The Online Learning Lexicon: The Tech Terms You Need to Know

Even experienced students and technology users can be thrown for a loop when they sign up for online courses. Online education, like many fields, is full of terminology that may not always be familiar to those who operate outside of its boundaries and can leave many learners confused as to just what instructors are asking of them.

This glossary aims to demystify these terms and help you get back to focusing on what really matters: being a successful student.

Adaptive Learning: A type of computer-based learning that adjusts to the skill level or preferences of the learner.

App: A computer program designed to run on smartphones, tablets or other mobile devices. App is shorthand for “application software.”

Asynchronous Learning: Learning that occurs with a time delay between instructors and students or students and other students. Examples of asynchronous learning include email, online discussion boards, blogs and podcasts. Most online courses are largely asynchronous.

Big Data: Large and complex sets of data that need to be collected, analyzed, stored and visualized by sophisticated programs and algorithms. In education, this type of data is sometimes used to help students succeed in their coursework by identifying areas where they may need help.

Blackboard: A web-based learning management system (LMS) that acts as a platform for communication and sharing content, both in online and face-to-face courses.

Blended Learning: See Hybrid Learning.

Blog: A website used for crafting journal-like entries that may also include other videos, photos, links, and other media. Blogs are usually created for public viewing and are sometimes used to showcase student work in online courses.

Chunk/Chunking: A portion of content or the portioning of content. Chunking is a technique used to help learners more easily digest new information by focusing on one concept at a time. It can be especially important in online learning, as it makes it easy to organize information in a logical and progressive way.

The Cloud: A physical infrastructure located remotely that allows users to store and access files from anywhere via the Internet.

Content/Content Item: Information being transmitted to students, either as text, audio, video, animation, simulation, webpages or other format. Content is combined with practice and assessment to form the framework of an online course.

Dashboard: A user interface that organizes and present information in a way that is easy to read and use. It is interactive and allows users to do things like send emails, post, check a calendar and other tasks in one central place. An example of a dashboard is the insideCOD student portal.

Digital Badges: A virtual representation of accomplishment, skill, or experience that can be earned in a wide range of learning environments. Badges can be earned by attending classes, passing exams, or completing other activities.

Discussion Board: A forum on the Internet or within a learning management system where users can post messages for others to read. Most online courses require asynchronous participation in a discussion board, often several times a week.

Download: To transfer data or programs to a local device, like a computer, tablet or smartphone, from a remote system like a web, email or FTP server.

e-Book: A book in digital form that can be read on a computer or other electronic handheld device. While many e-books are digital versions of printed materials, some e-books exist only in the digital format.

ePortfolio: A collection of digital information that acts as a learning record and provides evidence of achievement.

Flipped Classroom: A type of hybrid learning that asks students to work through content (lectures, readings, videos, etc.) online on their own time and face-to-face time is used to discuss problems, show examples, do homework and answer student questions.

Gamification: The application of game elements and game design techniques to non-game problems. Gamification is not uncommon in education, where it is used to help students become more engaged in learning.

Hybrid Learning:  When a class takes place at least in part in an instructor facilitated location (could be a classroom, lab, or clinical situation) and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace. Sometimes called Blended Learning.

Learning Management System (LMS):  The technology platform through which students access their online courses. Blackboard is the LMS used by the College. This is where instructors edit course content and assessment and students can access these features and communicate with instructors and classmates.

Learning Object: A reusable digital resource or collection of resources that focuses on a lesson objective or concept. These objects are often modular and can be combined and used in many different ways as a course requires.

Massive Online Open Course (MOOC):  A type of online course aimed at attracting a high number of participants. These courses are usually free, and therefore open, but often charge for certificates of completion. Students will not earn college credit for completing a MOOC.

M-Learning: Learning that takes place via a mobile device. This term is generally applied to learning via smartphones and cell phones but it can also be extended to include tablets or laptop computers.

Module: A self-contained instructional unit that focuses on a specific topic, generally including both content and demonstration of mastery, that is combined with other modules to constitute a course or training program. A unit in your textbook, including readings, activities, and quizzes, can be considered a module.

Netiquette: Rules of conduct for online students and Internet users.

Online Learning:  Education in which instruction and content are delivered over the Internet. Online learning does not generally require students to come to campus or engage with instructors face-to-face; all learning is done via the Web.

Podcast: A digital file that can include audio, video, images, or digital radio and is downloaded through the web or streamed online to a computer or mobile device.

Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM): A set of technical standards for e-learning software, especially learning management systems, which requires accessibility, interoperability, durability and reusability. This makes it possible to use content developed within one SCORM-conformant system within another SCORM-conformant system (between two different learning management systems, for example).

Synchronous Learning: Learning that occurs when all participants are interacting at the same time and communicating directly with each other. All face-to-face courses are synchronous but this kind of learning can occur online as well through chats and web conferencing.

Upload: A transfer of data from a local device, like a computer, tablet or smartphone, to a remote server, like a web, email or FTP server, via the Internet. Putting photos stored on your computer into a web album on a site like Flickr or Facebook would be an example of an upload.

User Interface (UI): Where the interaction between the human user and the device occurs. The goal of user interface design is to make it easy to operate and control the device and for the device to provide feedback that makes it easier for the user to make decisions. An example of a UI is your computer or smartphone’s operating system.

Webinar:  A web-based seminar wherein a presenter and audience members communicate video text or audio while concepts are illustrated through slides or an online whiteboard. Most webinars are live, or synchronous, but are archived for asynchronous and on-demand access.

Wiki: A collection of webpages designed to allow a community of users to contribute collaboratively by adding or modifying content. Wikis are sometimes used in online education to help students work together on a project, edit each other’s work or to facilitate discussions.

Web Browser: Software that allows users to retrieve, display and search for encoded documents on the Internet, including websites, images, videos and other files. There are several web browsers available for download, but online students at COD will be best served by using Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome to access their online materials.

Web-Enhanced Course: A face-to-face course that uses a learning management system to make some or all course components (content, quizzes, assignments, etc.) available to students at any time.  Most courses at COD are considered web-enhanced because they use Blackboard.

Are there any other educational technology terms that are giving you trouble? Let us know and we’ll add them to the list.