Module 3. Defining Terms

In this module, you will define some basic terms related to online learning.

This module addresses the following standards:

  • The online teacher understands the relationship between online teaching and advancing technologies. OTE.1.K.5

Definitions intro picture


Read the following documents from iNacol and JISC Digital Media. As you do so, consider the following:

  • What terms are new to you?
  • What terms are defined in ways that you did not anticipate?
iNACOL. (2011). The online learning definitions project. iNACOL.

Read the iNACOL Paper

JISC Digital Media. (n.d.). Introduction to e-learning. JISC Digital Media.

Read the JISC Digital Media Post

Bailey, J., Ellis, S., Schneider, C., & Vander Ark, T. (2013). Blended learning implementation guide. Digital Learning Now!

Read the definition page (pg. 4) from the Digital Learning Now! Implementation Guide


Open the Google Sheet template and define and give examples of the provided terms. As you do so, be sure to write your own definitions, and explain the concept in simple terms (as if you were explaining it to a child or grandparent for the first time). Not all definitions may be provided in the papers above, so use your internet sleuthing skills to compensate.

Note: You will not be able to type directly on the template. Instead, go to File > Make a Copy to create your own copy of the document.

Open the Google Sheet


Once you have written your definitions and examples, talk to someone that is less familiar with these terms (e.g., a roommate, spouse, or child). Take a few minutes and share your definitions with this person. As you do so, consider the following:

  • What questions are arising?
  • What clarifications do you need to make in your definitions?
  • Which examples are helpful, and which are not helpful?

Learning Check

  1. What is the term for an online system that students use to access course materials and to submit assignments (e.g., Blackboard)?
  2. What is the difference between the following prefixes: cyber-, virtual-, electronic-, online-, e-, i- (e.g., e-learning, i-schools, cyberlearning, virtual classrooms)?

  1. This is kind of a trick question, because it depends on where you live. In the United States, the general term is "Learning Management System (LMS)," while in the UK, the general term is "Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)". Others would argue that the more accurate term for this kind of system is a "Course Management System (CMS)" (though CMS is also an abbreviation for "Content Management System," which again is different). In short, terms are confusing and muddled, but in the United States, the general term is "Learning Management System (LMS)."
  2. Really nothing. These terms are thrown around more for marketing purposes than anything else. In this course, we will typically use the word "online," because it is the most descriptive and the least marketing oriented. Consider the point made by this website, though, on using the word "cyber" and consider when it might be appropriate to use these other terms.