Find definitions of frequently used terms throughout the Handbook
This glossary contains some of the frequently used terms in this Handbook . Although it reflects the usage of the Campus Alberta Quality Council, it is recognized that usage of the term may vary among the post secondary institutions in Alberta.
Accommodation – post-secondary institutions in Alberta have a legal and moral duty to accommodate, up to the point of undue hardship, individuals or groups of individuals in order to eliminate or reduce the adverse impact on them of discrimination based on characteristics such as gender, physical or mental disability and other Prohibited Grounds, as defined in Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and in the Protected Grounds section of Alberta’s Human Rights legislation. Accommodation is the process of adjusting, in a reasonable way, institutional policies, procedures, practices, conditions of employment or the delivery of services (including teaching and the assessment of student learning) for groups or individuals belonging to groups identified in the Charter.
Added April 2011
Accreditation – a quality assurance process conducted by legislated authorities or professional regulatory bodies to determine whether educational institutions and/or programs meet the required standards of quality. In a positive outcome of the review process, an institution and/or program is granted an accredited status. There is no legislated accreditation process for institutions and/or programs in Alberta. The quality of the new degree proposals in Alberta is assured through the review process and monitoring procedures as defined by Campus Alberta Quality Council in accordance with the Post-secondary Learning Act (Appendix A). See also a definition for “professional accreditation.”
Admission requirements – a set of criteria for determining a student’s eligibility to enter an educational program. Admission requirements normally include completion of specific high school and/or post secondary courses or programs at specified levels of academic achievement. Requirements often differ across institutions and within various disciplines in the same institution. As well, institutions may set special admission requirements for particular groups of applicants including high school graduates, mature applicants, individuals applying on the basis of completion of other post secondary programs, such as a relevant diploma, and those applying, in part, on the basis of prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR) or the submission of a portfolio.
Applied degree – by definition in the Post-secondary Learning Act (Appendix A), an applied degree in Alberta “means a degree that may be granted by a public college or a technical institute on the completion of a program of study that includes (i) course work, and (ii) work related experience.” Normally, an applied degree consists of six semesters of academic studies and at least two semesters of related work experience. In some cases, graduates of applied degree programs may be ineligible to enter graduate programs or second entry degree programs, or may be required to complete a bridging program prior to beginning further study.
Asynchronous learning – group based learning where interactions are intermittent allowing participants to interact on their own time scale. Asynchronous learning is usually supported through use of computer conferencing, voice mail or e-mail.
Added April 2011
Audit – A quality assurance process used by Council to determine whether an institution has a quality assurance process for internal review of its degree programs that meets the Minister’s and Council’s expectations, and whether the institution rigorously applies its quality assurance process for its degree programs and addresses review findings with an appropriate response.
Added December 2014
Authentication (of learners) – the process of verifying the identity of online/distance learners throughout the cycle of an online/distance course, including registration, participation, assessment, academic credit, so that it can be determined with certainty that the learner turning in the work is the one who is registered for the course.
Added April 2011
Bachelor’s degree – an undergraduate degree offered by universities and other authorized post secondary institutions. There are various types of undergraduate degree programs which may differ in length, including 3 year and 4 year degrees, normally requiring completion of at least 90, and 120 credits, respectively. Two year post baccalaureate degrees (also known as “after” or “second entry” degrees) normally require prior completion of a bachelor’s degree in another discipline.
Benchmarks and benchmarking – the practice of systematically comparing measures on a key variable (e.g., cost per graduate) with the same variable in another institution or similar practice in a different kind of organization. For example, an organization can compare the costs of recruitment for a degree program with other organizations or with the costs of recruitment for a professional organization.
Blended learning – also known as hybrid delivery, an education delivery model that integrates distance/distributed learning techniques and technologies such as online delivery and interaction through web pages, wikis, discussion boards and/or e-mail with campus based teaching activities such as lectures, in-person discussions, seminars, or tutorials.
Added April 2011
Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework – a framework, developed by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada and endorsed by all Canadian provinces and territories. It provides a general description of qualifications expected of graduates at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, and clarifies the purposes, aims and relationships among these different degree levels. As degree level standards are included in Part B of the framework, it can be used when designing and assessing new degrees to determine learning outcomes appropriate to the level of the degree.
Capstone project – a culminating project designed as a thesis, paper, portfolio or applied research study that is relevant to the student’s main area of specialization and is normally undertaken in the final year of studies. The project may involve the synthesis of work done previously in the program and may involve elements of independent research; it is overseen and evaluated by a faculty supervisor and/or committee.
Clinical placement – a mandatory work term(s) that is integrated into the curriculum of a health related program. For other forms of students’ work experience see such terms as “co operative education,” “practicum” and “internship.”
Certificate – a ministerially approved credential that normally is granted for the completion of one year or less of full time study in a specific program.
Cognates – courses from a related discipline that complement the area of specialization and support the development of desired qualifications/skills.
Collaborative/joint degree – a degree offered by two or more faculties (e.g., BSc with major in Earth Science offered by the Faculties of Science and Social Sciences at the UofC). Although usually only one faculty provides administrative control over the program, the names of both faculties appear on the parchment. A collaborative degree can also be offered by two or more institutions some of which do not have faculties.
Combined degree – a degree for which students are simultaneously or sequentially registered in two degree programs [e.g., BSc (Specialization in Science and Education)/BEd (Secondary) Combined Degrees Program]. A combined degree may have higher credit course requirements as well as a condition that students must graduate in both degree programs simultaneously.
Competencies – Describe the specific or detailed knowledge, skills and attitudes achieved as a result of a learning experience. Added September 2017
Complementary studies – courses that are not within the specific area of specialization but in some way complement the main course of studies. Complementary courses may or may not be required.
Concentration – a focus on a specific topic within a discipline and normally associated with the delivery of a three year degree. Where it is used in relation to a four year degree proposal, it might represent a second level of specialization in which case it would not require approval by the Minister of Advanced Education. The number of credits required for a concentration is normally below the number of credits required for a major; however, it cannot be lower than 15 credits in a 4 year program and 12 credits in a 3 year program. A concentration is normally referred to on the transcript, but not on the parchment. As it is currently practiced in the post secondary institutions in Alberta, a concentration is sometimes synonymous with such terms as minor, emphasis, stream, route, focus and track, which are also used to represent the second level of specialization (e.g., see definition of a “minor” in this glossary).
Co-operative education – a program that formally integrates students’ academic studies with work experience, which is often comprised of several terms dispersed throughout the program’s curriculum. The indication of a co operative education program may appear both on the parchment and transcript. Students normally receive remuneration provided by the employer organizations. For other forms of students’ work experience see such terms as “practicum,” “internship” and “clinical placement.”
Core course – a course that is designed and listed as part of the principal requirements in the program’s curriculum.
Co-requisite – a course that normally is taken concurrently with another course in the program. A pre requisite is a course that must be taken prior to the taking of a subsequent course in the program.
Course level: Junior/senior – “junior level” implies that the course is focused on building introductory or foundational knowledge or basic skills; “senior level” implies that the course transmits or articulates knowledge beyond the basic level and that it may require prerequisites, co requisites, linguistic ability or quantitative skills.
Credential – certificate, diploma, degree or another type of official recognition awarded to students by a post secondary institution in accordance with its published graduation requirements and with provincial legislation.
Credits – a method of weighting units assigned to a course and/or program of study. Credits may be related to the number of hours of instruction or to learning outcomes (e.g., a course having three hours of instruction per week through one semester would equal three credits).
Cross listed course – a course developed or offered within two or more departments/faculties/schools within an institution. It may be accepted as a degree completion requirement in both areas or disciplines.
Depth and breadth of knowledge – a requirement for program curriculum to assure that students undertake an in depth study of the area of their specialization and acquire basic knowledge in some other areas to broaden their academic perspective. The depth and breadth course requirements must be specified in the program curriculum.
Digital rights management – a variety of technologies and techniques such as passwords and encryption that are used by copyright owners to control the use (copying, distributing, viewing, watching, etc.) of digital content. Added April 2011
Diploma program – a ministerially approved, non degree post secondary academic and/or vocational program of studies which can be offered by a university, college or technical institute. The length of a diploma program is normally shorter than a degree program and consists of two years or less of full time studies. There exists a broad spectrum of degree programs involving diplomas in Alberta. All degree programs involving diplomas must meet the Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework (Appendix B) requirements for undergraduate degree level programs.
Distance/distributed education – formal learning activities which occur when students and instructors are separated by geographic distance or by time for all or the majority of interaction. The instruction is supported by communications technology such as web, television, video, e-mail, mail, or interactive conferencing. Added April 2011
Drivers – the key motivating or initiating factors that lead to the creation of a new program or area of activity or a new organization.
Elective – an optional course in a program of study. The program curriculum may include electives within the chosen specialization as well as outside of it.
Empowerment – the practice of delegating authority lower down the organization, while holding the individual or team that is empowered accountable for their performance.
Engaged and Active Learning –Learning processes in which students actively and meaningfully participate in their own learning and instructors employ a diverse range of pedagogical methods (including but not restricted to traditional lectures) that by design seek to support students’ thinking. Instructors use, as appropriate, the important pedagogical roles of coaching, advising, mentoring, modeling, discussion, argument, etc. Engaged and active learning is a thread running through the comprehensive student learning experience and is evident in pedagogy, curriculum, physical and virtual spaces, learning communities inside and outside the classroom, and through involvement in research and scholarship. Ultimately, engaged and active learning should lead to reflection on and the owning of learning outcomes by students. Added December 2011
Equivalency – two or more courses that can be used as substitutes to fulfill a specified program course requirement. As well, course equivalent is a course taken at a sending institution for which credit is given to a transfer student by the receiving institution.
Excellence – the focus and commitment to being a high performing institution when compared with others. Excellence is not a "soft" statement, but a measurable statement. Excellent organizations are those which are admired and acknowledged by others for their leadership and performance, and succeed in meeting their own goals and objectives.
Full load Equivalent (FLE) Enrolment – a measure of enrolment in which one FLE represents one student for a standard year of study taking a full load in a specific program. A full load, in this context, normally refers to a student taking five 3 credit courses per semester.
Full time Equivalent (FTE) Staff – a staff member carrying a normal full time teaching load for at least eight months of a reporting period has a full time equivalence of 1.00. The definition of “full time” load varies among institutions and among disciplines within institutions.
General Studies – a broadly based 3 year or 4 year general Bachelor of Arts and/or Bachelor of Science degree program. Normally these programs do not have a major and are drawn from more than one area of study in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences.
Goals – specific, measurable plans for achieving specific outcomes within a specific time scale. Such goals can relate to outcome (number of graduates per year, cost per graduate, employment rates of graduates, etc.) or to process (reducing cycle time, decreasing drop out and deferral).
Grade Point Average (GPA) – a measure of a student’s weighted average grade, obtained by dividing the total number of grade points earned by the total units of course weight attempted. It can be calculated on the basis of all graded courses in one term or in the whole program of study (Cumulative GPA). An Admission GPA normally indicates the lowest GPA to be considered by the institution for enrolment purposes. It is calculated on the basis of specified post secondary courses.
Honours degrees/programs – 4 year undergraduate programs designed to provide in depth and rigorous study in academic disciplines (e.g., BA and BSc honours degrees). These programs normally prepare students for graduate study in the area of specialization and for employment in a variety of fields. The academic requirements for admission to, continuation in, and graduation from the honours degree are normally higher than those for the general program.
Independent study – independent coursework undertaken by a student under the supervision of a faculty member. The coursework is assigned a course credit and may involve readings, independent research, field work and a term paper.
Indicators – measures of performance linked to goals. If the goal is to sustain an enrollment of (say) 500, the number of inquiries is an indicator of the extent to which this measure is likely to be achieved. The best indicators are those relating directly to a goal (e.g., how many students are enrolled), but other indicators can help identify the likelihood of a goal being achieved (e.g., inquiry rates and conversion rates).
Interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and thematic programs – a program of study based on the integration of disciplines and sometimes on staffing from two or more academic areas. Such programs are sometimes identified by the term “studies” (e.g., BSc in Environmental Studies).
Internship – a work experience that is integrated into a program’s curriculum and ranges in duration from several months to more than a year depending on the program. Normally, internship students receive remuneration for their work experience. For other forms of students’ work experience see such terms as “practicum,” “co operative education” and “clinical placement.”
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – agreed measures of performance. These are the measures required of an organization by the Council and/or the Government of Alberta. These will change from time to time.
Learning object – a resource (usually digital) that is used to support teaching and learning. Learning objects may be combined and re-used in a variety of lessons, units or courses. Added April 2011
Learning object repository – a collection of learning objects or links to learning objects that allows users to search for, retrieve, assess, recommend and upload new learning objects. Added April 2011
Learning (or course or program) objectives – Describe goals, intentions and expectations for the learning experience. Added September 2017
Learning outcomes – Describe what learners should know, do, and value as a result of their learning experience. Added September 2017
Major – a primary area of specialization and a first level of differentiation in a baccalaureate program. New majors must be approved by the Minister of Advanced Education. The credit requirement for a major in a 4 year degree program in Arts or Science is normally a minimum of 42 credits, with 30 credits to be taken at the senior level. Definition of the major and its credit course requirements may differ in professional programs. Some degree programs offer only general degrees and therefore do not have majors.
Major: Combined/joint – a major program of study where two departments or disciplines establish the academic requirements. The course sequence and credit requirement are predetermined interdepartmentally.
Mandate – resident public post secondary institutions in Alberta operate according to a mandate, which defines the institution’s purpose and range of programming and activities. According to the Post-secondary Learning Act (Appendix A), “the Board of each public post secondary institution must prepare a statement in the form established by the Minister setting out the mandate of the public post secondary institution and must submit that statement to the Minister for approval.” To be approved by the Minister of Advanced Education, the mandate of a public post secondary institution must be consistent with the role of the sector to which an institution is assigned by the legislation.
Minor – a supporting specialization or concentration in a degree program. A minor may be chosen to support and complement the major in a program of study. An institution must specify the minimum number of courses required for a minor. Sometimes students can declare more than one minor. Minors are not recorded on the parchment but on the transcript. They do not require approval by the Minister of Advanced Education.
Mission – A set of statements which translate the values of the institution into more concrete strategic tasks. For example, if a value is respect for people, the mission could be to become recognized as a model for the way in which all within the institution are empowered and are able to share their views openly and directly without fear of consequence (academic freedom).
Mission statement – resident private post secondary institutions in Alberta operate according to mission statements, which are comparable to mandates in public institutions, since they define the institution’s purpose and range of programming and activities. Mission statements do not require ministerial approval.
Networked learning – the process of developing and sustaining connections and interactions with people and information as a means to enhance learning. Added April 2011
Non resident institution – an institution that is resident outside Alberta. Non resident post secondary institutions seeking to offer degree programs in Alberta are subject to provincial legislation.
Objectives – ways of translating outcomes into specific tasks for individuals, teams or the institution as a whole. For example, if the outcome required is 500 new students each year, individual objectives for marketing staff and management personnel might be set with the intent of achieving this goal.
Option – an elective course or series of courses in a program of study. See also a definition for “elective.”
Outcomes – specific, measurable and tangible performance. Outcomes are not vague statements, but are measurable (by both "hard" and "soft" measures) indicators of performance. If an intended outcome is "social conscientiousness of students", the question is "as indicated by ...".
Parchment – official document issued by a post secondary institution confirming that a graduate has successfully completed all program requirements and has been awarded the relevant credential.
Performance Planning – the extent to which job design and competency development within the organization are systematic and aimed at improving outcomes.
Practicum – this term is often associated with the required fieldwork and clinical experiences in Education, Nursing, Social Work and other degrees with a professional focus.
Preceptorship – a teaching and learning method involving a formal one to one, relationship between the preceptor (e.g., expert nurse) and a student (e.g., nursing student, or preceptee). According to Nursing Education Program Approval Board (NEPAB), the learning occurs as the student works alongside the expert. The preceptor assists the student to consolidate theory with roles, functions, and competencies.
Professional accreditation – is the process of quality assurance through which it is ascertained that a program of study complies with standards of education established by professional authorities, with the goal of ensuring that graduates from such programs meet the academic and registration requirements established by the profession. For example, undergraduate engineering programs in Canada need to obtain accreditation through the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB). For program proposals from disciplines that require approval by the professional bodies, such approval compliments CAQC’s review but CAQC’s review is not limited to the requirements of professional bodies.
Professional programs – programs designed to educate practitioners in a profession and to develop competencies to qualify for admission requirements for entry to the profession. Professionally oriented undergraduate degrees are offered in Business, Law, Education, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Engineering, Music, Nursing, Forestry, etc. Some professional programs are first entry programs, whereas others are second entry programs requiring some prior degree level study or even a degree. Though considered to be bachelor’s programs in academic standing, some professional programs yield degrees with other nomenclature [e.g., DDS (Dental Surgery), MD (Medicine), LLB (Law)]. Professional programs normally require periods of practical experience (internships, clinical work, or practicums). They are often strongly influenced by specific provincial or federal legislation or by regulations of licensing or accrediting bodies.
Risk – an honest evaluation of the extent to which a plan or proposal is vulnerable to internal or external pressures.
Semester – a period of instruction at a post secondary institution, which normally consists of 13 weeks of courses and is usually associated with the Fall (September to December) and Winter (January to April) teaching sessions, and sometimes to Spring and Summer sessions, in which the instructional period is typically condensed. Normally, institutions offer a full range of courses in the Fall and Winter semesters and a limited number of courses during the condensed Spring and Summer semesters. A trimester program provides an opportunity for year round study.
Skills – the individual and collective set of competencies brought to bear in the work of the institution.
Specialization – represents the first level or second level of differentiation in a baccalaureate program. As a first level of differentiation, it is often synonymous with “major” in a 4 year program and “concentration” in a 3 year program. As a second level of differentiation, a specialization can be represented by a minor or a concentration in a 4 year program. In professional programs “specialization” may also mean route, stream or another form of focus in a subject area.
Strategy – the generic strategy of an institution concerns the way in which the organization determines who it is to serve (stakeholders) and what it will provide them. This basic set of decisions represents the strategic intent of the institution and has a degree of permanence that goes beyond specific tactics for recruitment or specific refinements to programs.
Synchronous learning – group based learning that takes place at the same time including class based learning, audio, video and web conferencing. Added April 2011
Transcript – an official record that includes a student’s grades, course by course, issued by the institution during and at the completion of a student’s program. An excellent reference document containing recommendations of what to include on a transcript is contained in the 2003 Association of Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada (ARUCC) National Transcript Guide.
Transfer credit – credits received for courses, blocks of courses or programs (e.g., diploma programs) taken at another institution. Normally, the receiving institution establishes the maximum limit of credits that can be transferred from another institution and incorporated into its degree program. The Alberta Transfer Guide, produced by the Alberta Council on Admissions and Transfer, contains a comprehensive description of transfer agreements in the province.
Values – an institution’s central and enduring tenets a small set of guiding principles, not to be compromised for financial gain or short term expediency.
Vision – a short (25-30 word) statement of the core values and strategic intent of the institution. For example, "Empowerment through Knowledge and Understanding" is a vision statement.