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How to Succeed in Distance Learning Courses | FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions | Glossary | Self-Assessments | Learning Styles | Contact Us
Distance Learning @ College of the Canyons

Glossary of Often-used Terms in Distance Learning, HTTP Status Codes, and Common Abbreviations used in online communication

Access Number
The telephone number selected and dialed by the computers modem that connects with the Internet Service Provider (ISP).

To allow people with disabilities to use technology.

Alt Tag
Alternate tag. A text box that appears when the cursor is moved over an icon, picture or word, that explains that particular icon, picture or word.

A signal that is received in the same form in which it is transmitted, although the amplitude and frequency may vary. *


Anonymous FTP
This gives the computer user access to applications and files using file transfer protocol.  These files are generally available to the public without the use of a password.

Anti-Virus Program
Installed software that monitors a computer for viruses, and eliminates them.

A small application. See also Java Applet. *


Advanced Research Projects Agency Network.  Considered by some to be the forefather of the Internet. Created by the U. S. Dept. of Defense.



American Standard Code for Information Interchange. This system translates letters and grammatical marks into numbers that the computer can understand.

Asynchronous / Asynchronous Learning
Statements and discussions that happen at different times, when everyone involved is not simultaneously present.

Audio Conferencing
Similar to conference calling.  Several people in different geographic locations, holding a discussion using telephone lines.

The measurement of the amount of information that can be transmitted over the Internet, at any given time.


The smallest unit of data that a computer can handle. A bit is given a value of 0 or 1 as it is transferred into a binary system.

Blended Courses:
A course that is Web-enhanced, or television-enhanced, but that meets on campus, too. Same as hybrid classes.  Some requirements may be an on-campus orientation, testing, and class meetings.

Blog (Weblog)
An extension of the personal Web site, a blog consists of regular journal-like entries posted on a Web page for public viewing. Blogs usually contain links to other Web sites along with the thoughts, comments, and personality of the blog's creator. *

Bookmark or Book marking
The storage of favorite Web sites visited on the Web, and stored on the browser.

Boolean Logic
Commonly used
by search engines. Words such as and, or, and not, or a symbol such as + are used between search words.

Bits Per Second. This is the measurement of the speed at which data is transmitted.

Also known as a Web Browser, this application displays the Web page.  This is used to surf the Web. Some popular browsers are Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

A byte stores a single character of information, such as a single letter, number or symbol. It is equal to either seven or eight bits.

Chat or Internet Relay Chat
Synchronous (real time) communication on the Internet or an online service. One may chat with one person, or a group of people at one time.

Collaborative Learning
An instruction/learning method where students work together in small groups, or on the same  assignment.

Compact Disk (CD)

A thin, flat, plastic disk that contains information (video, text, photos, audio, etc.) that is recorded in an analog format. The less multimedia that is used, the more information that will fit on a disk.

Compress (verb)/Compression (noun)
An efficient way to send files is to compress them, first. Compression reduces the size of the file without losing any of the information contained therein. Files are decompressed
to their original state, when opened.

A learning theory. An active learning process wherein the learner creates their own concepts by building on prior knowledge and experiences.


A cookie is created when you visit a Web site. It is a file created to the hard drive of the computer that contains certain information. Cookies may enable you to locate information sooner in successive visits to a particular Web site. Sometimes cookies can influence what you see on the Web site when you re-visit.

Denotes the control key on the keyboard. This is essential to many keyboard shortcuts used in the Microsoft Word program.

College by Television. Many of the distance learning offerings at College of the Canyons are television-enhanced programs. Most courses are supplemented with 13 hours of programming, usually aired one hour per week for 13 weeks. In conjunction with the instructor's lectures, the textbook and accompanying workbook, create a well-rounded college course.

The flashing figure that appears on screen.  In a Word program, the cursor is seen as a vertical line that flashes at the point at which your are typing. On an Internet screen, the cursor usually appears as an arrow.

The nebulous place where humans interact over computer networks.  Term coined by William Gibson in Necromancer. *

Settings pre-set in the computer or the program. The user may change most of these settings.

Dial Up
To open a connection between a user's computer and another computer via a modem. *

An electrical signal that varies in discrete steps in voltage, frequency, amplitude, locations, and so forth.  Digital signals can be transmitted faster and more accurately than analog signals. *

Digital Versatile Disk (DVD)
A thin, flat, plastic disk that contains text, photo, video and audio information, recorded in a digital format. Unlike a CD, the disk may be double sided. This must be played in a designated DVD player. DVDs have the capacity to hold more information than a standard CD (compact disk).

A square plastic disk that holds graphic and text information, with a very limited capacity.  This will be replaced by CDs.

Domain Name
The name of a specific Internet area controlled by the College, an organization, or a company. There are several popular domain name suffixes, including:
          com = Commercial organization 
          edu = Educational institution
          gov = Government organizations (non-military)
          mil = Military organizations
          net = Networks
          org = Non-profit organizations

The process of copying files from one computer to another.

The process of capturing a file by single-clicking the left mouse button, leaving the mouse button depressed, dragging it across the screen and dropping it by releasing the mouse button at another spot on the screen.

Digital Versatile Disk: A thin, flat, plastic disk that contains text, photo, video and audio information, recorded in a digital format. Unlike a CD, the disk may be double sided. This must be played in a designated DVD player. DVDs have the capacity to hold more information than a standard CD (compact disk).

Also called electronic mail. These are text messages sent to a specified person or group of people.

A graphic object created with the use of characters on the keyboard (letters and symbols) that denotes an emotion.  Newer computer programs will automatically transform the characters into a recognizable feature.
:-) = happy =
J        :-(   = sad =   L
       :-o  =  bored       
For additional emoticons, see:

Developed by the Xerox Corporation.  Allows computers to communicate over coaxial cables, through radio signals.

Face-To-Face.  The type of communication in a traditional, on-campus, grounded class.

An online course instructor, in a student-centered learning environment.  Students may act as facilitators in class discussions, as well.

Frequently Asked Question. Most sites have a FAQ list that explains the site and its applications. Before joining any listserv, one should read the FAQ page and become familiar with it.

This can be either hardware or software. It limits certain kinds of access to a computer from a network or another outside source.

(verb or noun) Argumentative words used during synchronous or asynchronous chat, or in an email.

Downloadable programs available on the Internet that are free to the users.

File Transfer Protocol. This protocol allows one to view, upload, and download files, or to transfer files from one computer to another.

Gigabyte.  (See below).

Graphic Interchange Format.  The preferred graphic file format used on a Web page. Can be animated or static. These graphic files are limited to 256 colors.

Gig - Gigabyte
One billion bytes or 1000 megabytes.

A picture, photo, or other non-text item within a document.

(pronounced "gooey.") Graphical User Interface. A user-friendly computer interface that uses symbols, icons, or pictures as prompts.

The opening page of a Web site.

Hypertext Markup Language. The accepted standard used for adding tags to a text file so that the Web browser can interpret it.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol. This is the protocol that the Web uses so the client browser can view the Web pages.

Hybrid Classes
A course that is Web-enhanced or television-enhanced, but meets on campus, too.  Same as blended class. Some requirements may be an on-campus orientation, testing, and meetings.


An underlined word or phrase on a Web page that can be clicked upon to go to another part of the page or another site altogether. The hyperlink is generally a different color from the majority of the text.  When the curser is placed over a hyperlink, the arrow changes into the shape of a hand.

The term given for a small graphic depiction on a Web page or desktop.

Instant Messaging. A form of synchronous communication.  Popular IM programs are AOL's AIM, Microsoft's Messenger, Yahoo's Messenger, and the independent service, ICQ.  Some programs include other applications, including file transfers and voice chat.

A local area network owned by a company and accessible to people at that company.  Private information may be included here, for use only by those with a valid password.  Not open to those on the WWW.

IP Address
The unique number of an individual computer. It is necessary before any Internet protocols may be used, including email.

Internet Relay Chat. Program that allows people to communicate synchronously who are at the same location (chat room). To participate, all users must have Internet access and IRC client software.  

Integrated Services Digital Network. This allows simultaneous connections using the same wire.  Information may be text or multimedia.

Internet Service Provider. Company that provides Internet access.

(Information Technology). Computers and their information processing capabilities. *

ITV - Instructional Television
See CTV.

Designed by Sun Microsystems. An object-oriented programming language that is designed for building Internet applications.  It is not dependent on specific hardware and can be launched from within an HTML document or stand alone. *

Java Applet
A small Java program launched through a browser. *

A scripting language that is simpler than Java and can add interactivity to Web pages. JavaScript commands allow tasks to be completed by the Web browser when a user views a Web page. (For example, making a graphic change when a user moves the cursor over it). *

Joint Photographic Expert Group.  The preferred file format for adding a photograph to a Web page.  This technique greatly compresses the graphic file.

Kilobyte. 1000 or 1024 bites.

Kilobytes Per Second.  This is the popular measurement of data transmission speed.

Local-Area Network.  A group of computers that are physically connected.

Word/s embedded in a document or on a Web site, underlined and a different color from the majority of the text. Positioning the mouse over the word/s traditionally transform the cursor from an arrow to a hand. Single left-clicking the mouse will open another Web page.

A combination of discussion groups and mailing lists on the Internet.  A way for one to reach many at once.

Lurk / Lurking
Those who read through others posts without contributing.

Megabyte.  1 million (1,000,000) bytes. The exact number is 1,048,576 bytes.

Meta Data
Information about content that allows it to be stored and retrieved from a database. *

The device that translates computer signals to analog symbols suitable for sending across phone lines.

Moving Picture Experts Group.  The popular standard for compressing digital video images.

The popular format for compressing music files for download over the Internet.

(AKA Web surfing).  The process of traveling from page to page on the World Wide Web.

(slang) Acceptable rules of Internet courtesy, usually applicable to synchronous chat.

A group of computers electronically linked together.

Someone who is new to online learning and its technology.

Operating System.  This is the platform that allows one to perform tasks on the computer.  Macintosh's Mac OS and Microsoft's Windows are two popular operating systems.

Personal Digital Assistant.  A handheld computer used to organize information, such as schedules, phone numbers, etc.  The device can be programmed to interact with a desktop computer.  The Palm Pilot is a popular PDA.

Portable Document Format.  A document file that is created on the Adobe Acrobat. The Adobe Acrobat Reader is a free plug-in, easily downloadable from the Adobe Web site or this site's Plug-In information page.

The start-up page of a Web browser.

The act of placing a message onto a discussion board, bulletin board.

Random Access Memory.  Temporary storage for data.

RealAudio/RealOne Player
The RealOne Player is a free plug-in that, when installed, allows one to view and/or listen to streaming audio and video clips. Many instructors use RealAudio on their Online Web pages.

(Return On Investment). Generally, a ratio of the benefit or profit received from a given investment to the cost of the investment itself.  In e-learning, ROI is most often calculated by comparing the tangible results of training to the cost of providing the training. *

Read Only Memory.  One cannot write to the prewritten disc or program.

RT  - Real Time
Real time communication.  Synchronous communication.

(Shareable Content Object Reference Model). A set of standards that, when applied to course content, produces small, reusable learning objects. A result of the Department of Defense's Advance Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative, SCORM-compliant courseware elements can be easily merged with other compliant elements to produce a highly modular repository of training materials. *

The action of moving the Web document up and down, or side to side.  Scrollbars are generally found at the right hand side or the bottom of a frame or Web page.

Search Engine
The service that allows one to search for topics on the World Wide Web, by key words and phrases. Each search engine may use a slightly different protocol, so it is wise to use the Help function when using a new search engine. Several links to popular search engines are located on this Web sites Search Engine page.

Section 508
Section of the 1998 Rehabilitation Act that states that all electronic and information technology procured, used, or developed by the federal government after June 25, 2001, must be accessible to people with disabilities.  Affected technology includes such hardware as copiers, fax machines, telephones, and other electronic devices, as well as application software and Web sites.  See  for more information. *

Software available on the Internet.  This may be downloaded for personal use. If the user likes the material, they pay a small fee for retaining the software.

Subject Matter Expert. Someone who has proficient knowledge about and/or skills in a particular topic or subject area.

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol.  The accepted protocol used on the Internet for transferring email messages between computers. It defines how the message will be sent, its format, etc.

Unsolicited material usually received as email.

Status Codes:
Error messages that appear on the computer screen when the user has incorrectly entered a URL, or attempted to gain access to a Web page or site that they are not allowed to see.  For common status codes, please see the list at the bottom of this page.

Streaming Media
Can refer to audio or video materials. The user can view/listen to the files as they are being downloaded from the Internet. The user does not have to wait for the entire download before listening/viewing the files.

Surf / To surf the Net
Popular slang term for searching the Internet. To move from one page to the next.

Synchronous / Synchronous Learning
Communication between people that are present at a particular site (discussion thread, chat room, etc.) at the same time.

A data connection that transmits a digital signal at the speed of 1.54 megabits per second.

A data connection that transmits at a faster speed than a T1.

A conference held between people in different geographic locations. Cameras attached to computers that record and transfer images through the computer to persons at other sites.

Sometimes referred to as College by Television at College of the Canyons.  These courses are broadcast via public television stations, such as KCET, and public television channel 20 in the City of Santa Clarita.  These courses are hybrid, or blended, and require several class meetings (usually five) during the semester. The programs may be viewed in the College Library, too.  The series may be rented for a semester.  For more information, please go to:, or call the distance learning office @ 661.362.3600.

This is much like a telecourse (see definition above), however, the course makes use of the Internet and course Web pages to enhance the educational experience.

A predefined form or collection of forms that establishes the structure necessary to quickly create content.

Threaded Discussion
(See Discussion Thread
). A form of communication wherein the learning community post assignments and replies to a chat area or bulletin board.

Term used for the depiction of a graphic image on a Web page (usually a photograph). When clicked upon, the image enlarges for easier viewing.

Thread / Discussion Thread
A series of messages or postings related to a similar topic. In online courses, the instructor usually posts the central theme or question in a discussion area, or discussion board. Students discuss the subject, asynchronously, through a series of threads.

Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. A positive explanation for the taking of online or other distance education courses.

To copy files from one computer to another. The opposite of download.

Uniform Resource Locator. Also known as a Web address. Describes the location of an Internet source.

A conference held between people in different geographic locations. Cameras attached to computers that record and transfer images through the computer to persons at other sites.

Not concrete or physical. For instance, a completely virtual university does not have actual buildings, but instead holds classes over the Internet. *

WAV - Wav File
A sound file that can be played by a Windows program. Sounds related to Windows operations (when opening/closing files, making an error, etc.) are WAV files.

Web Master
The person responsible for the design, management, and maintenance of a Web site.

Web Site
A collection of Web pages developed together to present information on specific subjects. The collective group may represent a person, group, or a company.

An electronic, Web-based chalkboard device. This can be very helpful in math, music, and science courses, to mention a few.

Microsoft's operating system.

World Wide Web
A collection of documents connected to and by hyperlinks on the Web browser.

A computer virus that replicates itself many times over for the purpose of consuming system resources, eventually shutting down a computer or server. This type of virus is most often directed at mail servers such as Microsoft Outlook, and is usually unleashed when an unsuspecting user opens an email attachment. *

What you see is what you get.  Simply, what you see on the computer screen is what the document will look like when you print it out.

eXtensible Markup Language. This is a way to expand the types of data that can be structured and shared on the Internet.

(noun)(verb) A zip file contains abundant amounts of material that has become compressed to reduce the amount of space that the data takes up.  One zips a file to compress the data, and unzips the file to decompress the data. Popular zip programs include WinZip and PKZIP.

* These definitions are being reproduced with the permission of the ASTD Learning Circuits.  Please click here for the complete ASTD glossary:

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Common HTTP Status Codes

Whenever one is typing in URLs in the address bar on the Internet, the chance for an error is great.  When an error is made, an HTTP Status Code comes up on the screen.  Here is a list of the most common status codes.

Successful Transactions

The request was fulfilled

The POST request was completed successfully.

Request accepted for processing of unknown type.

Request partially fulfilled.

Redirection Transactions

The requested resource has been permanently moved to a new URL.  Usually accompanied by Location: new URL, which automatically connects the user to the new URL.

Requested resource found, but at a different URL.  The user will get a 302 Redirection if the trailing slash is omitted when pointing at a directory.  This is sometimes called a malformed request.

Unmodified data not returned in response to a GET request with the If-Modified-Since field.  Occurs when a browser requests data found in a cache.

Error Messages

Error in request syntax.

Request requires an authorization field, and the client did not provide one. This response is accompanied by a list of acceptable authorization schemes use WWW-Authenticate response headers.  Error 401 can be a part of a client/server dialogue to negotiate encryption and user authentication schemes.

The requested operation costs money, and the client did not specify a valid Charge to field.

Request for forbidden resource denied.

Requested resource not found. This is the most common error message received by Internet users.

The server has encountered an internal error and cannot continue processing your request.

Request okay, but denied because server doesn't support transaction method.

Thank you to CVC Regional Center II at Rio Hondo College, and to Susan E. Frederickson, editor of the Online Survival Guide, for use of the Status Codes.

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Common Abbreviations used in online communications
Abbreviation         Meaning
AAMOF As a matter of fact
AFAIK As far as I know
BBFN Bye bye for now
BRB Be right back
BTW By the way
CU L8R See you later
FWIW For what it's worth
FYI For your information
IAC In any case
ICBW I could be wrong
IMO In my opinion
IMHO In my humble opinion
IOW In other words
LOL Laugh(ing) out loud
OAS On another subject
RL Real life
ROTFL Roll(ing) on the floor laughing
RT Real time
TIA Thanks in advance
TTFN Ta Ta for now
TTYL Talk to you later
TY or TYVM Thank you or Thank you very much
WYSIWYG What you see is what you get