Glossary of Distance Delivery Terms



An overarching term to describe various instructional modalities which do not require students to be physically present on campus. Distance delivery modalities have evolved over time in response to emerging communication technology advances. Currently, online learning is the most common form of distance delivery.


Distance learning provides greater access to higher-education for non-traditional learners (e.g., those who are in the workforce, have family commitments, experience mobility-related barriers, or do not live within commuting distance of a university).

It also provides greater flexibility for those who must work or who commute to campus.

More: Teaching in a Digital Age



A form of distance learning which relies on the use of the internet and digital technologies. Learning interactions can be synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of both.

  • Synchronous online learning: Learning that requires students to participate and interact in real-time (e.g., using a web meeting tool such as Google Meet).
  • Asynchronous online learning: Learning that allows students to participate and interact on their own schedule (e.g., using discussion boards)


Synchronous online learning affords greater opportunities for real-time conversation, interactions, and building social presence. With international students in different time zones, it can be challenging to find a synchronous meeting time that works well for everyone.

Asynchronous online learning is more flexible and affords students greater control to set their own pace and schedule for learning. It can, however, be more challenging to build a sense of community and social presence within a strictly asynchronous online course.

More: Best Practices for Synchronous and Asynchronous Online Delivery


Blended/ Hybrid

The purposeful use of both on-campus and online learning within a course in order to take advantage of the affordances of each modality. Though there is tremendous variety in what blended learning can actually look like the following are two common examples:

  • Giving up one on-campus class per week and replacing it with online activities.
  • Starting a course with an on-campus block week, and carrying out the remainder of the course online.


Blended learning allows instructors and students to enjoy the best of both worlds: the flexibility that comes with online instruction and the opportunities for social interaction provided by on-campus instruction.

Effective blended learning design requires consideration of how the elements of online and in-person learning interact and build on one another, rather than just mere substitution.

More: Blended Learning Toolkit (UCF)


Emergency Remote Teaching

The rapid adoption of internet and digital technologies for teaching, to ensure the continuity of instruction during mandated campus closures, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


This term was coined in order to distinguish online learning improvised under duress with insufficient resources, from online learning which is thoughtfully designed using evidence based practices, etc. The underlying concern has been that criticisms associated with emergency remote teaching could diminish the hard-won reputation of online learning overall, if not distinguished.

The use of this term also functions to give instructors permission to do a “good enough” job with online teaching in an unprecedented scenario.

More: The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Teaching


HyFlex (Hybrid Flexible)

A course that is intentionally designed to be delivered simultaneously in class and online. Each student chooses, from one class to the next, whether to attend on-campus or online (synchronously or asynchronously). Regardless of the path they choose, students are provided equivalent opportunities to meet stated learning objectives.


  • Provides greatest degree of flexibility to learners in choosing how they access the course
  • Can be challenging for instructors to simultaneously engage in-person and online students in dialog and group interactions
  • Can be challenging to ensure that all students have equivalent paths to meet learning objectives

More: 7 Things You Should Know About the HyFlex Course Model