Definitions for Commonly Used Terms in Online Ed

Here are explanations of words used in this year's online education guide


Asynchronous: Learning in which interaction between instructors and students occurs intermittently with a time delay. Examples are self-paced courses taken via the Internet or CD-ROM, Q&A mentoring, online discussion groups, and E-mail.

CBT (computer-based training): An umbrella term for the use of computers in both instruction and management of the teaching and learning process. CAI (computer-assisted instruction) and CMI (computer-managed instruction) are included under the heading of CBT. Some people use the terms CBT and CAI interchangeably.

Distance Education: Credit-granting education or training courses delivered to remote (off-campus) location(s) via audio, video, or computer technologies, such as the Internet. Includes both synchronous and asynchronous instruction. May include a small amount of on-campus course or lab work, on-campus exams, or occasional campus visits. Courses conducted exclusively on campus are not included in this definition. Courses conducted exclusively via written correspondence are also not included. Distance education does not include courses for which the instructor travels to a remote site to deliver instruction in person.

E-learning (electronic learning): Term covering a wide set of applications and processes, such as Web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration. It includes the delivery of content via Internet, intranet/extranet (LAN/WAN), audio- and videotape, satellite broadcast, interactive TV, CD-ROM, and more.

Online Education: Credit-granting courses or education training delivered primarily via the Internet to students at remote locations, including their homes. Online courses may be delivered synchronously or asynchronously. An online course may include a requirement that students and teachers meet once or periodically in a physical setting for lectures, labs, or exams, so long as the time spent in the physical setting does not exceed 25 percent of the total course time.

Residency Requirement: Amount of time required on campus for a specific distance education course or program.

Synchronous: A real-time, instructor-led online learning event in which all participants are logged on at the same time and communicate directly with each other. In this virtual classroom setting, the instructor maintains control of the class, with the ability to "call on" participants. In most platforms, students and teachers can use a whiteboard to see work in progress and share knowledge. Interaction may also occur via audio- or videoconferencing, Internet telephony, or two-way live broadcasts.

For more information, you may visit the American Society for Training and Development's expanded E-learning glossary.