The Glossary Of Online Courses

Online Courses Explained: A Glossary Of The Basic Terms

Online classes can have confusing terminology for people who have never studied via distance education.

Online classes can be overwhelming for those who have never studied in this format, and especially for those who are not completely proficient in computers. Often, older adult students are those who need online courses due to hectic schedules trying to combine their work and personal lives. They are also the ones who may not be familiar with various online classroom terms used. On top of that, they also have to relearn a subject they haven’t studied in years. This article here, though, can help you review the terms that are most used in distance education.

Computer Specifications

Certain computer specifications are required for online courses. It depends on the college and the program, but these can often be found on the college’s website. Specifications are most often found when clicking on the "start" menu at the bottom left of the screen, depending on the computer.

Once the programs are listed, the user will need to select "control panel". From the control panel, select "system" or "system and maintenance". This will either bring up the system specifications or another list in which "system" will need to be selected. This should list all specifications including memory, processor, system, and system type. Checking the particular specifications required for a college’s distance learning program beforehand is key so that students can ensure the computer used for the program can support it adequately. This ensures them, in other words, that they are not wasting their time signing up for an online course that will demand more than the available space.

Discussion Board

Discussion boards are used to discuss classroom material. Teachers will often post topics or questions, and all students have to respond. Sometimes students are even required to respond to each other. Every school and classroom operates discussion boards differently, but online students need to pay close attention to what is expected and fulfilling those requirements. Discussion board postings may even count as some sort of participation grade, which could be an easy grade and help offset bad test scores or other poor grades on assignments.

When writing on a discussion board in an online classroom, it is important to remember etiquette and grammar. Etiquette is important because not only do other students see what is posted but so does the teacher. The teacher may be inclined to grade a bit harsher if a student is rude or demeaning. Although this is not ethical, it may happen. Another bad etiquette scenario is that a demeaning student could end up in a group project with students in which they have acted rudely before, and this will cause friction within the group.

Grammar is important on discussion boards as well. Students often let their guards down and use online chat tactics on discussion boards. It is still an academic classroom, though, with the teacher reading everything that is written. Using bad grammar and teenage style chat methods will not impress the teacher and will make one seem unfit for an academic environment. Taking discussion boards seriously will make online classes a better learning experience.


As regular in-person classrooms do, online classrooms usually have a syllabus. The syllabus is a sheet or sheets of information regarding classroom expectations, the teacher’s contact information, class assignment information, needed textbooks, class schedule, and exam dates. As one would assume, the syllabus is an important tool in any classroom. An online student can use the syllabus in conjunction with their planner to map out important dates. The syllabus should be printed out and kept in the corresponding class’ binder, notebook, or folder. This will ensure that the student is able to stay current with their work even if their internet is down or in case that they are traveling.

Asynchronous Versus Synchronous

An asynchronous classroom is a classroom in which students and the teacher communicate at different times with delay through discussion boards and emails. A synchronous classroom is a classroom in which discussion between students and the teacher occurs with no delay, such as a chat room. It is important to understand the type of each online class, as the students need to know if there are specific times they have to log in or if it is completely flexible.

Chat Room

The chat room is used for instant communication. Almost as soon as someone sends information after it’s been typed, the recipient can see the information. Chat rooms are sometimes used in online classes for students to chat about problems they may be having with particular assignments. Chat rooms may also be used for a teacher to teach all of the students at once.

The terms used in an online classroom may be different than what a student has ever heard before. By being confident and asking questions, students can succeed in this learning environment. Read this glossary for more computer words that may be met in the online classroom world.