Distance Learning Services

The University of South Dakota has developed a Web site with several resources for
student support. Topics include:
  • Tips for Online Learning Success
  • Is Distance Learning for You?
  • Personality Assessment
  • Learning Skills
  • Introduction to Desire 2 Learn (D2L)
  • Introduction to Web Advisor
  • Online Technical Requirements
  • Advising
  • Campus Bookstore
  • and much more!

You are advised to follow the registration and technology requirements of the program where you intend to earn your degree.

Computer Literacy

This portion of the website is designed educate and enhance the skills essential for distance learning.


Terms Glossary

These are common terms everyone should know when getting started with computers.

Bandwidth The amount of data or information that an electronic line or wire can hold. Graphical, video, or multimedia data require more bandwidth than text.

Bookmark An electronic placeholder, like a physical bookmark, used to mark a location on the Internet. Web browsers can store and customize hundreds of bookmarks, a helpful way for people to organize their online interests and Internet research.

Browser A client application program (a kind of software) that allows users to navigate the World Wide Web. The two most common browsers are made by Netscape Communications and Microsoft Corporation.

Download To transfer information to one's computer from another computer, usually across a network. See Upload.

E-mail Electronic mail, nearly instantaneous messages sent across computer networks. Though fast, e-mail is asynchronous, because messages are stored on the recipient's computer or mail server until she or he wishes to read or reply to them. E-mail is now contrasted with snail mail, a term describing the relative slowness or inconvenience of conventional paper mail.

Hardware Physical computer equipment such as CPUs (central processing units), disk drives, monitors, printers, and scanners and the wires, cables, and hubs that connect them.

Home page or homepage A hypertext document on the World Wide Web published by an individual, group, company, or organization. Home pages have proliferated largely because HTML, the language of the Web, makes it relatively easy to publish electronic texts and link them to other documents on the Web.

HTML Hypertext Markup Language, the computer code that controls documents published on the World Wide Web. HTML adds "tags" -- symbols such as <p> and </p> to indicate the beginning and end of a paragraph -- to describe how text, graphics, and other elements should appear.

Instructional technology Broadly, any technology used for teaching and learning, from blackboards and chalk to the Internet. Usually the term refers to the latest electronic technologies, especially computer-aided instruction and the use of instructional software and computer networks.

Intellectual property Current term for information that an individual, group, or company claims legally to own. International copyright laws and agreements governing intellectual property, mostly designed before the advent of electronic publication, are the subject of much debate.

Interface A more general term for the operating system or a software program used by a computer or other electronic appliance. Most computer interfaces today are graphical, using the metaphors of "windows," "folders," "menus," and "desktop icons" to help the user control the computer's functions.

Internet, Net A global computer network, actually a network of networks, connecting millions of computers. The hardware of the Internet includes computer clients and servers along with the various cables and wires, hubs and routers, satellite connections, and phone lines used to connect them. The software of the Internet includes a common communication protocol (IP or Internet Protocol) that allows computers to "recognize" one another, and the browsers on individual desktops that allow people to "surf the Web."

Internet Service Provider (ISP) A company or organization that provides hardware (and often software) connections to the Internet. Some commercial ISPs, such as America Online, also provide private network services separate from the Internet.

Intranet Another name for a local area network (LAN), especially a corporate LAN that duplicates the data-sharing capability of the Internet but for local or private users only.

Keyword A search term used in the most common methods of Internet research. People using search engines type in one or several keywords to describe the topic they're researching, similar to searching a traditional library by subject.

Link, hyperlink The hypertext connection between two pieces, or nodes, of electronic information or data. Most links operate with a computer mouse-click: clicking on linked text (usually underlined or marked by a specific color) or on graphical objects such as buttons leads to another document or portion of the document, which in turn may provide further links. Linking is what gives hypertexts -- including the vast network of hypertexts comprising the World Wide Web -- their complex, three-dimensional, dynamic nature.

Local Area Network (LAN) A group of computers and other equipment such as printers and scanners that are linked together for the sharing of information. Many local area networks also are connected to the Internet.

Modem A device for connecting a computer to a network via a telephone line (a contraction of Modulator, Demodulator).

Multimedia The integration in digital form of several media such as text, pictures, sounds, or movies, commonly used on CD-ROMs and the World Wide Web.

Navigate To move through electronic or virtual "spaces" or media, especially hypertext. Web browsers are navigation tools for the World Wide Web. The term arose because the experience of reading or searching hypertexts, which often lack a central or hierarchical organization, differs from the experience of reading a linear paper text or searching a catalogued library.

Netiquette Network etiquette; conventions that have been asserted by Internet veterans, and that are still evolving, for online politeness. Netiquette "rules" or guidelines have been developed to prevent harassment and flaming, to resist spamming, and to preserve bandwidth on the Internet.

Network A group of computers and peripheral equipment connected for the sharing of information.

Offline or off line Not connected to a computer or computer network; see online.

Online or on line Usually, connected to or using a network, especially the Internet; often contrasted with offline. Alternatively, online means simply on a computer, as in the "online documentation" that may supplement or replace paper manuals for computer programs.

Operating system The software that controls a computer's basic functions and interface. Applications such as word processing programs must work in conjunction with a computer's operating system. The two most common operating system platforms at educational institutions are Microsoft Windows and Apple Computer's MacOS.

Platform Another term for operating system.

Search engine A computerized Internet research tool developed for the World Wide Web, such as Google (http://www.google.com). Typically, users type in keywords that the search engine tries to find in Web documents or other Internet sources such as newsgroups.

Software Any set of codes that work in conjunction with a computer's operating system (another form of software) and allow people to do useful things with computers, such as write, manipulate numbers, or communicate on the Internet.

Spam (Noun) Junk mail on the Internet, usually sent to newsgroups or via e-mail. (Verb) To send junk mail on the Internet. The term originates from a sketch by the comedy troupe Monty Python's Flying Circus, in which a restaurant serves lots of the canned pork product Spam.

Upload To transfer information from one's computer to another computer, usually across a network. See

Web site, website A discrete set of documents published by a person or organization on the Web. In common usage, a website is usually larger or more complex than a home page. For example, corporations and universities maintain large organizational web sites which may include hundreds or thousands of home pages.

World Wide Web, WWW, Web A vast hypertext network that comprises the largest and fastest-growing way to access the Internet. It originated as a way for scientists to easily share their research using multimedia. The Web's popularity has derived from its ease of use via graphical-interface browsers and the ease of publication using HTML.

Plug-in Center

Plug-ins are small pieces of software that will allow special features on websites to be viewed.  They are, in general, used for streaming media (content that is played or viewed straight from the author's website).  Plug-ins are used for many different types of media such as videos, games, and some pictures.  Plug-ins are also used for special documents such as Microsoft PowerPoint slide-shows and Adobe PDF documents.  An internet user would notice that they need a plug-in when trying to view any of the above items and they are prompted to install a plug-in or the media trying to be viewed is absent and a box with a small 'X' is in place of it.


 Adobe Acrobat Reader
Purpose: Document Distribution


Macromedia Flash Player
Purpose: Web Animation


Macromedia Shockwave Player
Purpose: Multimedia


Microsoft Excel Viewer
Purpose: Viewing Excel Documents online (required if excel is not installed)


Microsoft Powerpoint Viewer
Purpose: Viewing PowerPoint presentations online (required if Powerpoint is not installed)


Microsoft Windows Media Player
Purpose: Streaming/Multimedia


Microsoft Word Viewer
Purpose: Viewing Word documents online (required if Word is not installed)


QuickTime Player
Purpose: Streaming/Multimedia


RealOne Player
Purpose: Streaming/Multimedia

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