Best Online Colleges Terms and Definitions

The online college community is a fairly new paradigm in the education world and, as with any new field, it has a somewhat different vocabulary. If you have gone to college before, even extensively, you might think you know all that you need to when you want to take advantage of the benefits that are offered by the best online colleges but there are a number of terms that usually do not appear at brick and mortar Universities. Even though online education is less expensive than traditional classroom education it is still a big investment and it is important that you understand the terminology used in the industry.


Electronic learning can be done online but is not exclusively online. E-learning actually includes a great number of options that includes Web-based, with Virtual Classrooms, interactive television, CD-ROM, satellite broadcasts, audio/video recordings, and varied delivery methods that range from snail mail and email to downloads.

Distance Education

Distance learning includes both synchronous and asynchronous instruction and simply means educational credits that are taken off-campus and usually, but not always, electronically. In some cases there may be a requirement that you attend a few on-campus classes, such as lab classes, but most of your classes will be taken off-campus.


These terms mean Computer Based Training and Computer Assisted Training and this is any education, including some on campus courses, that uses computers intensively. While CBI generally means a completely computer delivered education and CAI means partly computer assisted, the terms are used interchangeably.


Synchronous/asynchronous are opposing terms. Synchronous means real time interaction with instructors and asynchronous means intermittent interaction with instructors. This includes online, via webinars, online discussion groups and e-mail, Q&A mentoring.

These are just a few of the main terms that are unique to online colleges. There are others and it is very important if you do not fully understand a term or an acronym to ask for a full explanation from the school and do some research before enrolling. Your education is the foundation of your future and good planning will make it much brighter.