We’ve all learned the language of computers, with their bits and bytes and RAM and ROM, not to mention hard drives and software, printers and ports, and most importantly: tech support. Below is a primer to the latest talk of technology called distance learning:

Distance learning: Learning that takes place when the student and instructor are physically separated. Two types of distance learning are commonly referred to. The first is synchronous, and occurs when the student interacts with the teacher in real time, such as through a live video feed into the classroom. The second is asynchronous, and occurs when the student and instructor are interacting at different times, such as when they communicate via e-mail or when the student views a prerecorded video of a lesson and uses other material posted on the Internet.

Instructional computing: Instructional computing is a broad term that describes technology used for educational purposes. Instructional computing can include use of e-mail and the Web in teaching, and even use of devices in the classroom, such as the polling devices students in Physics Professor Eric Mazur’s large lecture classes use to answer questions posed during class.

Intellectual property: Nontangible property, such as the ideas and thoughts contained in a book, a journal article, or in a professor’s lectures and class notes. Intellectual property is often covered by copyright. Any person who walks into a bookstore can buy a book, for example, but the words and ideas contained in the book belong to the copyright holder, usually the author.

Streaming Audio (or Video): Audio or video, typically broadcast via the Internet, that comes into a computer in a continuous stream rather than being downloaded in discrete chunks that, once downloading is complete, can be viewed or heard. An example would be a person listening to a radio show over his or her computer while the show is being broadcast versus a person having to download the whole show and then, once the download is complete, listen to the show.

Bandwidth: Known as the “size of the pipe” coming into a computer, bandwidth describes the amount of information a particular connection can transmit and translate into speed. The higher the connection’s bandwidth, the faster information will be able to come into a computer.

High-bandwidth connections, such as cable modem or digital subscriber line (DSL) connections – to the Internet have become increasingly desirable as Internet pages become more complex and incorporate more graphics and video. Bandwidth is an important factor in making streaming audio or video possible, since a fast connection is needed to transmit information so that a radio program, for example, can be both received and played at normal speeds.