Education Terms Glossary

ProctorFree Education and Academic Glossary

Education related terms can seem like a unique language, on this page you will find some commonly used education terms, along with friendly definitions we could find or create.

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Academia: The collective term for the community of higher education and research engaged in science and cultural learning. From the Greek Akademia, near Athens, where ancient Greek philosopher Plato set his school of philosophy.

Academic Degree: Conferred by higher education institutions, an academic degree is one of a number of status levels that most often signify the successful completion of a program of study.

Academic Institution: An institution of education, dedicated to research and higher education. These institutions grant academic degrees.

Academic Integrity: An ethical policy or moral code in academia, including avoiding forms of cheating and plagiarism, keeping honest standards in academic publishing, and maintaining academic standards.

Academic Publishing: The publishing system in place that allows academic scholars to submit their work for peer review, making it available for a broader audience. Also known as the “system,” academic publishing can vary widely by field and is continuously evolving to meet current standards and demands. Most of the work puts out by academic publishing is through books or articles in journals.

Accrediting Body: In relation to education, an accrediting body is an organization that issues certificates or licenses to individuals who have met a rigorous coursework standards to the satisfaction of the body.

Active Learning: The learning process where students are actively engaging the material. Often utilizing cooperative learning, active learning involves peer discussion, writing, reading, and direct engagement while solving problems, utilizing analysis, evolution, and synthesis.

Adult Education: Also known as andragogy, adult education is the practice of educating and teaching adults, often through the workplace. Sometimes referred to by the term “Training and Development,” adult education is offered through ‘continuing education’ or extension’ courses through secondary schools, colleges, and universities.

Alternative Education: Any approach to learning and teaching that is different that the traditional style found in public and private schools. Also known as non-traditional education, the various approaches can be applied to any age group of student, at any educational level.

American Council on Education (ACE): Established in 1918, the ACE is made up of over 1800 accredited institutions of higher education, including colleges, universities, and other related organizations. It conducts public policy research and advocacy in relation to key issues in higher education.

Andragogy: American theory of adult education, distinguishing adult learning from the more common child-based learning (pedagogy). First proposed by educator Malcolm Knowles.

Assessment: Documenting and recording knowledge and skills, often of a student, in addition to attitudes and beliefs. Usually done in measurable terms, often for comparison to peer groups.

Asynchronous Learning: The method of teaching which uses an asynchronous delivery of materials or content for training, using computer network technology. The approach incorporates models of instruction that are centered on the learner while providing training based in technology. While the asynchronous learning format has been used for some time, new strategies and research suggest the approach may, through self-directed/self-paced module completion, enable learners to increase skills and knowledge by motivating and preparing the learner.

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Biometrics: A system of personal identification through measurable characteristics distinct to an individual. These characteristics can be either behavioral or psychological.

Blackboard: Blackboard Inc. is an enterprise technology company with corporate headquarters in Washington, D.C. that is primarily known as a developer of education software, in particular Blackboard Learning System, its flagship learning management system and product.

Blended Learning: A combination of different modes of learning. Blended learning is often used to refer specifically to combination courses that use both in-classroom and online distance learning techniques.

Bridge Program: A program in higher education, frequently used in healthcare professions, used to assist students meet a course of degree or license in less time than entry-level students. It is specifically designed for students who have already reached a primary educational goal.

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Certification Bodies: Organizations that issue certifications that can confirm an individual meets standard requirements of a particular field of study or research.

Coaching: The act of teaching and directing through advice and encouragement. A coach is most traditionally recognized in areas of sports, but motivational and inspirational coaches emerged during the 20th century.

Coeducation: Also known as co-ed; gender-integrated education in the same school. Before the middle of the 20th century, many educations of higher learning restricted enrollment by gender.

Collaborative Learning: A term covering many different approaches to education, all of which use joint effort between groups of students, or students and their instructors. Related to cooperative learning, collaborative learning can include group projects and collaborative writing, among other tasks.

Comparative Education: Using data from the educational practices and situations from one geographical area to examine the educational practices in another.

Computer Based Learning (CBL): A structured environment where computers are primarily used to teach as a key component, both in and out of a classroom situation.

Cooperative Education: The combination of academics and practical work experience via a structured method. Cooperative education – regularly referred to as “co-op” – gives academic credit for paid work; this goes hand in hand with research showing employers highly value work experience in new hires.

Cooperative Learning: A switch from more traditional, curriculum-focused methods of education. Cooperative learning environments support students learning, both as self and within the group.

Course: One academic term of a single subject, primarily used in the United States.

Coursera: An educational tech company that offers for-profit massive open online courses (MOOC). Coursera works hand in hand with universities to bring traditional classroom-based courses online in many different subjects.

Critical Pedagogy: The teaching approach which focuses on the practice of achieving critical consciousness by students. Instructors who use the method of critical pedagogy leads students to question oppressive practices in all facets of their lives.

Critical Thinking: The mental processes used when evaluating information that has been put forth as true. Consists of reflection, examination, and formation of judgement. Information is gathered through communication, experience, reasoning and observation. While based in values of intellect, critical thinking goes beyond subject/matter division.

Cultural Learning: The ways information is passed to new generations within a cultural society. The way a culture socializes with its youth greatly influences its learning styles.

Curriculum (plural: curricula): The courses and contents offered by educational institutions. Curriculum may be determined, either partially or completely, by external bodies.

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Desire2Learn: Desire2Learn Incorporated is a provider of enterprise eLearning solutions and develops online Learning Management Systems used at more than 650 institutions in 20 different countries around the world.

Distance Education: An educational field focused on the design of systems that most effectively incorporates the pedagogy, technology, and instructional systems for students unable to attend traditional classroom-based education classes. Students and teachers can communicated via electronic media, or through real-time applications. Some distance education courses require in-classroom presence at times; these are called hybrid or blended courses.

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EDU or .edu : “Dot-edu” Primarily used by schools and universities in the United States, .edu is the generic top-level domain (TLD) for institutions of education. Originally intended for use worldwide, .edu is one of the oldest TLDs, created in 1985. While it is available for schools worldwide, most institutions outside of the United States choose a domain under the TLD for their country.

Education: Learning and teaching specific knowledge, skills, and beliefs, as defined by the social sciences. Practicing teachers, in addition to those who are licensed, use many different methods and materials to create and share curriculum.

Education Policy: The collection of implied and stated rules and regulations set to control and modify the behavior in schools. There is a scholarly study of education policy, focusing primarily on analysis.

Education Reform: A movement or plan that brings or attempts to bring an entire change of the system of educational theory and practice across society or community lines.

Educational Evaluation: The characterization and appraising of different parts of the educational enterprise through an evaluation process.

Educational Games: Games that are specifically designed to teach people – primarily children – a certain subject, or assist in learning a skill with play. Often called edutainment due to the combining of an entertainment source such as video games with an educational process.

Educational Leadership: The leadership found in more formal settings of education. Generally drawing from interdisciplinary literature, educational leadership distinguishes itself through its focus on human development, epistemology, and pedagogy. More contemporary forms borrow points from business and political science, and there is debate about this tension found within the field.

Educational Organization: An organizational theory applying to how education is processed by the human mind. Educational organization is not organizing the educational system.

Educational Programming Language: Not used as a tool for real world applications, this programming language is primarily used as a learning instrument.

Educational Psychology: The psychological study of the different ways humans placed in educational settings learn. Also focuses on how effective various educational treatments are, the psychology of teaching as subject, and schools as organizations within social psychology. While educational psychology and school psychology are interchangeably used, school psychology and psychologists most often refer to practitioners found on school campuses, while educational psychologists are usually the theoretical and research practitioners. Educational psychology focuses as a practice on the process of attaining education in the general population.

Educational Research: The investigation and research toward specific behavior found in students, teachers, and other members of a campus body. The research is most often conducted by examining data from points that can be pulled from many different campuses, such as standardized testing results. Educational research methodology is most often pulled from social sciences, primarily psychology.

Educational Software: Software programs on computers which has a primary purpose of self-learning and teaching.

Educational Technology: Education improving through technology. The process of designing training or instruction for education, used to improve performance, through a systematic and iterative pattern. Also known as instructional or learning technology.

edX: Founded in conjunction by Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), EDX is an MOOC that hosts university-level courses, at no charge, to a worldwide audience.

E-learning: Computer and communications technology facilitated to enhance learning. E-learning can be utilized through home computers, software, television, and mobile technology such as tablets and smart phones. Communications technology uses email, internet access, online discussion forums and team learning systems (see: online deliberation) for students and teachers to communicate.

Electronic Portfolio: Primarily known as a digital or e-portfolio, an electronic portfolio is a portfolio found on electronic media and services in an educational context. It is a record of personal information, primarily including proof of knowledge and capability.

Engagement: How a student does or does not feel toward learning and his or her learning environment.

Exam/Examination (aka Test): An assessment of an individual meant to determine his or her knowledge, skill, or other classification on a subject. May be oral or written, or be performance-based. These can be formal or informal, and can be used to determine development of both an individual or a group.

Exam Proctor: A person who oversees an exam to ensure regulations are met and cheating does not occur.

Experiential Education: Better known as learning by doing or hands-on learning, experiential education is the process of engaging students actively in an experience with benefits and consequences in an authentic manner. Students discover and experiment in a hands-on environment, allowing them to gather the knowledge personally rather than simply through hearing or reading the experiences of others. Experiential education allows students to develop new attitudes and skills by reflecting on their experiences afterward, which can facilitate new theories and ways of thinking about problems. The process of experimental education highly relates to constructivist learning theory.

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Full-time equivalent (FTE): Full-time equivalent is a unit that indicates the workload of an employed person (or student) in a way that makes workloads comparable. across various contexts. FTE is often used to measure a worker’s (or students) involvement in a project, or to track cost reductions in an organization. An FTE of 1.0 means that the person is equivalent to a full-time worker, while an FTE of 0.5 signals that the worker is only half-time.

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Higher Education: The education provided by institutions such as colleges and universities that reward academic degrees upon completion. The term higher education refers to both teaching and research activities of universities. In the teaching sphere, it refers to both undergraduate and graduate level (sometimes referred to graduate school). Higher education is different than other types of post-secondary education such as vocational institutions. Most professional education can be found in the sphere of higher education, and a high majority of postgraduate work is strongly professionally oriented.

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Identity Verification: The definition of a person as an individual through physiological and behavioral standards. One example of identity verification is a PIN used in banking.

Individualized Instruction: The instructional method where instructional materials, media, content and learning pace are solely based on the individual learner’s interests and abilities.

Inquiry Education: Also known as inquiry method, inquiry education is centered on students. It is a method of education that is focused on question asking: students that have meaningful questions are encouraged to ask them, especially if they do not have easy answer. During the question time, teachers are encouraged to stay silent of possible, facilitating more questions rather than giving answers.

Instructional Design: Also referred to as instructional systems design, instructional design is an analytic process of developing instruction and analyzing learning needs. Designers frequently use instructional technology to develop instruction. Design models usually require a specific method that, when followed, transfer skills, attitude, and knowledge to students.

Instructional Leadership: The behaviors and actions of individuals or groups within the educational field, characterized by skill and knowledge in curriculum and instructional methodology. This includes resources to meet a school’s mission, one-on-one communication, communication in both small and large groups, and an established clear, articulated vision for the institution. The vision, and decisions based on it, are best made by a process of collaboration that is inclusive of many different stakeholders. Leaders are also expected to promote leadership behavior and collegiality between other institutional members.

Instructional Technology: Created as a response to labor shortage problems in the United States during WWII. The need of skilled labor workers to fill factories was a definite need, and instructional technology created a manner of training workers efficiently.

Instructional Theory: The theoretical discipline that focuses on structuring material to promote human education, primarily juveniles. Created in the late 1970s in the United States, the theory is usually categorized in two ways: cognitive and behaviorist. It was spawned from Benjamin Bloom’s 1956 work on the Taxonomy of Education Objectives at the University of Chicago.

Instructure: Instructure is an educational technology company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is the developer of the Canvas learning management system, which is a comprehensive cloud-native software package that competes with such systems as Desire2Learn, the Blackboard Learning System, Moodle, and the Sakai Project. Instructure also developed Canvas Network, a massive open online course platform.

Integrative Learning: The theory that describes movement to integration of lessons that will assist students in cross-curricula connections. It is a concept in higher education, and is different from the “integrated curriculum” movement in elementary and secondary schools.

International Education: Connected to comparative education, international education is the practice and study of aid and cooperation between international communities. This includes the exchange of students, researchers, and teachers.

Invigilator: A person who ensures examinations run smoothly, by complying with the regulations set on them. This includes start and finish times, the securing of papers, recording attendance and seating, and watching for cheating and plagiarism. Invigilators also deal with unforeseen emergencies and problems that may come up during exams.

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Khan Academy: Created in 2006, Khan academy is a not for profit website offering thousands of resources for educators and students. Its mission is to “provide a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.”

Kinesthetic Learning: A style of learning and teaching where the student takes place in an actual activity in contrast to watching a demonstration or listening to a lecture. Examples include building physical models and participating in role-playing or reenactments. This also includes the left-right movement of motion utilized in kindergarten classes to prepare children for reading.

Knowledge Management (KM): The techniques used for systematic collection, security, management, and transfer of informational data between members of organizations. It also includes the systems designed to best utilize the knowledge. It specifically refers to the tools and techniques created to preserve informational availability held by specific people that will facilitate decisions made and risk reduction.

Knowledge Representation (KR): Used most often to refer to representations of explicit objects intended for computer processing.

Knowledge Transfer: The practical problem of moving knowledge from one area of an organization to another, primarily in organizational learning and development fields. Considered more than a problem with communications.

Knowledge Visualization: A sub disciplinary section of information design and instructional message design with the aim of improving knowledge transfer through use of computer and non-computer-based visual formats. Some formats included are sketches and art, diagrams and informational graphics, photographs and physical objects, animations, visualization, and stories.

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Learning: Acquisition of attitudes, knowledge, skills, and/or values through experience, study, or teaching. Causes behavioral changes that is persistent and measurable. May also allow the individual to create new mental constructs or revise prior beliefs or attitudes. The learning process depends on experience and can lead to long term behavioral changes.

Learning by Teaching (LdL): The designation of a method that allows students to prepare and teach their peers in professional education. From the German “Lernen durch Lehren” or LdL. This method should not be confused by student presentation or lectures. In learning by teaching, students do more than just convey specific content, they choose the methodology and approach to teach their classmates the specific subject matter.

Learning Outcome: While the usage of learning outcome may vary between different organizations, the term usually refers to either the aims of the course or the general objectives of a line of education.

Lesson Plan: The detailed course description for a lesson, put together by the teacher or instructor. Many lesson plans are similar, but there is no single way to create a correct plan.

Liberal Arts: The field that provides general knowledge and intellectual skills in study, in comparison to specialized skills for professional or occupational use.

Lifelong Learning: A philosophy that is summed by the concept believing that it is “never too soon or too late for learning.” The concept seeks to provide people with opportunities for learning throughout life and in various context, whether it be in school, at work, or through recreational activity.

Lifelong Education: Pedagogical form frequently attained through e-learning, continuing education, and correspondence courses. It can also include postgraduate programs for improving skill sets and work retraining. It shares similar goals with internal training at corporations.

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Mastery Learning: The instructional method that holds the presumption all children are capable of learning, provided they have the appropriate conditions. It is a method in which students that have not advanced to a particular objective will stay in place until they can demonstrate the proficiency to move on.

Mentoring: The relationship between a mentor and a less-experienced partner, usually paired by sex.

Methodology: Defined strictly as a study and knowledge of methods. Frequently used to indicate a particular single or set of methods. More widely defined as the study of problem-solving and answer-seeking techniques, rather than the study of the technique itself.

Mind Map: The diagramming of words and ideas in how they link to a central point. Used to classify, generate, structure and visualize ideas, in addition to aiding in studying, problem solving, and making decisions.

Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): Recently developed and used in distance education, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is based on the internet and has a goal of online education and unlimited participation. MOOCs offer both traditional materials in addition to an interactive forum where students and instructors can communicate.

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Observational Learning (aka social learning): The learning that occurs by observing and replicating behavior seen in others. Most often associated with Albert Bandura’s psychological works. Considered important in childhood development, especially in relation to introducing the importance of authority.

Online Proctor: The proctor of an online exam. Oversees the course limitations and verifies the identification of the people taking the course as the ones scheduled to be examined.

Open Problem: A formally stated problem in which the known solution has yet to be discovered. Commonly used in graduate education.

Outcome-Based Education (OBE): A form of education that focuses primarily on measuring a student’s end performance. OBE does not require a specific form or method of teaching, only that the student learns and retains the information taught at the end.

Outdoor Education (aka adventure education): Commonly refers to organized learning experiences that occur outdoors, often involving residential or journey based experiences where students can participate in different challenges including group games, hiking, and canoeing. Uses the theories and philosophies put forth in experiental education.

Over Learning: The concept that newly acquired skills should be used beyond mastery to the point where they are automatic.

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Pedagogy: The art and science of teaching, from the Greek paidagogos. The Latin for pedagogy is education, and is much more widely used, though they are interchangeable.

Philosophy of Education: The study behind the nature, ideal content, and purpose of education. Questions include problems of authority, the nature between the human subject and knowing mind, and the relationship between society and education. The philosophy has long been linked to the theories of human development and developmental psychology.

Postgraduate Education (aka quaternary education): Follows the completion of a collegiate or university undergraduate degree. Masters degrees are often considered tertiary education.

Post-Secondary Education: Any education following the attendance of secondary school. It can be used for vocational training and education or to prepare for careers and professions through higher education.

Problem Finding: Discovery of problems. Part of the process that also includes problem shaping and solving. Requires insight and intellectual vision, involving creativity application, into finding the missing piece.

Problem Shaping: Revisiting and revising questions to begin or continue the process of solution. Part of a larger process including problem finding and solving. Often involves critical thinking applications.

Problem Solving: A part of thinking, problem solving happens when a system can not proceed from one state to its desired goal. Part of the process that included problem finding and shaping.

Problem-Based Learning (PBL): A concept of active learning, currently being adapted for primary and secondary education. Defining characteristics of PBL include being driven by open-ended problems, collaborative working in small groups , and the use of facilitators rather than teachers.

Procedural Knowledge (aka know-how): The direct knowledge of how to perform a task. This differs from other forms of knowledge as it can apply to a task directly, rather than propositional knowledge in problem solving.

Proctor: One who ensures regulations are met and cheating does not occur during an examination or test.

Professional Certification: Also known as trade certification or professional designation, shortened to certification or qualification. It is earned as a certification of the qualification for job performance, indicating the person has specific skills, abilities, or knowledge in the eyes of a certifying body. Differs from licensure as licensure is a legal requirement.

Public Education: Governmentally provided schooling for the general public, paid for by taxes. Also known as state education. In many countries, schools based in public education are called public schools. In the United Kingdom, public schools are privately funded schools with medieval origins.

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Quiz: A form of student assessment, usually with fewer, less difficult questions than a test, and with less difficulty. Often presented in the form of puzzles or games.

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Research: The systematic process that looks to discover, interpret, and revise facts to produce a greater understanding of behaviors, events, and theories. It creates practical applications through theory and law. Research can also be used to describe information collected about a subject, most often associated with the scientific method.

Rubric (academic): The set of standards and criteria used to assess performance by a student on a project, paper, or essay.

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Sakai: Sakai is a community of academic institutions, commercial organizations and individuals who work together to develop a common Collaboration and Learning Environment (CLE). The Sakai CLE is a free, community source, educational software platform distributed under the Educational Community License (a type of open source license). The Sakai CLE is used for teaching, research and collaboration. Systems of this type are also known as Course Management Systems (CMS), Learning Management Systems (LMS), or Virtual Learning Environments (VLE).

School: A designated learning place. The term covers various ranges, as defined by countries.

Secondary Education: The period of education directly following primary education, as defined in contemporary systems. Can be followed by tertiary, post-secondary, or higher education. Secondary school can be used to describe secondary education, though in Australia it is used to define the education that comes afterward.

Self-Efficacy: A belief system that sees individuals as having the capability execute a course or courses of action that is necessary to manage potential situations. Differs from efficacy in the belief that it is the individual that has the power to produce an effect.

Service Learning: The method of combining academic curriculum with meaningful community service. Specifically, service learning integrates instruction and reflection with meaningful community service to teach civic responsibility, facilitate lifelong civic engagement, and enrich learning experience, in addition to strengthening communities in which service learning occurs.

Situated Learning: The process of education occurring in a setting that is functionally identical to where it will be applied.

Small Private Online Course (SPOC): A small private online course (SPOC) is an online class offered only to students at a particular school, usually a college or university.

STEM Fields: Science, Technological, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Collectively they are considered an advanced society’s core. The strength of a STEM workforce is, in many societies, seen as the indicator of a nation’s self-sustainability. It is a key point of the public education agenda in the United States of America.

Student: An individual that attends school or classes. Often reserved for those attending higher education; primary and secondary attendees are instead referred to as pupils.

Student-Centered Learning: An educational approach that focuses on students’ needs as opposed to the needs of other bodies involved in the educational process. Student-centered learning has implications in the design of course content and general curriculum.

Syllabus: The outline and summary of topics that will be covered during the length of a course. It can be set by an exam board or by the professor and is most often distributed at the first session of class.

Synchronous Massive Online Course (SMOC): A Synchronous Massive Online Course, or SMOC, is offered to students both on and off campuses. Originating at the University of Texas at Austin, an SMOC streams lectures to students in real time, allowing people both in a lecture hall and viewing remotely to ask questions during the session.

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Teacher: One who teaches. In education, this refers to the instructor of students or pupils. The ways a teacher uses to facilitate learning is considered their pedagogy. A teacher uses the student’s knowledge, learning goals, and environment to choose a teaching method, and implements this with the standardized curriculum that is put forth by a school district.

Technology Education: The study of the creation and use of tools by humans, and the ability to create and use these tools to shape their environment to fit their needs, the goal of which is spreading technological literacy.Frequently, this term is shortened to tech ed.

Technology Integration: The term used to describe the effective different uses by teachers and students in classrooms of all levels. Technology can be used to support instruction in various fields including math and language arts. This empowers students to actively engage learning.

Tertiary Education: The level of education that follows secondary education. Most commonly refers to higher education, such as university or master programs.

Test (aka examination): An assessment of an individual meant to determine his or her knowledge, skill, or other classification on a subject. May be oral or written, or be performance-based. These can be formal or informal, and can be used to determine development of both an individual or a group.

Tuition: The fee charged by an educational system for instruction or teaching at a formal learning institution. It assists the funding of staff, providing various course offerings, paying for equipment, and upkeep of facilities.

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Udacity: A for-profit organization that offers MOOCs, founded on the campus of Stanford University.

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Virtual Learning Environment (VLE): A system of software that has been designed to assist teachers in course management for students. VLE can track progress of students, which can then be monitored by all participating parties. Can be used as a supplemental program for face-to-face learning, and is a primary tool in distance education.

Visual Learning: The proven teaching method where students are encouraged to think and learn more effectively through the use of graphic organizers.

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