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Student with laptop

Active learning. A learner-centered approach to learning where the learner actively participates in the learning process through interaction with the environment.

Asynchronous discussion. Communication that permits a time separation between the transmission and reception of information. As an example, one person can make a message available to another person without knowing when the message will actually be read.

Audio conferencing. An electronic conferencing tool in which participants chat using synchronous voice communications, e.g., Internet, phone.

Authentic assessment. Resembles a “real life” task as closely as possible and often refers to testing under natural, actual conditions rather than a clinical or artificial environment.

Blended courses or programs. Distance education or residential courses (or programs) that include both face-to-face and online components. Also call hybrid by some educators.

Blog. Short for ‘Web log”; an electronic communication tool that consists of a public HTML page representing an individual’s journal or thoughts on a topic and often provides space for comments by readers. A blog can be read by anyone on the World Wide Web.

Chat. Online communication that occurs synchronously, that is, in real time. Usually chat conversations are conducted with types text, but some employ audio or video.

Chat room. The online area where a chat is held. Typically, it consists of a window where messages are displayed, as well as a message box where each individual can type a response.

Chunking. Breaking instructional information into 10- to 15- minute chunks for the purpose of engaging students, holding their attention, and providing variety during a program or course.

Collaboration tools. Software applications that are designed to help individuals within group collaborate on common projects. In the technology environment videoconferencing, webconferencing, and wikis fall into this category.

Collaborative learning. A learning strategy that involves less-structured and less-prescriptive variety of interactive group work to support the learning of all group members.

Computer-mediated communication. The synchronous or asynchronous interactions between individuals using computer-based, networked telecommunications systems, e.g., e-mail.

Discussion board. An electronic conferencing tool that permits asynchronous threaded discussions. Either text-based or voice-based boards are possible, although the vast majority of boards are text based. A discussion board can be open to all students enrolled in a course, or multiple group boards can be created. Learning management systems typically include this tool.

Discussion forum. A subelement of a discussion board. Each discussion board consists of one or more forums where threaded discussions take place. For example, an instructor might create weekly discussion forums throughout the academic term in order to manage discussion.

Facilitator. The individual, usually the instructor who administers the discussion board or chat room, identifies discussion topics, supervises the moderator, and helps a group interact. Often, the facilitator is also the moderator.

Flaming. A verbal attack on an individual using hostile and insulting language, usually posted on a computer-mediated discussion board.

Flip cam. A small pocket-size video camera produced by the Flip company. These video cameras usually cost less than $200 and can film in high definition. They are designed to easily upload a video onto YouTube.;

Groupware. A broad category of both computer software and group process that permits group members to collaborate with each other. It includes electronic communication tools, e.g., instant messaging systems; electronic conferencing tools, e.g., discussion boards; and collaborative management tools, e.g. document sharing. An example of a groupware product is Group Table.

Instant Messaging (IM). A synchronous text-based electronic communication tool that is made private by limiting participants and providing alerts when participants are present and available for communication. Some tools, such as Pronto, allow both text-based and audio chat.

Instructor immediacy. A set of instructor behaviors to enhance teaching presence and reduce the social distance between instructor and students by verbal and nonverbal actions such as eye contact, smiles, and nods.

Interaction. Two-way communication between objects, such as individuals and groups, as well as an exchange between an individual and technology.

ISDN. Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) is a digital copper wire telephone system that transmits voice and data, resulting in high quality and high speeds over regular phone lines. In videoconferencing, ISDN is used to provide voice, video, and text between individual and group videoconferencing systems.

iTunes U. A method of getting recorded audio and video content, e.g., presentations, performances, lectures, demonstrations, debates, tours, and archival footage, to students. Colleges and universities create their own iTunes U sites, faculty post content they create, and students download what they need for playback on their computer or MP3 player, e.g., iPod.

iPodÒ. An electronic pod created by AppleÒ that enables podcasting (a web feed of audio and video files placed on the Internet) for anyone with an iPodÒ to subscribe to. The subscription feeds will automatically deliver new content to the iPodÒ when connected to the computer.

Learning Management System (LMS). A collaborative management tool designed to organize all aspects of course delivery that include one-way dissemination of information, two-way discussion, and tracking of student progress. Modules are usually available for additional communication tools, such as instant messaging and live voice chat. There are vendor-supplied systems such as Blackboard and eCollege. Open source systems include Sakai and Moodle.

Learning outcome. A type of outcome that is described in terms of student attainment across cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains of learning.

Mobile Devices. Handheld computers and cell phones that are small enough to hold in your hand. They are used for storing information, accessing the Internet, surfing the web, and multiple forms of communication.

Moderator. The individual who leads/regulates the discussion in a discussion bard or chat room, opens/closes threads, summarizes the discussion, and offers closing thoughts. The moderator can be the instructor/facilitator, an assistant instructor, or a student designated by the facilitator.

MP3 Player. MP3 is the name of a type of file. The player is a portable device that stores digital music and organizes and plays these files. An MP3 player can often use other files, e.g., Windows Media Audio. New cell phone models now include an MP3 device such as the iPhone.

Multimedia. A combination of two or more different communication media, such as text, graphics, audio, animation, and video.

Multiuser domain (MUD) or a MUD that is object oriented (MOO).  A synchronous electronic conferencing tool that allows participants to share a virtual world consisting of spaces and rooms that contain objects. Individuals can interact with each other and with objects and can communicate with each other using synchronous chat.

Open learning. An approach to learning that gives student flexibility over what, when, where, at what pace, and how well they learn.

Podcasting. An electronic communication tool similar to RSS except that the feeds are digital media files and are available for playback on computers and MP3 players such as iPodsÒ. Individuals can subscribe to feeds by submitting the feed address to an aggregator, e.g., iTunes, and when new files become available, they are automatically downloaded to the user’s computer.

Presence. The sense of being close to others, e.g., teaching presence or social presence, in a physical or virtual environment, or closely attending to cognition, i.e., cognitive presence.

Protocol. Ground rules developed by the instructor to ensure that the program or course runs smoothly. These rules include etiquette – thinking of others and treating everyone with respect.

Rich Site Summary (RSS). An electronic communication tool that provides syndicated documents containing information registered with a publisher and made available for inclusion on any number of subscribing web sites in order to update frequently changing content, e.g., podcasts and running news feed.

Satellite Videoconferencing. One way video and audio delivered via satellite to multiple remote sites; telephone, fax, and/or key pad supply the means for interaction.

Streaming media. Audio or video files that are sent in a continuous stream from a source computer (usually via a web site) to a receiving computer. Using a “player” software program, the recipient can hear or view the content in real time.

Synchronous discussion or real-time conferencing. Communication that permits real-time interaction, either text-based or audio.

Videoconferencing. Videoconference is a two-way interactive and falls into several categories: (1) full motion video and audio delivered by microwave or fiber optic network; (2) compressed video in which the bandwidth of the images and sound are compressed through a coding/decoding process process, delivered over special phone lines and decompressed at the receive sites; and (3) compressed Internet Protocol (IP) video and audio, delivered over the Internet. All types of videoconferencing can interface with a wide variety of technologies and media.

Virtual whiteboard. A computer simulation of a dry-erase or dry-wipe board that is used as an electronic conferencing tool. It is most often used in conjunction with other conferencing tools and applications, e.g., virtual meetings, chat, and instant messaging.

Virtual world. A computer-based conferencing tool that simulates a real environment in which  individuals, depicted by avatars, can interact with each other using text or voice. Virtual worlds are mostly used for multiuser computer gaming or socializing, e.g., The Sims Online or Second Life.

Web cam. A camera that uses the World Wide Web to share pictures or video. It is usually small and is mounted or built into laptop computers.

Webcasting. Webcasting is a fully integrated system that allows for the capture and recording of audio, video, and data, such as Power PointÒ slides, in one streamed media presentation. It automatically syncs a speaker’s video with the delivery of her or his support data, e.g., graphics, slides, videotapes, DVD’s, into one single, seamless presentation. Webcasting can be presented live or archived for future use.

Webconferencing. Webconferencing is a synchronous, interactive communication between two or more computers via the Web. It may include the transmission of text, graphics, files, voice, and motion video. Voice transmission may be archived through a telephone bridge or via the webconferencing product. As connection speeds increase and standards improve, more companies are integrating voice and video capabilities into their products. Many also provide the capability to record meetings and play them back at a later time.

Wiki. Wiki is pronounced “wee-kee” and is named after the Hawaiian term “wiki wiki” meaning “quick.” Wikis are group-centered, project oriented web spaces and are usually password protected. They make publishing, sharing, and editing content very easy. Vendors provide the web location and instructions for creations of wikis.

Many terms were taken from Distance Learning in Higher Education: A Programmatic Approach to Planning, Design, Instruction, Evaluation, and Accreditation by Alfred P. Rovai, Michael K. Ponton, and Jason D. Baker. 2009, Teachers College Press.

Quote by Evangelical Seminary Dean

“If Meri MacLeod speaks on distance learning, listen. Her mastery of the topic is matched by her enthusiasm. When we were contemplating online education, Meri was the first person I contacted and brought to campus. And now we’re moving ahead. I heartily recommend Meri to any school wishing to move into digital education.”

John V. Tornfelt, VPAA, Dean of the Faculty
Evangelical Seminary
Myerstown, PA

North Park Theological Seminary

“Dr. MacLeod is first an informed and able educator and designer of learning experiences. This is significant. It means that she comes from the perspective that technology supports, it doesn’t drive education.”

Thumbnail-Theo Ed Matters (1)

Linda Cannell
Academic Dean (retired)
North Park Theological Seminary