Academic Terms Every Trustee Should Know

Board Buzzwords - Academic Terms

Browse Buzzwords Relating to Academia

60-year curriculum

refers to a vision of continuing education for life-long learning. This vision sees colleges and universities as a lifelong partner with learners at all stages of their lives and careers, providing knowledge and skills throughout their entire lives.

academic advising

processes to assist students in course selection and developing academic milestones and goals, typically for degree completion. Some institutions have adopted electronic tools to assist such as automated degree audits, degree and career pathways, and automated advising and planning platforms. (See also degree audits.)    

academic maps

quarter-by-quarter or semester-by-semester sequences of courses required to complete a degree within a predetermined time frame, for example, two years at a community college and four years at a university.

academic prioritization

Selection and assessment of viability of academic programs by an institution. Criteria vary depending on institutional processes: cost, employment projections, potential growth or improvement, demand, instructional quality, etc.

alternative credit

In the academic context, alternative credit is getting college credit for learning completed outside of the conventional classroom setting and makes a degree more attainable.   National organizations like ACE are developing consortia and projects like the Alternative Credit Project to broaden the ability of students to receive credit for learning and skills completed in other than the traditional or online classroom.  Different institutions have various ways of accepting alternative credit. Alternative credit boosts nontraditional learners.

applied baccalaureate

a four-year bachelor’s degree program in an applied field of study earned at a four-year or two-year institution.  Applied learning refers to an educational approach whereby students learn by engaging in direct application of skills, theories and models. Applied learning can occur outside of the traditional academic classroom experience and/or be embedded as part of a course. An AB Degree is a degree program focused on applied learning typically found at four-year institutions of higher learning; the community college baccalaureate is typically an AB degree. (See also community college baccalaureate.)

articulation, articulation agreement

Also called transfer agreements, articulation agreements delineate pathways of coursework to a degree among programs and institutions and are meant to simplify transition and assure that successful completion of delineated coursework leads to degree completion. Articulation promotes ease of transfer with little or no loss of earned credits.


in context of higher education, making judgments, appraisal of performance and student placement and learning.  Assessing student learning without standardized tests is one strategy that many colleges and universities are implementing. (See multiple measures.)

blended learning

any combination of traditional classroom, face-to-face, hands-on learning also utilizing digital and online technologies and E-Learning. (See E-Learning below.) In several studies, blended learning is on the rise in colleges.

cafeteria approach:

allowing students to have choices in courses they take as opposed to a pathway approach with more prescribed coursework leading directly to a credential or degree. The term was popularized in Thomas Bailey and Shanna Smith Jagger’s Redesigning America’s Community Colleges, A Clearer Path to Student Success (2015).

bundling (rebundling and unbundling)

Terms taken from the banking industry, now being applied to higher education, as the pivot to remote learning by community colleges and universities across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic has posed questions and disruptive innovations regarding the components and their correlating costs of higher education

Students pay tuition for courses and curricular requirements, some of which are not related to their major, but are “bundled” together in a package or pathway for students.

Refers to the concept of unbundling many of the components that make up the traditional approach to higher education: time, and can apply to the curriculum, courses, content, credentialing, campus life, personal growth, and subcomponents of teaching and learning such as coaches, mentors, learning communities, personal learning plans, pathways, employer connections, etc. which are services that have become more modular (Michael Horn, Forbes, July 2020)

“Rebundling” means repacking those components into new components and models. 

career pathways

According to the U.S. Departments of  Education, Health and Human Services, career pathways are a series of connected education and training strategies and support services that enable individuals to secure industry-relevant certification and obtain employment within an occupational area and to advance to higher levels of future education and employment in that area.  MDRC Research on Career Pathways identifies core elements such as alignment of connected education strategies and multiple entry and exit points and others.

Carnegie unit and student hour

Time-based measurement of educational attainment currently used by American colleges and universities. The original definition of the Carnegie Unit is 120 hours of class or contact time with an instructor spread over the school year. Used today, the student hour is aligned with 50 minutes of lecture time or 12 hours of class/contact time per week over a semester, usually 14-16 weeks.

In the context of online or virtual education as the predominant form of learning during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, many educators feel that now may be the time to move away from the Carnegie Unit as an outdated way to measure student learning. In 2010, the Ed Department codified the general practice of counting the credit hour as one hour of classroom instruction and two hours of work outside the classroom each week. Its goal was to clarify the amount of expected academic effort associated with a given course and give accreditors/schools a consistent standard. Many educators believe it is necessary to broaden the definition of the credit hour to one that focuses on student learning rather than “seat time” and is flexible enough to account for innovations (such as competency-based education) in the delivery models used by institutions.


non-degree awards that typically require less time to complete than degrees. Certificates are increasingly more important in postsecondary education and have rapidly proliferated particularly in vocational training and to their higher completion rates relative to associate degree programs.

coaching, student coaching

In lieu of traditional academic advising strategies, providing coaches has proven to be an effective retention strategy for at-risk students.   Coaches provide a more holistic approach to student needs and work with students on a range of issues, from financing their education, personal wellness and career readiness. Some colleges have added coaches in addition to their academic advising services.

collegiate high school

A dual credit program in which high school students take college-level courses, sometimes called collegiate academies. Students are able to get their high school diploma and earn college credits.

community college baccalaureate

is a four-year bachelor’s degree program conferred at a community college. Typically, the degrees earned are Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) and/or Bachelor of Technology (BAT) and are focused on applied learning tied to a profession or industry.

competency-based education (CBE)

aims to be a way for students to get credit for what they know, build on their knowledge and skills by learning more at their own pace and earn high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials that help them in their lives and careers. CBE  programs may offer an alternative for learners who have developed skills and knowledge though life and work experiences and training.  Using credentials, CBE may indicate skills that new employees have when they are hired.  Sometimes called “direct assessment.” Regional accrediting agencies across the U.S. have developed a common framework defining competency-based direct assessment.  Actually defining competency still remains elusive, but CBE programs are expanding.


is typically defined as students earning a credential, degree or license; for some programs and colleges, completion can refer to successful transfer to a four-year institution.  It is  defined a variety of ways by different colleges.  Improving community college completion rates should be a top priority for policymakers at all levels of government, employers, community colleges, and the philanthropic community. Earning a postsecondary credential or degree provides a gateway to higher average earnings and opens up career pathways for graduates, while higher completion rates help strengthen the American workforce. Improving community college completion rates also refers to completion initiatives which address removing barriers for students.

Completion by Design (CBD)

Bill & Melinda Gates-funded Completion by Design (CBD) initiative, which began in 2011. CBD was based on the following principles:

(1) Accelerate entry into coherent programs of study.
(2) Minimize the time required to get college ready.
(3) Ensure that students know the requirements to succeed.
(4) Customize and contextualize instruction.
(5) Integrate student supports with instruction.
(6) Continually monitor student progress and proactively provide feedback.
(7) Reward behaviors that contribute to completion.
(8) Leverage technology to improve learning and program delivery.

continuity of education

  • Phrase referring to teachers providing distance learning experiences for students that include new skills and knowledge so that students can progress in their studies.
  • To support continued learning during the extended college closure period.

corequisite remediation

Underprepared students receive extra support while enrolled in credit-bearing college-level classes, alleviating the need and the time spent taking remedial or developmental, often non-credit coursework. Recent studies and reports have demonstrated corequisite remediation as a “best practice” rather than having students take prerequisite coursework.  The State of Texas, for example, adopted this reform in June 2017 in collaboration with Complete College America. Nevertheless, current  research questions the effectiveness as compared to traditional remediation.


  • Degree which combines the best of a liberal arts education with skills training.
  • A blended degree of technical skills and liberal arts critical thinking skills; word formed from “credential” and “degree.”

credential/credentials framework

refers to the skills, knowledge and competencies underpinning educational programs. Because the competencies students might develop through each degree, certificate, license or badge are difficult to discern, and even more difficult to organize into a coherent, successful development path, the Lumina Foundation has developed a credentials framework which uses competencies to identify what the learner knows and is able to do.  Many large tech companies like Google and Amazon are expanding their postsecondary credential offerings.  Online resources like the Credential Finder help learners identify potential certificates for skills they wish to develop. Developing uniformity and transparency in the marketplace of credentials has been the goal of organizations like Credential Engine which has produced a Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL) Handbook. (See digital badge and stackable credentials below.)

critical thinking

is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. Many argue that the humanities foster both creative and critical thinking.

degree audit

Process to identify all of the requirements for a degree, including (but not limited to) credit hours, required coursework, core and major requirements, residency requirements and other elements. The audit to track progress toward degree completion identifies if a requirement has or has not been fulfilled or if it is in progress. An efficient and fast degree audit can be an automated system.

Dev Ed (developmental education)

is a comprehensive research-based framework that empowers underprepared learns to achieve intellectual, social and emotional growth. Developmental education includes, but is not limited to, instruction, coursework, tutoring, personal counseling, career counselling and academic advisement. The coursework is typically not transferable credit. A synonym is “remedial education.” Based on much research demonstrating that most students in remedial/developmental classes rarely moved on to college-level coursework to completion (sometimes using up most of their financial aid on these sub-college courses), many colleges are now reforming their assessment and placement processes as well as developmental courses.

direct assessment

In contrast to measuring learning or student achievement using the credit hour or seat time in a classroom, direct assessment is measuring specific student knowledge and skills.  A direct form of competency-based education, direct assessment does not necessarily center coursework or instructors. Students are assessed directly, and some colleges are attempting to adapt the method to some of their offerings. See competency-based education.)

dual credit

simultaneously earning credits for high school and college. (See also dual enrollment.)

dual enrollment

refers to students who are enrolled in both high school and college simultaneously, no matter where or how instruction is accessed.  Students earn credits for both their diploma and college coursework which reduces both the time and costs of a college degree.  As these programs demonstrate student success, they are maintaining a strong growth rate nationwide. Some colleges are sustained by these programs.


A learning system based on formalized teaching but with the help of electronic resources is known as E-learning.


specifically means freedom from bias or favoritism. In terms of education, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) defines two dimensions of equity in education: (1) personal and social circumstances do not prevent students from achieving their academic potential. (2) inclusion, which means setting a basic minimum standard for education that is shared by all students regardless of background, personal characteristics, or location. Equity efforts in higher education to close the gaps in higher education attainment by income, race, access, equal opportunity, etc. include  Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States.   Educational boards play a critical role in helping organizations understand the context in which they work and how best to prioritize resources and strategies based on that reality.

equity audit

an internal review of institutional practices (admissions, faculty and staff diversity, financial aid processes, etc.) in the context of equity. Some in higher education are calling for educational institutions to develop processes such as an audit to identify gaps by race, ethnicity, income, gender, disabilities, national origin, etc.


emphasizes institutional responsibility to create equity and enable practitioners to focus on what they can to close equity gaps. (See equity and equity audit.)

experiential learning

learning through experience, learn by doing and reflecting on doing; assumes a more active role by the learner. Internships and service learning are forms of experiential learning.

flipped classroom

An inversion of traditional classroom instruction, the flipped classroom is a teaching strategy that put course lecture material and instruction online (via video and other media) for individual and classroom discourse and uses the actual face-to-face classroom for activities, labs and collaborative troubleshooting or what was typically considered homework. Teachers become facilitators and “guides” on the side rather than “sages on the stage” while learners engage in a variety of learning activities and group work.  Many educators see both the pros and cons of the flipped classroom and its reliance on technology which can bring up an access issue for some students without home technologies.

free speech zones

Also known as First Amendment zones, are areas in the college set aside for the purpose of political protests. Many feel that these zones confine political expression to distant out-of-the-way locations on campus. See also related “disinvitations” and “speech codes.”

full course load

usually refers to the number of courses a student may take in a semester is dependent on many factors, such as time availability and the college’s course load policies. A full load is considered to be at least 12 credits, which is equal to four three-credit courses.

full-time student

refers to the number of credit hours they take during a quarter or semester. Full-time is generally a minimum of twelve credits or about four 3-credit classes. Part-time is usually somewhere between six and 11 credits or two to three classes. Therefore, a full-time student spends more time in class during a semester than a part-time student.


describes the process of applying game-related principles to non-game contexts such as education. Using characteristics of gaming, educators are designing recruitment, enrollment, learning spaces and learning strategies  to provide students with engaging educational experiences based on stimulation and immediate feedback.  Gamification takes elements of game play and adds them to a non-game activity or educational experience.

gateway or gatekeeper courses

courses taken usually at the beginning of a sequence of required courses for a degree or certificate. These are often essential,  “must-pass” credit courses so that students can continue on in their studies in a particular field or degree program. A gatekeeper course is the first or lowest-level college-level course students take in a subject such as math, reading or writing. Most certificate, degree and transfer programs require students to pass gatekeeper courses in one or more subjects. Common examples include English 101 and college-level math for both associate and baccalaureate degrees.  

guided pathways

The  Guided Pathways Project  model is based on coherent and easy-to-follow college-level programs of study that are aligned with requirements for success in employment and at the next stage of education. Programs, support services, and instructional approaches are redesigned and re-aligned to help students clarify their goals, choose and enter pathways that will achieve those goals, stay on those pathways, and master knowledge and skills that will enable them to advance in the labor market and successfully pursue further education.

homework gap

Refers to the digital divide where many students do not have the technology at home or regular access to it to complete online homework assignments.

Inability of students to complete homework assignments due to inequitable access to computers or broadband in contrast to peers with sufficient access to the internet

HyFlex Option or Hybrid-Flexible courses

Refers to multi-modal courses which combine online and classroom-based students and have been used successfully for more than a decade at many higher education institutions around the world with a wide variety of courses.

Course model in which each course is built to give students a choice to attend either in person or online acknowledging the student control aspect, sometimes referring to HyFlex as delivering a “student-directed hybrid” learning experience. 

implicit bias

An implicit bias is any unconsciously held set of associations about a social group. Implicit biases can result in the attribution of particular qualities to all individuals from that group, also known as stereotyping. Implicit biases are the product of learned associations and social conditioning. Research indicates an increased probably of seeing disruptive behavior in black children; other works confirms racial biases in teacher expectations.


means that all people, regardless of their abilities, disabilities, or health care needs, have the right to: be respected and appreciated as valuable members of their communities, participate in recreational activities in neighborhood settings; work at jobs in the community that pay a competitive wage, and have careers that use their capacities to the fullest and attend general education classes with peers from preschool through college and continuing education.  (See also diversity.)

inequity gap

means improving the funding of the community colleges with so many low-income students 

integration course

is a comprehensive way of studying multiple components of language, culture, legal system, politics from a number of perspectives: how people live and interact, and the values on which a society is based. Whether a person may take an integration course or, in some cases, is required to do so, depends on their country of origin and level of fluency in a new society.  Integration courses are directed to asylum seekers and immigrants and include a language course and an orientation course.

Integrative learning

an approach to learning, which develops the ability to think broadly and connect ideas across disciplines and to the outside world, it is being used in general education curricula. Integrative learning is the process of making connections among concepts and experiences so that information and skills can be applied to novel and complex issues or challenges. 


the position of a student or trainee who works in an organization, sometimes without pay, in order to gain work experience or satisfy requirements for a qualification.  (See also co-op.)

intrusive advising

is planned advising for students, making sure that the advising is not cursory and that students get the information that they need to excel. Whether going into the classroom, scheduling appointments with students, or making referrals to students who do not attend, academic advisors make deliberate efforts to assure that students are on track to meet their goals.


Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS):   system is managed by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and provides publicly available data on all postsecondary institutions which participate in federal student financial aid programs.

knowledge economy

A key concept of the knowledge economy is that knowledge and education (often referred to as human capital) can be treated as a business product, as educational and innovative intellectual products and services can be exported for a high value return. The knowledge economy is a system of consumption and production based on intellectual capital. The knowledge economy commonly makes up a large share of all economic activity in developed countries. In a knowledge economy, a significant part of a company's value may consist of intangible assets, such as the value of its workers' knowledge (intellectual capital), but generally accepted accounting principles do not allow companies to include these assets on balance  sheets. The initial foundation for the knowledge economy was introduced in 1966 in the book The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker in which Drucker described the difference between the manual worker and the knowledge worker. The term was popularized by Peter Drucker as the title of Chapter 12 in his book The Age of Discontinuity.

Learner record system (LRS) or Interoperable learning record (ILR)

Digital college transcript and resume that can be updated and available online; contains credit and noncredit programs, credentials and competencies/skills students achieve.

LRSs provide a verifiable, easily transferable record backed up by blockchain that provides detail about where students have excelled and specific skills they can bring to the workplace or to another institution.

The pandemic has brought new urgency to the creation of these digital student records which could help students more smoothly transfer between colleges and find a job.

Learner Revolution

represents a paradigm shift from degree programs to new skills and competencies in making judgements about a learner’s qualifications; where traditional and nontraditional students have more control over how, when and where they learn. Retention, graduation and student success are now a shared responsibility between learners and institutions.. Colleges must listen to what prospective students want as workers become more interested in acquiring skills rather than degrees.  Learners may gain their competencies from a variety of sources and work experiences.   The “Learner Revolution” represents an exhilarating, yet daunting deconstruction of the degree as we know it: a world where a learner will not be tethered to one institution for their degree, where in fact, earning a whole degree will be only one option on a success-focused learner’s menu. Changes coming may be a move away from the degree and the credit-hour standard for eligibility for federal aid programs. Reimagining admissions requirements is part of this shift.

Learning Management System (LMS)

software for the administration, documentation, tracking and reporting and delivery of educational programs;  helps manage administration, tracking, reporting and delivering of courses, lessons and tests. Learning management systems were designed to identify training and learning gaps, utilizing analytical data and reporting.


is inclusive education for students with disabilities, as a component of school reform, such as efforts to integrate diverse students in general education classes. These include students who are gifted and talented, who have limited English speaking abilities, and who are from various racial and ethnic groups.


refers to a professional relationship of advising or training someone, often a younger person. Mentoring is proven to have a positive impact on students’ career readiness and general student progress and success. Companies like AT&T have set up programs to keep students engaged in education. Some colleges set up mentors with students to provide career guidance. There are different types of mentoring, traditional one-on-one with a mentor and mentee, distance mentoring, or group mentoring.

merit-based college admissions

is college acceptance based off of your talents and interests: academic, artistic, athletic, and the list goes on; wherein hard-working students and eager employees are considered based on the objective standard of their past performance, not on the subjective feelings of admission officers and government bureaucrats.


a credential less than a degree and not a formal license, sometimes called badges, which are offered by a variety of organizations and delivered through a wide range of postsecondary institutions.

mission statement

a statement of core values of a college or institution. The mission guides the purposes of the institution. Incorporating a commitment to access and success within an institution's mission statement is a deliberative process involving campus stakeholders, governing boards, communities, businesses, and the public.  Accreditors typically ask: Is the college fulfilling its mission?

multiple intelligences

was developed by Howard Gardner of Harvard whose theories in cognitive research supports that students learn, process, and interpret information differently and it argues that one’s capacity to learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways. Currently, there are seven learning styles.

multiple measures

use of multiple indicators and sources of evidence of student learning. Many colleges ae using various indicators of learning and achievement such as student interviews, standardized tests, field work, projects, teacher recommendations, etc. rather than simply standardized tests alone as indicators of student progress or ability to take college-level coursework. 


“micro" online certification programs

nudging, nudge

strategy used to text personal supports and reminders to low-income, at-risk students. Recently a nudging campaign at four community colleges improved student persistence rates in STEM programs. Text messages were encouraging and asked what the students needed and addressed where students could get what information they needed.

opportunity zones

a national community investment tool that connects private capital with low-income communities across the country. The  Opportunity Zones incentive was established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to promote investments in low-income communities nationwide and offers federal tax benefits for investors in low-income communities.  The opportunities zone map designates which communities are official opportunity zones.

pandemic pods

A form of homeschooling for kids for both online and/or in-person learning to work in small groups or pods to support or replace traditional schooling which has gone predominantly virtual or remote during COVID-19

Families group together and either share the care and encouragement for virtual classes, or employ someone, even a qualified teacher, to supervise.

pass/fail grading

Refers to the emergency grading system adopted and debated by many colleges during the Covid-19 pandemic;  students will not receive traditional letter grades — only marks of “pass,” “incomplete,” or “no-record” (the latter meaning the course won’t show up on a student’s transcript).

The pass/no record system is essentially a form of “universal pass” that prevents students from failing any of their classes. It’s already available to students at various universities and has drawn criticism in the past for allegedly incentivizing students to slack off.  Many colleges have adopted optional pass/fail policies.


Refer to guided pathways or to the guided pathways approach that promotes access to completion.

prior learning assessment (PLA)

is a practice designed to help students complete their degree and/or portfolio via formal and informal experiences for college equivalency. Examples would be applying experiential learning such as workplace learning, military, internships, or study abroad language credits directly as an elective requirement.

program accreditation

is accreditation of individual programs within a school (like Nursing, etc.) rather than the whole institution. There are specific evaluating groups for this type of accreditation. Program appraisers will look at faculty, curriculum, students, resources and administrative structure. Accreditation groups want to make sure that all students are offered the same standard of supervision, advisement, support and access to relevant program resources. See also regional accreditation.

Project–based learning (PBL)

is a dynamic classroom approach in which students actively explore real-world problems and challenges and acquire a deeper knowledge.

regional accreditation

institutional accreditation which means an entire school is accredited. That bestows a high level of credibility on a university as a whole. Institutional accreditation can be provided by a regional or national accreditation group. The United States is divided into six geographic regions, and each has its own regional accrediting organization. Only those accrediting groups that are acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Education are considered legitimate: Northwest Commission on Colleges & Universities (NWCCU),  Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC),  Higher Learning Commission (HLC); New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE);  Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and Southern Association of Colleges and School Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).  A map of the scope of each regional accreditor is online. See also “program accreditation” and “CHEA.”

remedial education

also known as developmental education. New research questions if new remedial strategies are getting students to complete.

remedial math

developmental math to prepare students for college-level math. Many states are developing new ways to teach remedial math.

remote learning: (distance learning)

Remote learning occurs when the learner and instructor, or source of information, are separated by time and distance and cannot meet in a traditional face-to-face classroom.


student retention is significant for measuring institutional effectiveness in the prevailing environment of accountability and budgetary constraints. An example of a retention strategy might be  offering telecommute program or distance learning options for busy students and employees.

service learning

Learning that provides students opportunities to engage in practical service activities in the community including volunteering. Often service learning components are part of a course curriculum and offer students practical, hands-on training related to the coursework.

stackable credentials

a series of academic credentials that build upon each other toward a degree or profession.  Example: Accounting Clerk, Accounting Paraprofessional, Accountant. CCRC explored if stackable credentials have labor market value.

student engagement

student willingness to participate in college activities, attend class, and get involved (engaged) in their learning.  As an accountability measure, many institutions use the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) to assess services and programs for students.

student success courses

are courses offered usually to new freshmen, transfer, developmental or first- generation students to learn about navigating through college. These courses are of various lengths and aim to assist students with helpful practical information about all aspects of the college experience to help them navigate through the admission, course selection and advisement processes. Skills taught are usually time management, study skills, and often a tour of important offices and buildings like the library on campus. Research has shown many of these courses help students develop their long-term goals for completing their course of study.

study abroad

offers learning opportunities for students who wish to study outside of the United States. Many high schools and colleges offer a variety of travel learning opportunities for students with variation in the length of time, credit or noncredit, sponsorship, etc.

summer melt

refers to the lag time between the end and beginning of the typical academic calendar year when students may not take classes during the summer. Because many students in the summer are away from their studies, a great of learning may be lost as well as interest in completing. To avoid summer melt, many colleges are offering robust summer programs to keep students on target.

summer swirl

refers to the steady increase in college students taking classes to speed up their progress to graduation, according to NCES which tracks this. Students often turn to community colleges in the summer to gain credits and save money. Summer swirl student are graduating in less than five years. (Research shows that  a third of students transfer before graduating, and many head toward community colleges.)

synchronous learning

Learning where students and instruction occur at the same time. During the pandemic, especially with students who lack connectivity (Wi-Fi for access to the internet), the limitations of synchronous instruction are equity and access.

Antonym is asynchronous learning or location independent learning.

test optional

In response to fewer opportunities for national college testing in light of COVID-19, a majority of colleges and universities have dropped the SAT or ACT requirement during the admissions cycle.

A school that is test optional will still consider a student’s standardized test scores. A strong score could provide important information that supports students’ academic growth and achievement.

Students who do not submit scores should also note that the other aspects of their applications (grades, academic profile, extracurricular life, essays, recommendations, special projects, etc.) will be weighed more heavily as determining factors for admission.

test-blind admission

Even  if students submit their scores, some colleges and universities are not looking at SAT and ACT scores of new student applicants. Because of the pandemic, many students have complained of fewer opportunities to take the tests, last-minute cancellations at some test centers and the need for social distancing.

No one sole factor on the application will determine a student’s admission status.


the matriculation of a student from a college in the two-year sector to a college in a four-year sector, regardless of time spent or hours accumulated in the two-year college. Transfer rates are the proportion of student who transfer to a baccalaureate institution with or without completion of a degree at the two-year institution.

transfer-out rate

the proportion of students who transfer to a four-year college or university without completion of a degree or credential at the two-year institution.


typically refers to academic journey from one level to the next or phasing from the three major transition points: (1) primary to middle school, (2) middle school to secondary, (3) secondary to postsecondary, i.e. community colleges/universities. Thus, the educational performances are sectioned to meet the academic, social, emotional, cognitive, physical, or developmental changes that affects progress.

trigger warning

use of warnings to students about course content: In academic settings, they are written or spoken warnings given by professors to alert students that course material might be traumatic for people with particular life experiences.  Much debate about freedom of speech, etc. In the classroom.

underrepresented students

refers to students often not well represented on college campuses: low-income, first-generation, LGBT+ and minority students. These underrepresented groups face unique challenges in  both applying to and attending college including harassment and discrimination. The Century Foundation suggests 9 Ways Colleges Should Support Underrepresented Students.

underserved students

(used interchangeably with “underrepresented.”) refers to students who do not receive equitable resources as other students, including low-income, underrepresented racial/ethnic minorities and first generation students who have historically been outside mainstream higher education. Minority: race/ethnicity is African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino, or Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander; Low income: combined parental income is less than or equal to $36,000; and First generation in college: highest parental education level is high school diploma or less (ACT article).

unit record system

refers to the system used to provide information for prospective student and families about employment outcomes, particularly about jobs and earnings of students in specific majors at specific institutions.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Effective remote learning draws from Universal Design for Learning principles which emphasize providing learning materials in multiple formats and modalities that meet diverse learner needs and preferences, providing opportunities for students to engage in reflective practice, make relevant connections to learning objectives, and collaborate with peers; and providing students with options for how they demonstrate their understanding of course objectives.

UDL provides a framework to reach every student through online teaching by utilizing neuroscience for learning and following the three main principles of engagement: representation, action and expression.

From an educational framework first conceptualized in architecture with Universal Design which refers to creating spaces that are accessible to all, UDL highlights the challenges of special education, where learning and teaching based on the “average” student was not effective. UDL utilizes strategies such as checking in often with students at least once a day during instruction days, making a bullet-pointed summary of what is expected, etc. to ensure students are engaged.

Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA)

the first comprehensive accountability system specifically designed for community colleges; administered through the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

work-based learning

refers to high-quality, work-based learning opportunities that integrate applicable academic concepts and state standards and evaluate a student’s mastery of key employability skills. In most cases, students can reap greater benefits from quality work-based learning programs than they can from traditional teen employment opportunities. Some middle schools have implemented career exploration programs to connect young students to employability skills and learn about potential careers.  Different states define work-based learning in various ways. This complexity and variation in definitions can be found in Work-Based Learning Definitions Themes From States and National Organizations. Work-based learning opportunities are being expanded at the federal level.


refers to programs, both federal and campus-based, that provide partial funding to students with financial need to get part-time jobs, most preferably related to their field of study.  Federal Work-Study (FWS) funds  are  provided for full- or part-time students with financial need at colleges that have had their federal application approved. The new FWS Experimental Site is particularly relevant to community colleges interested in expanding work-based learning.