A ground squirrel on some rocks, with snowy mountains in the background.

CTL Glossary

A selection of words and phrases commonly used in online education.  

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z



The inclusive practice of designing content to be usable for people with disabilities.

At UAF, you can contact the Office of  Disabilitiy Services if you have specific questions about what this means for your classroom.


In education, the practice of modifying the classroom environment, equipment, or curriculum to make it accessible for those with disabilities.

According to the US Department of Education in a 2012 publication, “Section 504 and Title II require schools and colleges to ensure that the technology they use is fully accessible to individuals with disabilities or to otherwise provide equal access to the educational benefits and opportunities afforded by the technology.”


An acronym denoting an Instructional design system process whose steps are Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.

Though UAF Designers do not explicitly cover this topic, the process is embedded into our pedagogy implicitly.

Address Bar

This is the field (text box) found near the top of every web browser which displays the address–location–of the page being viewed. In most browsers, it’s also a search field.

Google URL search screenshot dropdown of visited and suggested sites

Image of an address bar in a browser.


An aggregator is a tool or software program that collects and links to newly created content from information that you have subscribed to. For education, we typically use aggregation services to bring together various sources of current news, blog, video, or social network content around a particular subject.

Popular Aggregators:

Google News


As opposed to pedagogy, the study of helping adults (rather than children) learn. Coined by Malcolm Knowles.

The term pedagogy is used most often; though technically incorrect, it’s used as a catch-all term meaning the art and science of helping anyone learn.

–  Malcolm Knowles’ Theory of Androgogy
–  Pedagogy vs. Andragogy: A False Dichotomy? (Holmes and Cooper)


Application Program Interfaces are protocols and coding systems for building software, additions to software functionality, and applications.


This is short for application. It is software which a user, you, may download/obtain. Generally an app is designed to do one thing or a series of things which are closely connected. A camera app may allow you to shoot photos with your phone’s camera, but it may also allow you to do small edits to those same photos. Previously, apps were known only as “software.”

Learnfree.org’s simple intro: “What is an Application


Assessments are activities  you assign  to students that serve as evidence to you that they are achieving the outcomes you have outlined for your course.

Assessments might come in the form  of  projects, quizzes, or exams, but they can take many other forms as well. Students in a communications class will be assessed on presentations they give to the class. Students in a science class may complete labs as a type of assessment. Similarly, students in a creative writing class may assessed on short stories they write. Assessments in your class may look very different than these examples, and this is to be expected. Evidence of learning can take many forms. The assessments you create for your class are opportunities for your students to demonstrate their mastery of concepts in your course.

Audio Conferencing

Voice only interaction using standard telephone lines for groups of three or more calling in from different locations. Audio conference services features may include recording and playback and moderator option to mute all lines except for the leader. There is usually a per minute user rate for scheduling a call. Audio Conference is different from VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) in that it does not required internet access.

Asynchronous (and Synchronous)

Asynchronous, in the context of education, describes a state of interaction in which students participate at times that are convenient for them, and that are not coordinated with the entire  cohort. Interaction  independent of a set meeting time.

Asynchronous (and Synchronous)  usually refers to the delivery mode of a class, or of a particular activity. For instance, an asynchronous class might have all of the class material staged in Blackboard with due dates specified for assignments, but students are not required to meet together at a particular time or place to access materials, activities, or assessments.

Conversely, a synchronous class might have the course materials staged in Blackboard, but also require that students join a scheduled class session each Wednesday evening at 7pm for an hour.

A Comparison of Higher Order Thinking Skills Demonstrated in Synchronous and Asynchronous Online College Discussion Posts” (Brierton et al)

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality is a method for experiencing a real-world physical environment where additional sensory information is layered therein and is viewable through digital methods.  Most commonly, a smart-phone user will hold up their phone in a particular location and an augmented reality app will open the camera, display the camera view and then overlay information or graphics on top of the camera view. Poekmon Go is a recent example.



This is an alternate form of communication, often meant to allow an audience to communicate with a lecturer or presenter. An example might be a conference session that has a Twitter #channel dedicated to audience feedback; the presenter can scan the channel and respond.

Investing the effects of a backchannel on university classroom interactions: A mixed-method case study

Backwards Design

Backwards design is an outcomes first approach to course design. Outcomes for students are determined at the onset of course development.

An example of backward design methods for education can be seen in the Understanding By Design process outlined by  Grant P. Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their book Understanding By Design.


Badges are digital certificates with a graphic element that convey accomplishment or mastery. They can:

  • show what was achieved.
  • communicate the criteria necessary for obtaining the badge.
  • credentialed by an institution or entity.
  • point to evidence or to a learning artifact.
  • consist of quality graphics that convey meaning within the social circle that the badge is being shared.
  • be collected by the badge earner who has options of how to display the badge in the digital realm.
  • be widely distributed as part of workshops, online classes or special events.

Big Ideas

Big ideas are concepts, debates, or theories that are at the core of a  discipline and that you, as a teacher, can choose to put at the core of your course.


A learning management system designed to contain all the electronic materials a student needs for a specific course. Materials that are not directly saved within a Blackboard shell may be linked to or embedded.

Blackboard logo

Blended Learning

A combination of online and face-to-face (F2F) learning where instruction and interactions may occur in both F2F and online environments. Blended Learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education.

Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education


A learning management system designed to contain all the electronic materials a student needs for a specific course. Materials that are not directly saved within a Blackboard shell may be linked to or embedded.


Software that allows one access to information provided through a system or network, such as the Internet.

Popular Browsers:



(Bring Your Own Device) Instructors may not be able to provide mobile devices or computers for everyone in class so BYOD is a strategy that many instructors have adopted to take advantage of interactivity in class. Bring your own device (BYOD) in Higher Education: Opportunities and challenges.



A temporary storage for data meant to speed up access to information. A browser will often save a cache of a web page on a user’s device for quick viewing; the trade off is that pages that have dynamic content need to be refreshed in order to view the most recent version.


An open Learning Management System similar to Blackboard only more accessible and features a more modern updated look and feel. Canvas is not supported by UAF technical support services. For more information, go to: canvas.instructure.com.


A category is a sub-unit of some larger collection of information. Most commonly, web sites and blogs will organize articles based on category, this also aids viewers who are trying to comprehend and retrieve information.

Cloud Service (Cloud Based Apps)

An application that functions from the cloud (its servers are based elsewhere on the Internet), and can behave like a web app, or like a local app or both. Google Drive and Dropbox are examples of cloud-based file storage apps.


Content Management System. WordPress is an example of a CMS that we use at UAF for websites and blogs located at https://community.uaf.edu. It allows for a collaborative space where each user can be given specific permissions for access and participation.

Cognitive Load Theory

A theory proposed by John Sweller hypothesizing the preferred order and best modes of delivering information and practicing skills based on human cognitive architecture. This theory is especially useful when trying to deliver domain knowledge from multiple sources using multiple modes of delivery asynchronously.


In the online world, “collaborative” generally refers to collaborative tools that enable users to work together on a project while physically separated from one another. Google docs is a common online collaborative tool.


General use of this term within online education implies a sense of belonging to a cohort or even a single course. Students who feel connected to a course community are less likely to drop out.

Community can also refer to a number of things if used by a UAF Instructional Designer:

  1. The WordPress installation administered by UAF CTL has a domain extension of community.uaf.edu, sometimes simply referred to as “community.”
  2. Blackboard uses the word “community” in a number of ways, but typically it refers to the various units represented within Blackboard (for instance, CTL has a “community” tab that simply tells you more about our unit).
  3. Google+ Communities are subsets of Google+ profiles where some courses may house discussion areas, spaces for sharing links to resources, or current events.

Community of Practice (COP)

A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who share a craft and/or a profession. The concept was first proposed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in their 1991 book Situated Learning.

Computer Based Training

(CBT) Any type of instruction that is delivered solely on a computer. In most cases, CBT is self-directed without instruction from a teacher and can be completed at the student’s own pace. At UAF, Skills Soft and Atomic Learning would be considered CBT.


A learning theory promoted by Stephen Downes and George Siemens. Called a learning theory for a digital age, it includes the concept that knowing where and how to access information is as important as the information itself.


Course instructional materials. May include test, videos, audios, activities that are created by the subject matter expert. Used to enhance (or replace) textbooks.


Cookies are very small text files that a website sends to a browser. It contains information about the pages that were visited on the site, and any personal information provided, for example a name or email address. Cookies are used to customize additional visits to the website, for example a shopping cart that has saved items, or a regional setting for a news site.


An acronym that stands for the “Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule.” In short, it is a Federal regulation that “imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age.”

COPPA is not often an issue in Higher Ed. See FERPA for privacy regulations that pertain to adult learners. “


Prepackaged educational material that can be shared or repurposed by educators. Often open sourced or free to use.

Copyright refers to the protection given to a content creator at the moment of creation. As a content creator, you hold all rights to work you create, the moment you create it. In the US, the duration of time your work is protected is determined by US Copyright law.

In the context of education, copyright is something that applies to both content you create for your classes, as well as content you use from external sources in your classes. As an educator, you are covered by Fair Use for content created by others that you choose to use in your classroom.

Alternatives to copyright, such as Creative Commons licensing, exist for copyright holders interested in expressly allowing others to use their work. Alternative licenses let others interested in using your work know the conditions in which you give them permission to use your work.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a form of content licensing that enables a content creator to clearly communicate the terms under which  he wants to allow  others to use his content.  You can apply Creative Commons licenses to your own work if you wish to allow others to reuse your work under clearly defined  terms other  than default copyright law.

Creative Commons licences  include conditions such as:

  • Attribution
  • ShareAlike
  • NonCommercial
  • NoDerivatives

The licences you can link  from  the Creative Commons website to your work are written in language that is easy to understand (as opposed to legalese).


A strategy use to achieve a specific goal by taking advantage of voluntary contributions from individuals. Crowdsourcing can be in the service of fundraising, information gathering, or problem solving.


Cascading Style Sheet, primarily used for styling web sites. More information and standards are available here: https://www.w3.org/Style/CSS/


Domain Knowledge

A body of knowledge associated with a particular discipline or area of study. It is the “stuff” we teach. Domain knowledge can also be knowledge not tied to a particular domain, such as:

  • knowledge of information resources such as publications, databases, search tools, web resources, etc.
  • understanding of the community of learners, enthusiasts and professionals in that area
  • tools needed to browse, explore and discover needed information
  • methods for storing, managing, retrieving and sharing


The main user interface page that helps you organize and manage functions. The dashboard in a content management system like WordPress, allows you to create and manage pages, create and manage posts, manage comments, upload images and manage the physical look of your site.

Data Mining

Asking questions of data sets to draw conclusions; looking into large collections of data to see what new information comes to light.


When a software company slates a feature for removal, it is often referred to as “deprecated” and users may see a warning that it is to disappear. Developers do not fully remove features right away so that other developers, whose code may depend on the feature, have time to change their own software before the feature is fully removed.


Can refer to a type of computer, (i.e. not a laptop) or a location within one’s computer file system visible from the home screen or working screen of one’s computer.

Discussion Board

In e-learning,  discussion boards refer to an online, asynchronous, method of communication through ‘discussions’ that may involve an initial thread or post and a reply or comment from another person through the use of an easy to use form-based interface. The discussion usually appears threaded so that the replies are connected logically with the original post. Online discussion boards can help to form a sense of community, conversation, and interaction similar to the face-to-face classroom discussion.

Distance Course

Without requirement to meet in a specific location. The course could be delivered in a variety of delivery modes. It can also have set meeting times (to meet by audio, video conference or web conference at a set day and time) or could have weekly deadlines but no synchronous meeting time or a combination of both.

Distance Program

A degree program that may be completed without the requirement to attend classes at a specific location. (Caveat: some programs may require a short on-site intensive or a practicum. Students should be advised of this requirement prior to admission.)



In 2011, UA began using this as an umbrella term for all forms of distance courses and programs.


A traditional book produced in an electronic form to be read on a computer or mobile device.


The act of placing a document or multimedia resource created  on one platform, into another platform. Embedding is often used in the context of web publishing when a person or organization maintains a website (or course shell) as a space to centrally organize information, and would like to bring in content from another website or online tool. That particular piece of embedded media lives on the site it was originally authored on, but is also displayed on the site in which it is embedded.

Many multimedia  publishing platforms from text, audio, video, maps, timelines and more make embedding easy by supplying embed code that you are able to copy and paste onto your own website or course shell. Examples of this you have likely already encountered on the web are Youtube videos you see on this website, or on other blogs.


A term used to describe a student’s level of interest and interaction with regard to the time they spend on  a course or on a particular activity. Engagement might be considered a subjective way to describe a student’s experience in a course, because it is a term that is often used to encapsulate states of mind that are challenging to measure directly. In addition to interest and interaction in a course, engagement is used to refer to  a level of curiosity and or motivation a student may have while taking that course.


A popular electronic publication standard for use with most ebook readers. Files with the .epub extension can be read by ebook readers and ebook software programs.

Essential Questions

This is a term and foundational concept from Understanding by Design (Wiggins, G., Wiggins G. P. and McTighe, J., 2005.). Questions that are intentionally thought-provoking, with no easy answer. These questions are designed to unpack concepts encountered within the overarching Big Ideas. Essential questions help shape students’ inquiry into these concepts and should capture their imagination or provoke deeper thinking.

Experiential Learning

Learning by doing is closely tied to ‘service learning.’ In both cases, a student may be assigned tasks which require that they go out into the environment where the subject matter is practiced and ‘do’ something.

For example, some  learning activities in Atmospheric Sciences 101 involve students collecting data from their local environment in their efforts to understand weather and climate of Alaska.



(Face-to-Face) A course is F2F if the teacher and students are in the same physical space at the same time. At UAF, courses designated as F2F are coded in banner as “Traditional Courses Only – 51% or more location-based delivery.


As a pedagogical tool, failure is underrated. Used correctly, especially in a low-stakes, highly repeatable environment, failure can be highly instructive and can allow students to correct misunderstandings and achieve mastery. In curriculum building, it’s important to distinguish between failure that has educational value and failure that is the result of a lack of attempt.

Fair Use

Fair use allows for the use of copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright owner based on a set of guidelines. The guidelines look at four characteristics: 1) The purpose and character of the use (educational/non-profit vs. for-profit and transformative vs. replicating) 2) The nature of the work being used (factual vs. creative work) 3) The amount and substance of the work being used (substance refers to how central/defining the selected material is to the original) 4) the effect of the use on real or potential market value. Fair use does not set strict limits; rather, it suggests ways of defining fairness along a spectrum.


In the context of digital content, a feed is a collection of published articles, usually made available in reverse-chronological order so that the newest information is always displayed first.

Feed Reader

A piece of software that manages feeds comprised of new content from websites, to which you have subscribed. The reader pulls the new content from websites you want to follow. The latest content comes to one location, your feed reader. This saves you the time you would spend navigating to each individual website.

Possible Feedreaders:



The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal privacy law that gives parents certain protections with regard to their children’s education records, such as report cards, transcripts, disciplinary records, contact and family information, and class schedules.


Feedback on the surface is obvious: it’s simply the process of providing evaluation, advice, or correction to students. Its efficacy however, is deeply complicated; much has been written about the mechanisms by which feedback is delivered, the correlation between the speed of feedback and its value to the student, and exactly how much feedback is meaningful to students.

Flex Learning

The practice of stacking a traditional course with an online course so that students may choose to attend either in the classroom or via web conference.

Flipped Classroom

A Flipped class is a combination of pre-class time (reading, viewing lectures created with video, audio or other media, exploration, etc.) by students in preparation for in-class time (discussion, group work, activities, etc.) to make the most of the physical F2F classtime.

Formative Assessment

Formative assessments, as opposed to summative assessments, are activities that produce both a learning outcome for the learner as well as an artifact for assessment. Some examples are things like drafts of papers, lab experiments, problem sets, and other similar kinds of assignments.


Software which may be obtained free of cost. Freeware is not always supported by developers and steps should be taken to ensure it is free from malware.

Frontend (/Backend)

With regard to websites or applications, the front end is the public-facing side that regular people see. The back end is the administrative side of the site that is available after someone has logged in.


Game Mechanics

A game mechanic is a method used to trigger long and short term behaviors in the player or participant. Games and courses use game mechanics in different ways for assessment, motivation and instructional purposes.

Defining Game Mechanics


The application of game-like elements to non-game contexts. In education, this includes such aspects as levels, points, leader boards, and play-based activities.

GB (Gigabyte)

A measure of digital storage size. 1 GB is over a million bytes. Most full-length films may contain one or more GB while a short text file might be 3000 bytes.


A way to identify the location of a physical object by associating it with its location on the planet. Often times the geographic coordinate system is used (latitude and longitude).

Mobile Geotagging: Reexamining Our Interactions with Urban Space


(Graphics Interchange Format) is a file format for images that are compressed (supports only 256 colors) and used most often for web graphics. GIF files are great for small graphical icons and animated images that do not require the full color range of photos. See  also JEPG.

Google Apps for Education

Google Apps for Education (also known as G-Suite) for education is a specialized set of web-based tools that are specific to a school or group of schools. GAFE is free and schools make a request then a “”domain”” is set up for the school that is run by one or more administrators. Students and faculty can then collaborate in documents, share calendars, and many other features.

Within the University of Alaska system, all students, staff, and faculty are on the same domain and individuals each have an identity with the “”@alaska.edu”” identifier.


A way of describing the amount of detail in a set of data, other object, or activity.


Acronyms that stand for, respectively, Graphical User Interface, User Interface, and User Interface Design.

WIMP or GUI Interface



Adding the “hash” “#” symbol before a description word or sequence of words, social media software like Twitter uses the tag to categorize and provide metadata to topics that users initiate. Adding #iTeach to your twitter post will assure that all of those people who are following that hashtag will see your post. Other UAF hashtags include: #nanooknation, #CFOS, #UAF, #uafCTL and more.


In a computing environment, a host is a machine that is providing a service on a network, such as name resolution (DNS Domain Name Services), or web hosting.

Differences between host and node in a network


Stand for HyperText Markup Language, and is the coding language that codes the text for web pages/sites.


Stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. It is the method with which information is transferred on the World Wide Web. When this communication method is used in a secure manner to ensure privacy and assure the veracity of the source, it is called HTTPS; the “s” is for secure.

Hybrid Course

Hybrid can mean many things, but generally it’s used to describe a course that has some mixture of synchronous and asynchronous modes of delivery.

At UAF, hybrid courses can have a very specific definition that determines how your course is listed in Banner. .


Electronic documents linked to other documents by clickable text. The idea of linked documents is the underlying premise of the internet. Linked media that is not text-based is referred to as hypermedia.

Hybrid Program

More than 50% of courses required for the degree are available without coming to a specific location. May be reported to federal and accrediting agencies as “distance programs.”



A visual symbol used to represent a more complex idea or action.


In the digital world, any information that is attached to a particular user, usually related to an email address.

Immersive Role Play

The practice of instructors asking students to take on the role of a character for enhancing student learning. Roles might include professionals from the field of study or practice, as well as fictional or real characters to support the attainment of deeper learning outcomes associated with empathy and critical thinking.

Individual Experience

Courses that are coded as distance but completed in an independent manner under the supervision of a faculty member. Examples include thesis credits, directed study, individual study, and internships.

Informal Learning

Self-directed learning happens outside or in addition to the formal structure of the traditional classroom.

Informal and Incidental Learning

Information Architecture

A professional discipline and system of deliberately organizing information so as to make it easy to navigate and comprehend.

Instructional Design

The art and science by which teaching and learning are improved through analysis of learning needs and the systematic design of learning experiences.


An Instructor-led course is a traditional class where the instructor accompanies with the student through the course. The opposite of instructor-led would be a stand-alone course where assessments are auto-corrected and there is no instructor feedback or one that uses paper graders and there is no instruction.


In education, integration means the affordance of instructors and students to utilize technology towards learning efforts.

Intellectual Property

Any product or invention that is the result of thinking creatively and that the originator has rights to and can thus apply for a patent, trademark or copyright designation.

Interface Literacy

This term refers to a person’s ability to understand and navigate unfamiliar digital environments by reading icons that generally have similar meanings across platforms.

Internet vs. the Web

The Internet is a digital network or structure that is made of up computers from all over the globe. The Web (aka World Wide Web) is one way to access information on the internet. The web is a combination of graphics and computer code that displays information of which you can interact. Other information that uses the internet is email, instant messaging and FTP (file transfer protocol).


A private or internal network of linked computers and servers, often used in corporate settings.

IP or IP Address

Internet Protocol. An IP Address is the unique address of any machine or device connecting to the Internet. Example:



A commonly used programming language that can be easily run on any device. Many online applications such as Blackboard Collaborate use Java.


(Joint Photographic Experts Group) The preferred file format for high-color  (and high resolution) photos and graphics for use on the web. This file format is more compressed than the preferred format for print but perfect for use on the internet.

Just In Time

Descriptor applied to activities like training, manufacturing, inventory management, etc. generally to lower waste and to improve outputs. Just-in-time teaching is a pedagogical strategy to increase learning during class time similar to the flipped classroom. Students work prior to coming to class is essential in order to make the best use of face-to-face time in the classroom.



Kaltura MediaSpace is a fully customizable media destination site. MediaSpace is an out-of-the-box video-centric site that can serve as a repository for media collections across the organization or a full-featured “Corporate YouTube.’ Kaltura is now fully integrated into the UAF Blackboarn Learn Learning Management System.


A measure of digital storage size. 1 KB is 1024 bytes. Most text files and some small, low resolution images will fall into this small file size.


(Kilobits per second) Used to measure the speed of data (bandwidth) transferred from one point to another point. Mostly commonly used to identify modem speed (33.6 Kbps or 56 Kbps) or internet speed.

Knowledge Base

A collection of details and supporting information, organized topically, that is made available as a self-service resource to help people use hardware and software.


Learning Taxonomies

Examples include:

Bloom’s Revised
Fink’s Significant Learning
Understanding by Design Six Facets of Understanding

Learning Activity

Learning activities are intentionally designed experiences created to provide an opportunity for students to learn or apply course knowledge and practices. Learning activities can be coupled with different forms of assessment, feedback, and additional study.

Learning Goal

Learning goals can be defined as the broad desired results of a course and they can articulate the larger conceptual framework of how the course may fit into a larger program.

Learning Object (Learning Artifact)

A course should provide students with the opportunity to create evidence of their understanding of the content. These artifacts are not regurgitations of content nor are they responses to questions; but are instead things like videos, slide shows, screencasts, papers, and other objects that demonstrate understanding.

Learning Objective

Learning objectives are explicit and measurable statements of what a successful student will be able do to upon unit completion. A well written objective is written from the learner’s perspective and contains the following: a statement of the activity of competence (observable behavior), how well a learner must perform (measurement criteria), and a description of the setting for the learning (conditions). For example: “Given two sets of latitude and longitude coordinates (condition), the student will be able to determine the shortest distance over the earth’s surface between the two points (behavior) within four significant figures (criteria)”.  Activities and assessment should be directly related to learning objectives.

Learning Outcome

Learning outcomes are statements that reflect the competency (skills, knowledge, and growth) that the student will have achieved after successfully completing a course or program. Outcomes should align with reflect major themes of the specific learning objectives as well as map with larger program standards, if present. For example: “After successfully completing this course, you will be able to apply contemporary concepts of sociology to draw conclusions about populations from social media data.”

Learning Theories

Theories that posit a framework for how human learning takes place.

A collection of Learning Theory definitions

A computer link or hyperlink is a reference (or path) to data that is easily accessed by clicking the highlighted text. Hyperlinks or links are inserted in emails and in articles and other online documents.


A server-mediated virtual discussion space for people that is formed around a particular topic. Messages within the discussions are communicated via email.

LMS (Learning Management System)

A learning management system (LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of electronic educational technology courses or training programs. Some of the most popular Learning Management Systems are Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, SumTotal and SkillSoft.


Long Term Evolution, a wireless data standard for mobile devices that can attain speeds of up to 300 megabits per second.


M-Learning (Mobile Learning)

Short hand for mobile-learning or learning that takes place via a mobile device such as a phone or tablet.

Though not specifically a learning style, m-learning is certainly a mode of interaction that course designers must be aware of since the size and shape of a device may impact how information is displayed or whether it is accessible at all.


A system of describing text on a page that determines how it should be displayed. Markup is most commonly used to describe common structural elements of a page, such as the main headline (H1), paragraphs, and block quotes.


In the context of media creation, a mashup is the intersection of two or more pieces of media that when combined create new meaning.


Information associated with other information the describes said information. An example is the machine-readable data that is associated with images on the internet such as size, camera make, location, and color profiles.


Descriptor applied to activities like training, manufacturing, inventory management, etc. With regards to just-in-time teaching this is a pedagogical strategy to increase learning during class.


Multimedia Messaging Service, a standard for sending audio and visual information in messages over a cellular network.


A design approach that breaks larger units or systems into smaller elements that can fit together in multiple ways.


A massive open online course (MOOC) is a (usually) free Web-based distance learning course that is designed for the participation of large numbers of geographically dispersed students. MOOCs generally provide interactive user forums that assist to build community for the students, professors and teaching assistants. The Oxford online dictionary added the term (as “Mooc”) in August 2013.


An open source online Learning Management System for delivering online courses.


(Moving Picture Experts Group) This is a compressed type of media file that contains both audio and video. An MPEG is different from MP4 in that an MP4 file format contains audio and video along with subtitles, images and other data.


The use of a variety of medium for communication, such as text, images, video, audio, animation, interactive content, and/or HTML.


Native App

Contrary to a web app, this is an application that runs natively on a certain platform or type of device. A native app uses the computer’s OS as a foundation, rather than a web app, which uses a browser. Native apps are usually faster and and more readily access hardware like cameras, microphones and file structures. Some apps, like Slack, for instance, provide both native and browser versions of its software.

Navigation refers to how users move through and are guided through a virtual space. On a website, navigation includes a menu bar that you often see across the top of every page, as well as sidebars and any other (usually clickable) path that a visitor could use to move around the site. Just as we use maps to navigate physical space, there are tools available for navigating virtual space.


Online Course

A course that is completed via the Internet, usually with well-developed course content and structured interaction. Synchronous online courses require meeting attendance (often via web conference). Asynchronous online courses do not require meeting attendance but typically require students to interact with classmates and the  instructor via the Internet.

Online Program

A degree program that may be completed via the Internet without the requirement to attend courses in a specific location. (Caveat: some programs may require a short on-site intensive or a practicum. Students should be advised of this requirement prior to admission.)

Open Course

An open course is one that is accessible to anyone on the web. Often, interaction between student and teacher in open courses is only available for those who have paid for access, though this is not always the case.

At UAF, open courses are typically housed on the “Community” WordPress server. Instructional Designers are happy to create a raw course site for you and it can be done in a matter of minutes.

Open Source

A movement and a type. Open Source software is code written for a purpose which may be freely used by others. There are Open Source textbooks, software, open education materials.


Operating System. This is the service layer that sits between the hardware of a machine and the apps which run on it. Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Chrome OS, and Android.

Options include:




(Peer-to-Peer) Responsibilities are equally distributed and shared between two or more people. Commonly used to distribute interaction between individuals in a cohort. Also refers to connecting with each other on individual computers without have to go through a central server.

Paragraph Styles

Rather than increasing font size, adding italics or otherwise changing a typeface, authors should be in the habit of instead using paragraph styles (Title, Subtitle, Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.). Identifying these elements using the formatting tools in authoring software allows an essay, blog post, or other piece of writing to be “machine readable” meaning that readers with disabilities can understand hierarchical information. Paragraph styles also allow for the auto-formatting of tables of contents and generally are considered a “best practice.”


Stands for Portable Document Format. Originally created by the Adobe Company, it is a file format that is used to format and present documents, without relying on any particular operating system, or computer hardware or software applications.


The science and practice of teaching, especially in academic contexts. The term technically refers to teaching the young, but is more often a catch-all term for any age.


A general way to refer to a hardware or software computing environment. A mobile device can be referred to as a platform, as can an operating system, or web publishing software.

Platform Agnostic

With regard to computing environments, platform agnostic is a condition that does not rely on specific hardware or software to achieve a goal.


A (computing) plug-in is a piece of software that adds new features/abilities to an existing program. On WordPress, you might add a plug-in that lets you create a simple contact form, a feature that is not built-in to WordPress.


Portable Network Graphics, a raster graphics file format that supports lossless compression.


A podcast is an audio or video broadcast, delivered via the Internet. Podcasts are often offered in a series, and can be compared to radio shows.


Post Office Protocol. An email protocol standard which allows a variety of mail reader clients to connect to mail servers and download email in a standard method and format.


Often called a web portal, this is a webpage that can be customized by users to display relevant and up to date content based on their interests.

Prescriptive Learning

Prescriptive learning, in opposition to descriptive learning, sets a specific, relatively narrow pathway for learning something; the method for learning is set for the learner. Both prescriptive and descriptive learning are appropriate methods — sometimes complementary — in different learning contexts.


QR Code

Quick Response Code, a type of machine-readable barcode, used to store digital information such as URLs. QR codes are typically read through a smart mobile device camera.

image of a QR code that when used with a QR Reader will take you to iTeachu.uaf.edu website

Point your phone camera, or use a QR Reader and your mobile device to see where this QR code takes you.

Quality Matters

A nationally recognized, faculty-centered system for evaluating and certifying quality in online course design.


Raster vs Vector

Types of graphics files. Raster images are composed of pixels whereas vector images are created using mathematical formulas to describe the visual image.


Stands for Radio-Frequency IDentification. It’s the use of radio waves to read information stored on small chips, also known as tags.


Really simple syndication (RSS) is a technology that works in conjunction with web publishing platforms. RSS creates feeds from published content on a site, usually in reverse-chronological order. RSS feeds can be subscribed to by people who want to follow the latest content from a website.


Rubrics are a method of communicating a hierarchy of performance values for a variety of competencies around an assessed activity or task. Rubrics are helpful to instructors for consistently evaluating student performance and assist students with knowing what is expected to achieve a desired score. Most commonly, rubrics are presented in a grid format that contains criteria being assessed on one side, the levels it is possible to achieve on the other side, and descriptions of each level for each criteria in the intersecting areas.



(Sharable Content Object Reference Model) A set of standards that allow learning objects to be reusable in different learning management systems. Products such as Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline 2 are examples of software that you might use to create learning object and then incorporate into Blackboard.

Screen Reader

Assistive technology which, when enabled, reads the contents of the screen.


A screencast is a movie recording one’s actions on computer, It is best used to show detailed work, often involving step-based instructions and interactions with the application’s menus, dialogs and controls. A screencast can be accompanied by the creator’s voice and face, as well as post-editing annotations that draw a viewer’s attention to specific portions of the video.


A screenshot is a snapshot or picture (image) of your computer screen, iPhone, iPad, monitor, or other visual electronic output device in use. Screenshots can be taken using various programs or by using particular keyboard / keypad short cuts.


A script is a set of instructions to be verbally spoken and acted out by a performer, or a set of computer instructions to be executed by some application or machine.


Software Development Kit. Software and tools distributed by a publisher to help others develop software extensions and tools for a particular application.

Second Life

An online virtual world, released in 2003, that allows users to create avatars and interact in/with the virtual world. Second Life has been an influential virtual world because it enables community members to create their own content easily. It also has an in-world economy with an exchange to the real-world economy which is able to support viable monetary transactions for goods and services.

Self Assessment

A self-assessment is a check on knowledge recall, application, or competency by a student without the need of review or feedback by other people. In a course, it provides rapid informal feedback for the learner without burdening the instructor with grading, in personal learning, self-assessment provides a meta-cognitive review point for the learner to determine if their learning practices are adequate to meet their goals.

Self-Paced Learning

Self-Paced Learning is an approach that lets students choose when they are ready to move on from a particular concept or unit. In online education, self-paced learning can be easier to accomplish, as there are often no regular class meetings (i.e. asynchronous courses). Note that self-paced learning does mean leaving peers and the cohort behind — collaboration and community-building are possible and valuable in a self-paced environment. Additionally, a course can incorporate self-paced learning at multiple levels, i.e. without being an entirely self-paced course.

Semantic Web

The Semantic Web is a framework of standards from that allows for common data formats and protocols to be used on the web and shared across eclectic application boundaries to form a network of associations and related links. In other words, so that a person or machine can explore all the available data on the Web and then find other, related, information.


A server is a powerful computer which stores or processes information for personal computers. Often, it is accessed remotely via a network by smaller computers and devices referred to as clients.

Server Side

Computing that takes place in a server environment, as opposed to computing that occurs on a client machine.

Inside of web-based tools like Blackboard you find navigation–clickable links or drop-down menus–which allow the viewer to see more information. Sidebar usually indicates that the menu is to the left or right-hand side of the main content.

Single Sign-On (SSO)

Single Sign-On (SSO), is a method of authentication, where a user can authenticate once, and then access multiple independent systems, that are related to a common entity.

Subject Matter Expert (SME)

Someone who is considered an expert in their subject or discipline. Often a SME will partner with an Instructional Designer (who is a SME in technology and learning theory) to develop learning experiences for students.

Social Network

A movie. Just kidding. In the online space, “social network” generally refers to a social networking site like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, etc. where individuals and organizations can create accounts and interact with one another.

Soft Skills

This is a measure of a combatant’s ability to strike areas of the body devoid of protective bone and muscle. A hit delivered to soft tissue can immediately incapacitate a target.


What a user interacts with when using a piece of hardware running any program. Software can be modified and updated.


A stakeholder is any individual or organization that is affected by a course of action. In education, stakeholders include students, staff, teachers, families, community members, employers, and more.


An individual storyboard is part of a group of storyboards which are graphical tools used to visually organize scenes in visual experience design.


Streaming is a way of transferring data continuously, allowing playback throughout and not requiring the user to store the data on their device. Common online streaming services include Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, etc. Streaming is an alternative to downloading, a data transfer that copies the data to your device.

Student Centered (Learner Centered)

Focused on experiences and services from a student perspective. Student centered assessment is designed to foster student learning rather than for gatekeeping or institutional purposes.


Happening at the same time, regardless of location. Synchronous courses can be offered using a variety of delivery methods: Blackboard Collaborate, Google Hangout, audio conference, web conference, and others.



A tag is a label assigned to a piece of information (such as an Internet bookmark, digital image, or computer file). This kind of metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching. Tags are generally chosen informally and personally by the item’s creator or by its viewer, depending on the system.

Technological Determinism

The theory that technology shapes society, that technological change drives social and cultural change.


Telecommuting is when an employee works from a space other than an organization’s central office. Also known as remote or offsite work.


Another name for audio conferencing.


Discussion boards, like those found in Blackboard, on WordPress sites, or in large sites like Reddit contain unique conversations. These conversations are called threads. When discussion in threaded, you may reply to the original post directly to keep the ‘thread’ of the conversation going.

Threaded Discussion

A way of organizing discussion boards such that posts and responses are associated structurally into “threads” or visually recognizable groupings.

Top Level Navigation

Top-level navigation is the first set of options offered to an online user as they move through an online space. On a website, top-level navigation is often the menu bar you see across the top of the site, and secondary-level may be drop-down options from that menu. If an online space were a building, top-level navigation is any option you have to get out of the lobby and go deeper into the building.

Traditional Course

A class with scheduled meeting times in a specific location.

Traditional Program

A degree program that requires attending courses at a specific location.



“URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator, and is used to identify addresses on the World Wide Web. A URL is the fundamental network identification for any resource connected to the web (e.g., hypertext pages, images, and sound files).
URLs have this format: protocol://hostname/other_info_stuff_you_know_it “


Video Conferencing

Connecting parties via a variety of software and video technologies in a synchronous experience where participants can both see and hear one another.

Virtual Classroom

A virtual classroom is an online space for hosting activities you might expect in a physical classroom, including discussion, lecture, group work, and more. While these activities are typically synchronous, involving all students and teacher to be in the classroom at the same time, the virtual space allows these activities to happen asynchronously as well.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality or VR refers to a simulated 3D environment hosted on a computer that allows users to enter and interact with the virtual space. Oftentimes the user requires a VR headset to become fully immersed in the virtual space.

Visual Information

Visual information is the information we receive through our visual sensory organ that describes the shape or quality of an object or represented object. Visual information can be represented by photographs, video, graphics, models, etc. Understanding how people perceive visual information such as the content layout, typography, highlighting, colors, contrast, icons and themes can be important considerations when developing your course for maximum accessibility and student understanding and engagement.

VOD (Video on Demand)

(Video on Demand) Video is hosted so that it can be watched at any time.


(Voice Over Internet Protocol). Voice interaction using the internet instead of a regular telephone line or cell phone service. Requires some kind of VOIP software like Skype, Google Voice, TeamViewer and others.


Virtual Private Network: this acronym refers to a users ability to connect to a private network across the internet by logging in with username and password to verify who you are. It allows the person, from home or another off-site location, to use resources that they may only have access to when logged into or “on” the University network.


Web 2.0

This term started to be used in the mid ’90s to describe the technology used to serve interactive and dynamic web content. Prior to this time, most web content was static. Typically Web 2.0 can track users, allow page revisions, display dates of creation, and aggregate information from other sources.

Web Conference

An audio or video meeting conducted via Internet technology (e.g., Blackboard Collaborate, Adobe Connect). May include tools such as chat, whiteboard, screen sharing, and break-out rooms for small-group discussion.

Web Enhanced

A traditional or distance course that relies primarily on synchronous meetings for instruction, but provides resource materials via the Internet.


A webinar is a seminar delivered via the world wide web, often using video conferencing software.


Much like its classroom counterpart, a computer whiteboard is a virtual space where students and instructors can write, draw, share images and interact collaborative with visual information.


What’s in it for me. Also known as course and module objectives.


A website that allows collaborative & shared editing (ongoing modification) of its content and structure by its users — See Wikipedia: The online encyclopedia project Wikipedia is by far the most popular wiki-based website.


A window on a computer screen is the container around a particular type of information. For example, when you open your web browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.), you get a window that allows you to navigate the internet. You can open a new window in the browser to visit two websites simultaneously.


What you see is what you get. This acronym, WYSIWYG, is used with editing interfaces. It means what you are viewing on the screen when you are editing  is what will be shown to the end viewer and/or the printed version.



Stands for Extensible Markup Language (XML)  but is also a file extension. XML files contain data in plain text format. When exporting (downloading or backing up) WordPress files you will receive a file with a .xml extension. XML files allow data to be stored, exported and imported easily.



Zip File

A zip file is a single file that has one or more other files compressed in it. Files are compressed into a single zip file to make them smaller in size for ease of storage or transport.