Understanding Online Instructional Technology Terms

When you begin your online degree you will encounter an unfamiliar vocabulary. Terms like synchronous and asynchronous may have never crossed your mind before seeing them associated with your online classes. To be able to fully understand your responsibilities and get the most out of all your classes, learning your online degree’s jargon can be very helpful.


To help navigate what may feel slightly foreign to you, below are just a few of the most common terms that you may hear as you progress through your online degree:

  1. Adaptive Software - Adaptive software is any software or program that builds a model of the preferences, goals, and knowledge of each individual student and uses that model throughout the interaction with the student in order to adapt to that student’s assessed needs.

  2. Accessibility - A person with a disability is provided an equal opportunity to acquire information, receive a service, and participate in a learning experience with ease of use and independence. Accessibility must meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards which include Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

  3. Asynchronous Learning - Learning that occurs in elapsed time between two or more people. Examples include email, online discussion forums, message boards, blogs, podcasts, etc.

  4. Browser / Web-Based - Computer tools and applications which run on a web browser via the internet without accessing the operating system of any individual computer. These applications are accessed through web pages.

  5. Differentiated Instruction - Adjusting and adapting instructional methodology, programs, and materials to address individual students’ learning needs.

  6. Learning Management System (LMS) - Technology platform through which students access online courses or digital instructional materials. An LMS generally includes software for creating and editing course content, communication tools, assessment tools, and other features for managing the course.

  7. Mobile Application - A mobile app is a software application developed specifically for use on small, wireless computing devices, such as smartphones and tablets, rather than desktop or laptop computers.

  8. Open Education Resources (OER) - Any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license (free for public use). The materials can be full-year scoped and sequenced or individual lessons or units. Learn more about OER materials by visiting Creative Commons

  9. Remote Learning - General term for any type of educational activity in which the participants are at a distance from each other—in other words, are separated in space. They may or may not be separated in time (asynchronous vs. synchronous).

  10. Responsive Design - An approach to website design that automatically scales webpage content and elements to match the screen size on which it is viewed. It keeps images from being larger than the screen width and prevents visitors on mobile devices from needing to do extra work to read the content.

  11. Single Sign-On (SSO) - A session and user authentication service that permits a user to use one set of login credentials—for example, a name and password—to access multiple applications. SSO can be used to ease the management of various usernames and passwords.

  12. Syncing - Process of updating apps and software to or between specific devices.

  13. Synchronous Learning - Learning in which participants interact at the same time.

  14. Virtual Private Network (VPN) - A VPN is a service that allows you to connect to the internet via an encrypted tunnel to ensure your online privacy and protect your sensitive data. VPNs are commonly used to secure connections to public Wi-FI hotspots, hide IP addresses, and make your browsing private.

Although this list covers the vast majority of terms that may be confusing for new online students, remember that you can always reach out to your professors with your questions. The Online UGA faculty want to see its students succeed and are here to support you throughout all of your academic endeavors. 

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