Glossary of Terms

The field of online learning is full of cutting-edge concepts. That’s why we’ve created a helpful glossary of popular terms and phrases that might be found throughout the eCampusOntario website. Take a gander for yourself and feel free to contact us for further information and clarification concerning a special word or phrase.


Each one of these projects was designed to provide a solution to a current online learning problem. The Virtual Reality Labs project was created to provide STEM programs with VR learning opportunities, while Open Badging was developed to help students receive recognition for soft skills gained during extracurricular activities. Riipen on the other hand is developing experiential learning opportunities that aim to effectively solve the issue of graduates “needing experience to gain experience.”


Certification by an external agency or professional regulatory body confirming that an educational program meets its standards. In Canada, educational programs are accredited but institutions are not.

Asynchronous Learning

When students participate in an online learning course at different times, it is known as asynchronous learning. It might also be called e-learning or web-based training (WBT). Asynchronous learning allows students to go through a course at their own pace. (Also see Synchronous Learning.)


The process of recognizing the source of borrowed materials, regardless of whether they are copyrighted or openly- licensed. To create attribution under a CC license, one can use the Open Attribution Builder or CC Licence Tool.

Blended Learning

Blended learning is an instructional approach that includes a combination of online and in-person learning activities. For example, students can complete online self-paced assignments by a certain date, then meet on-site or online for additional learning activities.


A cohort is a group of students who move through an educational program alongside one another. Cohorts allow a small number of learners, usually starting courses at the same time, to take a group of core classes together over a specific duration. Cohorts can be extremely beneficial as they provide students with a supportive peer learning environment. It is important to note that students in a cohort may not necessarily progress through a program at the same rate or graduate at the same time.


“Copyright is the exclusive legal right to produce, reproduce, publish or perform an original literary, artistic, dramatic or musical work. The creator is usually the copyright owner. However, an employer — for example, a film studio—may have copyright in works created by employees unless there is an agreement in place stating otherwise. When you own the copyright in a work, you control how it is used to protect its value. Others who want to use the work have to buy or otherwise get your permission.” (Canadian Intellectual Property Office, 2015)

Creative Commons

“A US nonprofit organization. A Creative Commons license is one of several public copyright licenses that allow the distribution of copyrighted works. It can be used when authors want to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work they have created.” (UNESCO, 2013)

Creative Commons Licenses

Below are the six Creative Commons licenses, as listed in order of openness from most accommodating to least accommodating:

  • CC BY (Attribution): Other than crediting the source, there are no restrictions on the use and remixing of the work, even commercially.
  • CC BY-SA (ShareAlike): You can use or remix a work provided you release your work under the same license as the source. You must also credit the source.
  • CC BY-ND (No Derivatives): Material cannot be changed but can be redistributed both commercially and non-commercially. You must attribute the original source.
  • CC BY-NC (Non-Commercial): Material can be used and remixed but not used or distributed commercially. You must attribute the original source.
  • CC BY-NC-SA: You can use and remix the material and use or distribute it non-commercially but you must use the same licensing terms (ShareAlike) as the original source. You must also attribute the original source.
  • CC BY-NC-ND: This is the most restrictive license because material cannot be altered or used commercially. You are permitted to download and share but you must credit the source.


A unit of value assigned to a course for counting its value toward a credential such as a certificate, diploma or degree. The number of credits received by students for a course varies widely among institutions.

Credit Transfer

Acceptance or recognition of credit by an institution for courses or programs completed at another institution.

Derivative Work

This term is not typically used in Canada. In the United States, the term refers to a new form of expression created from a pre-existing one, such as a motion picture adapted from a book.

Distance Education or Distance Learning

Distance Education/Learning occurs when students and their instructors are in different geographical locations and the instruction occurs on an electronic device, such as a computer or mobile phone. The learning can occur in a synchronous or asynchronous environment.


A book that can be accessed and read in a digital format, using a computer, tablet, or eBook reader.


eLearning, short for electronic learning, is an umbrella term that refers to all types of training, education, and instruction that occur through a digital medium, such as a computer or mobile phone.

Experiential Learning

Learning that is based on students being directly involved in a learning experience. Experiential learning engages students in critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making in contexts that are personally relevant to them. This approach to learning also involves making opportunities for debriefing and consolidation of ideas and skills through feedback, reflection, and the application of the ideas and skills to new situations. (UNESCO, 2010)

Fair Dealing

Canadians are permitted to use limited sections of an “all rights reserved” copyright-protected work provided the use is considered “fair.” For educational use, fair dealing typically means following a set of guidelines. For example, many colleges and universities permit the copying of 10% of a book or a full chapter, one article from a journal and so forth. Credit must still be given to the source.

Fair Use

The U.S. version of Canada’s Fair Dealing. In its most general sense, fair use is any copying of copyrighted material that has been done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner.

Instructional Design

Instructional design involves the identification of the knowledge, information, and skill gaps of a group of people, as well as the creation and selection of learning experiences to close this gap. Instructional designers base their learning decisions on cognitive psychology, instructional theory, and best practices.

Instructional Designer

An instructional designer practices the craft and science of instructional design. This person identifies the needs of a target audience and determines the best approach for meeting those needs.


A Learning Management System (LMS) is a software application or web-based technology for managing the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, and delivery of training programs. An LMS is also used for continuing education, professional development, credentialing, online events, and eLearning programs.


The process through which educational resources are adapted to meet local teaching and learning needs. Resource localization may involve translating a lesson plan into another language, or removing parts of a course module that are too complex for a given set of students. Localization also works to make materials culturally relevant.

Mobile Learning

On-the-go learning that takes place with a hand-held device, such as a mobile phone.

Massive Open Online Course

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are online courses aimed at large-scale groups. They may use OERs. (UNESCO, 2013)

Open Educational Resources

“Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation.” (UNESCO, 2013)

Open Badge (Open Badges, Open Digital Badge)

A digital representation of a skill, learning achievement or experience. Badges can represent competencies and involvements recognized in online or offline life. Each badge is associated with an image and some metadata. The metadata describes what the badge represents and the evidence used to support it.

Open Textbooks

Digitized textbooks that are freely available with non-restrictive licenses.


The art or practice of teaching.

Public Domain

The public domain, in Intellectual Property (IP) Law, is generally said to consist of intangible materials that are not subject to exclusive Intellectual Property Rights and which are, therefore, freely available to be used by any person.


The adaptation of a work for personal use.


The adaptation, remixing, or modification of OERs for new or local purposes.

Self-Paced Learning

Self-paced learning refers to a type of asynchronous instruction that allows a person to control the flow of the courseware.

Social Media Learning

Social media learning refers to the acquisition of information and skills through social technologies. Social media learning can occur through online social networking platforms, blogs, online talk radio, and wikis.

Some Rights Reserved

An item that is typically safe to use because it is released under a Creative Commons license.

Streaming Media

Streaming media refers to video and audio that is downloaded to a computer from the Internet as a continuous stream of data and is played as it reaches the destination computer.

Synchronous Learning

Synchronous learning occurs when individuals participate in an online learning course at the same time but in different locations. Synchronous learning allows learners to interact with the instructor and other participants. This is done through software that creates a virtual classroom. (Also see Asynchronous Learning.)


An acronym for Title, Author, License, and Source, the four key elements needed when creating attribution for an open resource.

Transfer Credit

An academic credit earned at one institution that is acknowledged or accepted by another institution.

Virtual Classroom

The virtual classroom refers to a digital learning environment that takes place over the Internet, rather than inside of a physical classroom. It is implemented through software that allows the instructor and students to interact.

Virtual Reality Laboratory

Fully interactive advanced lab simulations based on mathematical algorithms that support open-ended investigations.


A webinar is a seminar or workshop where the facilitator and participants view the same screen simultaneously. A facilitator usually controls the audio component and individuals are sometimes able to participate by chatting via text, answering polls, raising (digital) hands, and asking questions.

Educational Organizations

Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario

Formed in 1981, the Canadian Federation of Students is a bilingual national union of over 500,000 students from more than 80 university and college student unions across Canada. The Federation provides students with an effective and united voice, nationally and provincially.

Colleges Ontario (CO)

Colleges Ontario is an organization of Ontario’s Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology and Institutes of Technology and Advanced Learning. They provide communications, advocacy and professional development in support of Ontario colleges and their valued contribution to employability, economic development, and technological innovation.

College Student Alliance

The College Student Alliance (CSA) is a nonprofit, non-partisan, member-driven advocacy organization representing the best interests of Ontario college students in the areas of access, accountability, affordability, quality, and credit transfer.

Contact North

From the organization’s inception in 1986, Contact North has delivered significant outcomes for Ontario’s students, colleges, universities, and training providers. They have also delivered measurable results for 600 rural Aboriginal and Francophone communities.

Council of Ontario Universities

The Council of Ontario Universities is the organization of Ontario’s publicly funded universities. They provide communications, advocacy, and professional development in support of Ontario universities and their contribution to research, international relations, and accessibility.

Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development

The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development is a government ministry that administers the system of publicly-funded post secondary education in Ontario, including apprenticeships.


Established in 2011, ONCAT is a member organization with participation from all 45 publicly funded colleges and universities in Ontario. Their mandate is to enhance academic pathways and reduce barriers for students looking to transfer schools.

Ontario College Application Services (OCAS)

Ontario College Application Services is the central processing centre for applications to Ontario college programs.

Ontario Student Assistance Program

The Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) is a government loan, grant, scholarship, and bursary program. Assistance is based on circumstances as well as academic achievement. Funding is available to full-time and part-time post secondary students.

Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA)

OUSA represents the interests of more than 140,000 undergraduate students in seven student associations across Ontario. Their vision is to develop accessible, affordable, accountable, and high quality post secondary education in Ontario. The organization is directed by students, on behalf of students.

Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC)

OUAC is the central processing centre for applications to Ontario university undergraduate programs.

The website is provided by the Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT), and is designed to connect current and prospective students to transfer opportunities.


OntarioLearn is a partnership of 24 Ontario community colleges that have pooled their resources to increase online learning options. Learners can search through the available inventory to find the course they need, then register with any partner college offering the course.

Canadian Online Education Consortia


BCcampus supports post secondary institutions in British Columbia as they adapt and evolve their teaching and learning practices, enabling powerful learning opportunities for students throughout the province.


Manitoba’s post secondary sector is committed to higher education, as well as the creation, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge. CampusManitoba’s purpose is to expand access and connect students to the opportunities that higher education offers. CampusManitoba envisions a future for education that is open and the organization actively spreads awareness for Open Educational Resources (OERs).