat (i.e. everyone sees everything). Some chat software now features voice-enabled chat.
  • Chat Logs - Software has the ability to save and optionally post transcripts of chat sessions.
  • Computer-based training (CBT). An interactive instructional approach in which the computer, taking the place of an instructor, provides a series of stimuli to the student ranging from questions to be answered to choices or decisions to be made. The CBT then provides feedback based on the student's response.
  • Desktop videoconferencing. Videoconferencing on a personal computer equipped with a fast Internet connection (at least 28.8 Kbps modem), a microphone, and a video camera . There can be two-way or multi-way video and audio depending upon the hardware and software of participants. Most appropriate for small groups or individuals.
  • Distance Education. See Distance learning. This term is often used synonymously with distance learning. However, "distance education" seems to be preferred in undergraduate and graduate academic settings.
  • Distance Learning. A system and a process that connects learners and instructors who are in different locations. Distance learning has historically involved correspondence courses, video, or satellite broadcasts. With the connectivity of the Internet and a new generation of software applications, distance learning has evolved into a new model, which provides higher quality and more flexibility and which is more appropriately called “distributed learning.”
  • Distributed learning. A system and process that uses a variety of technologies, learning methodologies, on-line collaboration, and instructor facilitation to achieve applied learning results not possible from traditional education in a truly flexible, anytime/anywhere fashion.
  • e-learning - A term referring broadly to technology-based learning. Seems to focus on web-based delivery methods but often used in a broader context. Used initially by corporate universities, now being embraced by academia.
  • Instructor-led training (ILT). Training in which learners are taught by an actual person: an instructor, teacher or faculty member. Instructor-led training can occur synchronously or asynchronously.
  • Java. A programming language developed by Sun Microsystems that creates code for interactive applications that is executable on web pages by web browsers. These Java applications can execute on any platform: Macintosh, PC, and so on.
  • “Just in Time” (JIT). A term used to describe a system or information that is available for the user at the exact time the user needs it.
  • Multimedia. A very general term that usually refers to computer programs that use a combination of sound, video, animation, pictures, and/or text.
  • Multipoint. Communication configuration in which several terminals or stations are connected. This differs from point-to-point, where communication is between two stations only. 
  • Open Enrollment - The ability to enroll in a course or program of study at any time. Contrasted with the typical term-based enrollment and lock-step cohort programs of traditional schools, "open enrollment" is frequently requested by adult learners. Correspondence courses are traditionally offered as "open enrollment" delivery systems, although logistical issues and faculty concerns (especially workload) often block its implementation.
  • Pedagogical. Of, relating to, or befitting a teacher or education, especially with regard to a process of learning.
  • Real-time. The processing of information that returns a result so rapidly that the interaction appears to be instantaneous. Telephone calls and videoconferencing are examples of real-time applications. These kinds of real-time information not only need to be processed almost instantaneously, but it needs to arrive in the exact order it's sent. A delay between parts of a word, or the transmission of video frames out of sequence, makes the communication unintelligible. See also Synchronous.
  • Repurpose. To create new material from older material. 
  • Self-paced learning. Education in which the learner is on their own, studying without interaction with others. Sometimes used to refer to asynchronous modes of delivery. CBT has been the most common form of self-paced learning, but web-based asynchronous systems are catching up quickly.
  • Shovelware - a critical term used when traditional courseware is repurposed for the internet without full consideration of the quality of the new learning experience. Essentially "Shoveling" content onto the internet for better or worse.
  • Synchronous. A type of two-way communication that occurs with virtually no time delay, allowing participants to respond in real time. Also, a system in which regularly occurring events in timed intervals are kept in step using some form of electronic clocking mechanism. Synchronous capabilities add a living, breathing dimension to online learning. Generally includes tools supported by standards-based data, audio, and videoconferencing — like whiteboard, application-sharing, and question-and-answer. See also Asynchronous.
  • Voice-over-IP. Uses the internet to allow phone-like voice interaction over dial-up internet connections. Typically implemented as a browser add-in or external piece of software. Some systems are full-duplex, other voice-over-ip systems use "push-to-talk" half-duplex systems.
  • Video Conferencing. In the context of web-delivered learning, refers to "Talking" head, small size video over IP networks. Generally requires additional hardware for implementation. Generally implemented as an optional feature, due to its significant bandwidth requirements.
  • Web-based training (WBT). A form of computer-based training in which the training material resides on pages accessible through the World Wide Web. Typical media elements used are text and graphics. Other media such as animation, audio, and video can be used, but require more bandwidth and in some cases additional software. The terms "online courses" and "web-based instruction" are sometimes used interchangeably with WBT.
  • Whiteboarding or Shared Whiteboard. A term used to describe the placement of shared documents or material on an on-screen "shared notebook" or "whiteboard." Desktop videoconferencing software often includes "snapshot" tools that enable you to capture entire windows or portions of windows and place them on the whiteboard. You work with familiar tools - such as "colored pens" and "erasers" to mark up the electronic whiteboard much like you do with a traditional wall-mounted board.
  • Workgroups - allows subsetting of learners into on-line workgroups. Implementations vary from simply email group lists to virtual voice enabled on-line collaborative workgroups.