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50/50 Rule: a former prerequisite since repealed by Congress, that required colleges, universities, and vocational schools to offer half of their total number courses on campus in order for its students to qualify for federal loans.




Academic Advisor: a professional dedicated to coaching students along their college path to help them choose the right courses to attain their professional, vocational, or degree goals.

Accredited School: a university, college, vocational, trade, or other academic school that successfully meets or exceeds the educational quality standards established by an independent organization at the national or regional level or by an independent organization that ensures quality in a special field of study.


Anti-Virus Software: a software program that protects computers from invasions of spyware, viruses, Trojan horses, adware, worms, and other malicious programs that can attack personal or network computers. When updated regularly with definitions, the software can prevent or remove threats and protect personal information on a computer.


Applet: a small program, often written in Java programming language, which runs within a larger piece of software or Web-page code to achieve tasks of short duration such as animations and games.


Attachment: an independent file that can be inserted into an email message, containing a graphic image, text, sound, or video. Documents such as assignments may be submitted using this method in online courses.


Audio Conferencing: a method of telecommunication where multiple parties join in conversation. In education it can be two-way, where all participants speak and listen, or one-way, where students listen to a lecture.


Audit: the term that marks the completion of a course for which no letter grade or performance evaluation is made. Students may audit classes where they want to gain knowledge without affecting their grade-point-average. In general, students are not required to complete assignments or take exams for courses they audit.



Bandwidth: the term applied to the digital measurement of data exchanged between a server and receiving computer, measured by a bits-per-second rate. The bandwidth capacity affects the transfer speed and size of data exchanges.

Blackboard: refers to the commonly shared virtual space where researchers, scholars, students, and faculty post information for collaboration or classroom work. The term is borrowed from the traditional classroom chalk blackboard.


Blended Learning: an educational system by which students receive schooling through a mixture of methods, including online and on-campus instruction. It may include classroom lectures, online threaded discussions, or video conferencing.


Blog: an online publishing system where writers share content of their choice on subjects that interest them. The term originated as Web-log but has been shortened. The Web site can be personal or corporate and can include images, animations, videos, music, and text--all posted serially in reverse-chronological order like a diary.


Bridge: a post-secondary academic program with courses in fundamental arts and sciences that helps high school graduates to transition smoothly to advanced college-level work. Bridge programs are helpful for international students enrolling in American colleges, in addition to other students wanting assistance with college-level work.


Broadband: refers to the system of telecommunications where data can be sent across a number of frequencies, increasing the speed and amount of the transfer of video, audio, and digital information. It may be used for Internet, cable television, and wireless communications.


Browser: a software application that detects, loads, and presents Web pages for viewing. Modern browsers allow viewers to listen to audio, view video or multimedia, and play games. They also allow online transactions. Popular browsers include Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari.


Byte: the measurement of a unit of digital information in computing comprised of smaller pieces of information known as bits. The hardware of a computer--its hard drive and memory--is typically measured in bytes. Computer file sizes are also measured in bytes.


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Cable Modem: uses broadband coaxial cable like that used to transmit cable television to connect a computer to the Internet. Its principal benefit is a fast speed, allowing rapid transfer of Web pages and multimedia across the Internet.


CD ROM Companion Disks: multimedia CDs that make up part of a course curriculum. They may include texts, audio files, images, and animated videos that provide essential information about the subject matter of the college course. They can augment or replace required books for the class.


Certification: the document that attests that a student has successfully learned the skills offered in a class or series of classes in a specialized field of study. Criteria for certification may be established by independent professional or vocational organizations.


Cohort: a small group of students who enter together and progress through a series of courses in the same field of study. The system encourages collaboration and peer mentoring.


Collaborative Learning: the method by which students and teachers share in educational discourse in a classroom where everyone contributes to the conversation. Unlike traditional models where the instructor speaks and students listen, collaborative learning engages everyone in the exploration of course materials.


College Level Examination Program (CLEP): a series of tests that measure students' knowledge of academic subjects, leading to college credits for prior experience or scholarship and allowing students to test out of certain courses.


Computer-Based Training (CBT): an educational model where students learn their subject matter through a sequential, systematic progression through computer lessons hosted at their school, on a CD, or available to them online.


Convergence: the technological system by which multimedia education systems are merged, providing asynchronous online training via video, audio, and text messaging.


Cookies: short strings of text that are loaded into your Web browser memory to retain Web site information on your computer, to store access information to your routine websites, or to provide information to the owner of the Web site.


Cooperative University: an institution that offers a wide range of educational programs that combine academic learning with career or professional-related training leading to certifications, diplomas, undergraduate, and graduate degrees.

Correspondence Course: a form of education where the course materials and class work is exchanged by traditional mail or email between faculty and the student. This type of course has traditionally been known as distance learning.


Course Credits: the numerical totals of value for a college course. Students receive course credits for the total hours of weekly lecture or laboratory time they pass successfully in each class per semester. The credits are applied against the total number required for graduation or completion.


Course Management System (CMS): the software that college professors and instructors use to create an online course, manage the class assignments, track students' work, and interact with online students through a visual Web browser interface.


Courseware: a computerized set of instructional materials created specifically for a college course or major course of studies. The courseware package can include lessons needed for an entire class or provide supplemental educational materials to complement other tools used by an instructor.




De facto Standard: any data format, programming language, operating system, or communications protocol which has become standard in the computer industry simply because it is widely-used. No central organization approves a de facto standard, but the industry recognizes it anyway. One example is the PostScript page description language for laser printers.


Diploma Mill: a business that offers fake online degrees, disguising itself as a legitimate college or university. Diploma mills, also called degree mills, make money by selling degrees that don't require any real academic work. These fraudulent schools provide printed degrees, academic references, and falsified transcripts for the individuals who buy the degrees from them.


Distance Learning: education for students who are not on-site in a physical classroom. Universities and institutions worldwide are increasingly offering online programs to communicate with students around the globe. With this emerging technology, students can advance their education from the comfort and convenience of their home or office.


Download: the process of transferring data from one computer to another. Usually, the term refers to transferring information (such as music files, documents, and programs) from the Internet onto a personal or network computer.




Email: stands for electronic mail--a means of communication for users of computer networks, who exchange text messages in digital form, often over the Internet. These messages can also include music files and video clips.


End-User: computer software engineering terminology for the final recipient of a product. This person may not be the buyer of the product, but is its ultimate consumer. This industry term most often appears in license contracts for computer software.


Excelsior College Examinations (ECE): a series of exams for military personnel, allowing soldiers to earn college credit through testing without enrolling in traditional classes. The ECE tests are created and administered by Excelsior College. They are usually multiple-choice, computer-based exams. ECE exams cover a wide variety of subjects, including certifications in nursing and teaching. This testing program helps military personnel earn their degrees faster, often at low or no cost.

Extensible Markup Language (XML): a format for electronic data exchange that was introduced in 1998. Similar to HTML, XML is a Web language designed to transport and store data on the Internet. This self-descriptive language is written in plain text, and any software that can handle plain text can also handle XML. Its authors invent their own document structure and design their own tags. XML is a complement to HTML, not a replacement. XML is about carrying information, while HTML is about displaying that information.





Firewall: the main method used to keep a computer safe from intruders. A firewall is a part of a computer system designed to block unauthorized access while simultaneously allowing authorized communications. Normally, a firewall is used between a trusted, protected, private network and an untrusted, public network. For example, the trusted network could be a company's internal network, and the public network could be the Internet. In home computing, a personal firewall typically comes with or is installed in the user's computer.


Forum: a meeting or assembly for open discussion. An Internet forum is a public message-board that serves as an online discussion site. People join Internet forums to share interests, debate topics, or make social bonds.


Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): a basic form that must be filled out by all prospective college students who wish to receive financial aid from the government. To qualify for federal financial aid programs such as Stafford and Perkins loans as well as Pell grants, students must complete the FAFSA by June 30 of each year. Many colleges and universities require students to fill out the FAFSA in order to determine their scholarship eligibility. The application is free to fill out and generally doesn't require professional assistance.




GI Bill: federal legislation enacted in 1944 that provides benefits to World War II veterans. This bill of rights gives former American soldiers grants for school and college tuition, low-interest mortgage and small-business loans, job training, hiring privileges, and unemployment benefits. Later amendments to the bill created more Veteran's Association (VA) hospitals and full disability coverage. The government has recently enacted a new post-9/11 GI Bill.


Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT): a standardized test that helps business schools assess the academic skills of prospective students. All students who want to pursue an MBA or other advanced study in business or management should take this test. The exam has three sections: analytical writing, qualitative, and verbal. A perfect score is 800. The GMAT costs $250 and is administered at testing centers around the world by the Graduate Management Admissions Council.


Graduate Record Examination (GRE): a standardized test that is commonly required for admission to graduate school in a wide variety of fields. The GRE evaluates the writing, reading, and math skills of prospective graduate students. Graduate programs use GRE scores to determine their applicants' readiness for advanced studies. Many students take the GRE General Test and then supplement it with a GRE Subject Test, offered in eight different disciplines: biochemistry, biology, chemistry, computer science, literature in English, mathematics, physics, and psychology.


Graduate Studies: Programs of advanced study leading to academic degrees beyond the bachelor's degree level. Graduate schools are institutes of higher education that grant master's or doctoral degrees.



Hardware: a comprehensive term for all of the physical parts of a computer, as opposed to the data it holds or the software programs that give it directions. For example, a typical personal computer includes the following hardware: a motherboard, a power supply, a hard disk, storage, graphics and interface controllers, and a floppy disk drive.

Homepage: the front page of a Web site, intended to greet visitors and give them information about the site and its purpose. This opening page usually has a table of contents and should be catchy and fast-loading to draw people in. Many individuals also have a personal homepage


Hope Scholarship Tax Credit: a federal income tax credit is designed to help taxpayers pay the cost of the first two years of post-secondary education. The scholarship provides up to $1650 as a tax credit, doubled to $3300 for Gulf Opportunity Zone students located in the Hurricane Katrina disaster area.


Host: the main computer in a network, providing its clients access to shared files, a printer, and more.


HTML: abbreviation for Hyper Text Markup Language, a computer language used to post files to the Internet or to send files via e-mail. Web page format and display are coded with this language.

HTTP: abbreviation for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, a computer language used for communication between Web browsers and Web servers on the World Wide Web.


Hybrid Degree Program: a planned course of study, usually at college level or higher, which combines online and in-classroom learning, ideally maximizing the benefits of both methods of study for the student.


Hyperlink: a highlighted piece of text or graphic found within a Web page that can take the viewer to a different Web page or Internet document. Found on most Web pages, hyperlinks most commonly appear as an underlined word or group of words in blue text.




Instant Messenger: a popular method of communicating online that allows two or more people to exchange messages in real-time. Often called IM or IMing, the instant back-and-forth communication style is the main difference between IM and e-mail.


Interactive Course: educational material, almost always computer-based and often accessed through the Internet, which allows the user to interact with the material or with others using the same software.


Interactive Multimedia: any combination of mediums such as text, animation, audio, images, or video (collaborative media) in which the user can actively participate, for example, video games.


Internet Protocol (IP): the method in which information is sent between computers on the Internet. Each computer on the Internet each has at least one IP address, which identifies it uniquely from any other computer.


Internet Service Provider (ISP): a company that offers Internet access to its customers by using data transmission technology such as DSL, wireless, or high-speed interconnects. ISPs are sometimes referred to as Internet access providers (IAP). Other services such as remote data storage or e-mail may be provided as well.

Internship: supervised training in a professional capacity for a defined period of time to prepare trainees for a specific career path. Internships include real-life tasks associated with the career and give interns experience and connections that are helpful in seeking a job in the field.


Intranet: a private computer network for an organization, to be accessed only by that organization's employees, owners of the organization, or other authorized personnel. Intranets are mainly used to share company information among employees.




JavaScript: a computer programming language that helps make Web pages interactive and responsive to visitor input. JavaScript is not to be confused with Java, a different computer language.



Learning Environment: a setting that facilitates study, sharing of information, and the flow of ideas. A good learning environment is a place where students or others feel comfortable pursuing academics. It may be a physical place like a library or classroom or a virtual space like the Internet.


Life Experience Recognition (LER): the evaluation of a student's knowledge or abilities based not only on their history in the classroom, but also taking into account skills and experiences learned through work, community, family, or other personal elements.


Lifetime Learning Tax Credit: a federal tax benefit that allows students at qualifying institutions to receive reimbursement of up to two thousand dollars for tuition and enrollment fees. Eligible institutions may include colleges, universities, vocational schools, or other post-secondary educational institutions.


Listserv: a software application specifically designed for large electronic mailing lists. Listservs allow users to manage subscriptions, maintain archives of information, and organize mass mail delivery.


Live Chat: real-time communication over the Internet, usually text-based and between two or more people. It may also be called online chat. Live chat is increasingly used in customer service settings to better serve customer needs.

Local Area Network (LAN): a group of computers within a relatively small area that are connected by one computer network, allowing them to share data and resources, for example, multiple computers within a home or business.


Log off / Log on: also called log in, sign in, sign out, logging in or out. Log on is the process by which a person accesses a computer system, usually by entering a given user name or identification number as well as a password. Log off refers to leaving a computer system, usually by clicking an exit or log off button, thus ending the session.




Meta Data: also called meta information or meta language. Meta data is condensed information used in any kind of media to describe and document the contents--essentially, data about data.


Mobile Learning: sometimes abbreviated as mlearning, this is a type of learning that occurs through the use of portable electronic devices or wireless devices like cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and laptop computers. It is also defined as any learning that occurs when not at a fixed, predetermined location.


Modem: this term comes from a combination of two words, MOdulate and DEModulate. It's a piece of equipment used to connect a computer to a phone line, thus allowing the computer to send and receive digital information by connecting to the Internet or to other computers.

Netiquette: formed from the words "net" and "etiquette," this term indicates a set of unwritten rules that guide proper behavior while on the Internet and during any online communication. For example, writing a sentence in all capital letters signifies shouting and is considered rude.




Netscape Navigator: also known as just Netscape, this was a popular Web browser during the 1990s. It has since been replaced by Microsoft's Internet Explorer, although it does form the base for the newer Web browser Mozilla Firefox.

Network: two or more computers connected together in order to share hardware, software, data, files, and devices like printers or scanners. These computers can be located in the same small office, within the same industrial park, or even on different continents.




Online Associate's Degree: an undergraduate degree earned over the Internet, meaning classes are taken via a computer instead of in a traditional classroom. An associate's degree itself requires at least 60 semester credits, which typically take two years to complete.


Online Bachelor's Degree: this degree, which commonly takes four years to earn, is granted at the completion of an undergraduate online education program. All classes and coursework are conducted over the Internet instead of on a traditional campus.


Online Certificate: an award granted after the completion of a certain number of units or courses in an online education program. This program can focus on vocational, technical, undergraduate, or graduate education, and ranges from a few months to over a year. It indicates proficiency in a specific subject.


Online Course: a class offered entirely over the Internet instead of in a traditional campus. Some instructors may offer on-campus exams or sessions for local students, but face-to-face meetings between the students and the instructor are never mandatory in this type of lesson.


Online Degree Program: an online course of study leading to a degree in a particular field. These programs come in a variety of different forms depending on the academic program, such as an associate's, a bachelor's, a master's and a doctorate.

Online Master's Degree: this advanced degree, or graduate degree, is the first degree you can earn after earning a bachelor's degree. It is granted at the completion of an intense online education program that typically takes two years to complete, although part-time online programs can take significantly longer.


Online PhD: the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree, also called a doctorate degree, is the highest graduate degree anyone can earn. An online PhD program usually lasts 4-7 years, although part-time programs may take longer. The program normally ends with the writing of a dissertation.



Password: a secret series of letters and/or numbers that allow secure access to a computer, file, data, Web site, or program. They are the most common authentication mechanism used in computer systems today. The best passwords are difficult for strangers to guess, meaning not initials or birth dates.


Pixel: the smallest part of an image on a computer monitor. It's essentially one tiny dot, and hundreds of thousands of these tiny dots make up a complete image. A high resolution image contains more of these dots than a low resolution image.


Plug-and-Play (PnP): a technology that allows a computer to easily recognize and use new hardware devices when they are plugged into it, such as a new printer connected to the new computer through a USB port. It's most commonly found in PCs with a Windows operating system.


Plug-In: a piece of software or accessory program that adds additional features to an existing program. For example, on Web sites a Flash plug-in allows the page to run enhanced graphics. It was first made popular by Adobe Photoshop, and plug-ins have since become standard on audio and imaging programs.


Podcast: a digital recording of a video or radio broadcast available on the Internet to download onto a personal audio player like an iPod. The word was formed from a combination of "iPod" and "broadcasting," although podcasts can be played on a regular computer as well as on portable devices.


Portable Document Format (PDF): a file format that preserves the graphic appearance of a document regardless of which computer is used to view it. It's particularly useful for documents where the layout is important, such as magazine articles or brochures.


Portal: one Web site that links to other Web pages, sometimes referred to as a gateway. It often includes a variety of resources and services such as search engines, free email, forums, online shopping, and chat rooms. Examples include Google, Yahoo, CNET, Excite, and Lycos.

Private Institution: a college or university run by a non-governmental agency, non-profit agency, for-profit organization, or private individual that receives its funding through tuition, donations, and any sources other than public funds.

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA): a process through which students can receive college-level credit for achievements and accomplishments outside of a traditional university environment. Largely focused on working adults, schools typically award these credits for items such as corporate training, certificates, licenses, and non-transferable college courses.


Public Institution: a school that is largely managed and controlled through a government agency. Such schools traditionally offer significantly lower tuition and fee rates than schools which do not receive government support and management.



Q & A Session: an exchange of questions and answers in a fairly structured format. Typically the person or people answering questions are considered experts in their field or have specialized knowledge.



Real-time Communication: Any forms of discourse where the parties involve interact without significant delay on either end of the dialogue. Phone conversations and video conferences are excellent examples, while sending a letter through the mail is not.


Resolution: a measure of a computer display or television's picture quality and how much information can be shown on the screen. This information is typically expressed as the number of pixels displayed horizontally by the number of pixels displayed vertically (e.g. 640 x 480).



Scholarship: a form of financial aid in which a student receives a one-time gift or a set dollar amount at regular intervals toward school-related expenses based on merit, whether academic, athletic, or some other achievement. Many organizations hold students to certain academic, athletic, or personal standards while they use the funds.


Search Engine: a Web-based tool that helps users find information on the Internet related to the words or phrases entered. This tool typically ranks results according to how relevant each result is likely to be for the searched term.


Self-Paced Learning: an educational opportunity that provides a significant amount of independence, this method does not require students to complete coursework or assignments within a set time period, but instead allows them to establish a schedule that works for them based on their goals, priorities, and interests.


Server: a central computer program on a network that stores information and distributes it to the other computers connected to it. These programs can store and distribute e-mail and Web information, for example.


Software: written programs or sets of rules and code that enables a computer and its operating system to work correctly and perform certain tasks. These are also known as computer programs.


Spam: unwanted e-mail messages sent by unknown individuals or companies. Typically sent to a huge number of e-mail addresses at once, these messages usually offer products or services and have a reputation for spreading computer viruses.


Streaming Video: a continuous transmission of a multimedia clip or broadcast that is sent over the Internet from a server and viewed by an individual on a computer.


Student Loan: a form of financial aid in which a student borrows a set amount of money at regular intervals for school-related expenses from the federal government, a bank, or other financial institution. Student loans often qualify for lower interest rates than traditional loans. Once a student graduates or withdraws from school, the entire amount borrowed must be repaid according to a pre-determined schedule.


Survey: a course intended to provide a broad overview of a topic or time period within a particular field of study. For example, a literature course of this nature might cover all of American literature prior to 1860 or 20th century poetry.


Syllabus: the outline--however detailed or slight--provided by an instructor that highlights subjects to be studied and discussed over the term of a class. This document may also include assignments and test dates and a list of required textbooks.


Synchronous Learning: an instructor led online event or scheduled class during which individuals or teams at various locations gather online to interact in real time.

System Requirements: the technical capabilities and specifications that an individual's computer must have in order to use a specific software program or piece of hardware. If a computer does not meet these specifications, it may not be able to run the software or hardware.




Teleconferencing: a meeting, discussion, seminar, or educational course held via telephone conference call instead of in person. Participants in conference calls usually participate from many different locations.

Template: a set guideline or structure for how to accomplish a given task or complete a specific process. In computer terms, it is a guideline file that acts as a starting point for creating a brand new document that matches certain formatting specifications. Examples might include a resume template or a business letter template.


Terminal Degree: the highest degree available in a particular discipline, often a doctorate, but sometimes a master's degree or professional degree such as MD or juris doctor. Receiving the terminal degree in a field indicates that the student has achieved the ultimate level of education in that doctrine.


Threaded Discussion: a discussion that occurs electronically, such as an email exchange or chat room conversation, wherein the participants can view the series of messages as one continuous chain.


Tutorial: a focused training session, typically in a smaller group or one-on-one setting, which provides the student with a comprehensive lesson on the subject matter.



Unaccredited School: an academic institution not recognized by the United States Secretary of Education and not certified to distribute nationally recognized diplomas to its students.


Undergraduate Studies: courses taken during college that lead to an associate's or bachelor's degree.


Upload: to open or save pictures, documents, music, or other electronic files onto a computer. In order to view a file from a source external to the computer such as a camera, this process must occur.


URL: the virtual address provided by the user that directs the Internet to a particular Web site. If the Web site is a destination, the URL is its map. URL is short for uniform resource locator.


Username: the code that enables a program or software to recognize an individual user and protect his or her identity. This key can be a randomly selected word or name and is often required to access computers, Web sites, and accounts in order to enhance security.



Video Conferencing: the technology that enables people in different locations to communicate via video and audio transmissions. Using this method, participants can see each other on television monitors and hear each other through phones in real time, decreasing the need for in-person meetings.


Virtual Classroom: a setting in which a class and its teacher are separated, and the course is instead taught via online video, chat and/or electronic assignment exchange.


Virus: a sneaky computer program designed to copy itself onto multiple computers via emails or corrupt downloads and infect them, often rendering the computer useless or stealing personal information.


Voice Over IP (VoIP): any technology that facilitates verbal communication over the Internet, as opposed to the phone. This technology is also referred to as Internet telephony. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol.




Webcast: a video broadcast that takes place on the Internet. This can occur live or as a previously recorded session and is frequently used by the news media and entertainment industries.


Webinar: just as the name implies, this is a Web-seminar that is typically one-sided, with the person hosting the session delivering the messages and dictating the agenda. Generally, these are used for trainings or tutorials at the end of which participants may ask questions.


Whiteboard: a surface on which an instructor can use non-permanent markers to write or illustrate a lesson or idea. They typically stand on an easel or are adhered to a wall, and can be cleaned using an eraser made specifically for this purpose. Virtual whiteboards enable users to communicate graphics and text via computer.


Wide Area Network (WAN): any computer network that spans a large region, sometimes a nation, and connects local area networks so that Internet users in California can connect with users in Florida.

Wi-Fi: a type of Internet connection that enables devices like computers, smart phones, and video game consoles to find and connect to an Internet connection when within a certain range. This range can be different rooms in a house or different coffee shops in a city.


Wireless Connection: a type of Internet access that does not require any wires or cables and allows users to browse the Internet while traveling or outside of their home or office without having a physical connection. Often a password is required to connect to a wireless network.


World Wide Web (WWW): the collection of documents, images, multimedia, and codes that create the pages of the Internet. When jumping from one page to another, the Internet user is browsing through this collection.


Worm: this nasty computer bug replicates itself and infects computers by traveling through a user's network. It does not need to attach itself to any programs, but can exist independently on a computer, often causing damage.



Zip File: smaller versions of large text of media computer files. When emailing large files, computer users employ this technology, which compresses the files so they are easier to share. Think of a vacuum bag that compresses clothes, creating more room in the suitcase. Zip technology is the vacuum bag for digital files.