Distance Education Terminology – Part 1


Learning the distance education terminology will help students become more comfortable in the environment (photo courtesy of Jim Davies on flickr).

As more and more community colleges and universities enter the world of online education, some have started taking precautionary steps to ensure students are still as successful in the distance learning environment. With the transition from brick-and-mortar to virtual classroom comes a whole new set of words perhaps not used in a typical high school setting. In order to properly prepare for a successful academic career, you need to familiarize yourself with the vocabulary. Enjoy!

Academic Advisor: An assigned administrative professional available to assist you academically throughout your enrollment. Typical meetings could cover topics related to your degree program requirements, GPA, credits earned/credits remaining, registration, and post-graduation plans.

Accreditation: An endorsement given to educational institutions or academic degree programs by an organization that reviews qualifications. Only schools accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the US Department of Education can offer federal financial aid.

Assignment Dropbox: Area in the course platform that allows students to upload and submit their assignments through the online classroom.

Associate’s Degree: A two-year degree (typically requires the completion of 60 to 96 credits)

Asynchronous: Intermittent interaction with instructors, but a required time to be logged into the virtual classroom is not required.

Audit: To attend a class without receiving credit for the course.

Bachelor’s Degree: A four-year degree (typically requires the completion of 120 to 192 credits)

Bookmarks/Favorites: A website URL that is saved for quick reference/retrieval at a later date. Typically, the      bookmark function is located at the top of the browser screen.

Course Number/Course Code: Numbers assigned to specific classes. For example, Composition I is ENC1101.

Course Platform: The software used by the school and faculty to manage an online class. Students can access the course via the software and view presentations, communicate with classmates and the instructor, complete quizzes, and submit assignments. Basically, it is the classroom.

Credit Hour: Credit given for attending one lecture hour of class each week for 15 weeks (or equivalent depending on the calendar system used by the school).

Degree Plan: A specific list of courses and/or requirements that need to be completed in order to each a degree. Usually, this document/outline is used when meeting with an Academic Advisor to discuss class registration and/or program requirements.

Doctoral Degree: The highest level of education one can achieve in a field of study.

E-learning: Incorporates other aspects of distance education without the use of the internet. Some examples could include CD-ROM, interactive television, audio-video recordings, or satellite broadcasts.

Fees: Required costs related to courses in order to attend a college (parking, athletic fees, graduation fees, etc.)

Flat-Rate Tuition: A single rate charged for tuition regardless of the number of credits taken.

Full Time: Twelve of more credits per semester for undergraduate studies. For graduate students it is usually 9 credits or higher.

GPA: Grade Point Average; the average of a student’s class grades based on a 4.00 scale.

Grants: Financial assistance that does not require repayment. Grants may be available through the federal government, like the Pell Grant, or through private, donor-funded organizations.

Ashley Benson is a distance education professional with five years of experience in the for-profit sector. She has worked coast-to-coast within the United States as an academic advisor, an adjunct teaching assistant and, most recently, a campus Registrar. Through formal education and industry experience, Ashley practices staying informed on the current events and changes within higher education and the students involved.

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