Common Definitions You Need to Know

Higher education is structured with many definitions, rules, and expectations you may be unfamiliar with. Here we lay out the most common terms to help you learn and make sure you are able to properly navigate your college education:

Program Types Kirkwood Offers

Work closely with an advisor or Career Coach to help you determine the best path for your goals. If you want as well, you can explore more about the different program areas that Kirkwood has.

(CE): Continuing Education

Short-term certificates created due to workforce needs of employers in the region. Tuition assistance may be available, but students are not eligible for financial aid.

Certificate & Diplomas

Both typically take 9-12 months to complete and provide entry-level skills to begin a chosen career. A diploma requires a higher number of credits (30+) to complete than a certificate.

(AA): Associate of Arts & (AS): Associate of Science degrees

Both degree types are general considered “transfer level” degrees and take 2 years to complete. Most students earning these degrees transfer to a 4-year college or university to continue their studies.

(AAS) Associate of Applied Science degree

Students who earn A.A.S degrees typically enter the workforce after 2 years; however, some Applied Science and Technology programs also have transfer agreements with 4-year institutions.

(TM): Transfer Major

Transfer majors have courses aligned with a 4-year degree program at one of Iowa’s public universities (Iowa, Iowa State, UNI). They transfer directly so you don’t have to repeat any courses.

Course Types at Kirkwood

two arrows, one pointing up showing classes this direction are more social and the second arrow indicating classes are more flexibleFace-to-Face

In-person courses with regular meetings at a specific time and place on campus.
Student persona: Needs the structure of the classroom. Thrives in environments where they are called to task and held accountable. Makes connections with people in class. Social aspects of learning are important.


Time-specific courses with regular meetings on our web-conferencing platform, Zoom. Student persona: Needs the structure of a regular schedule. Thrives in environments where they are called to task and held accountable. Needs flexibility to join remotely. Has access to reliable internet.


Online courses that also have regularly scheduled face-to-face meeting times (25-75%). Student persona: Can be self-directed when called upon to do so. Needs more flexibility than a face-to-face course offers.


Web-based courses without scheduled meeting times or places. A schedule of due dates is typical. Student persona: Thrives in environments where they can be autonomous, self-directed. Makes connections with people online. Needs flexibility to decide for themselves when and where they can complete the work before the due date. Has access to reliable internet.


Competency-based courses offer flexible due-dates, learning time and place (typically
online). Students must demonstrate proficiency of all course outcomes.
Student persona: Needs flexibility. Is highly motivated to learn the skills/knowledge.
Thrives in environments where they are autonomous, self-directed. Social aspects of
learning are not important at this stage of their career/learning journey.

General Education terms

Co- vs. Pre-Requisite

These are courses or requirements that a student needs to complete at the same time (co-requisite) or prior (pre-requisite) to taking a certain course or getting accepted into a program.

Degree Audit

This helps you know which of your classes apply towards your graduation requirements and keeps track of your program progress.

FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act)

This is the federal law that protects a student’s educational records. Personally identifiable information is not allowed to be shared to anyone other than the student without their written consent unless where authorized by law. If a student does wish to allow another to access their information (such as a parent or guardian), the student must sign a consent form.
You can find the “Consent for Release of Education Record” form under forms on our Enrollment page.


These are types of citations that are used to credit sources when writing to avoid plagiarism. Your instructor will let you know which to use, and you can learn more through the Kirkwood Library.

Office Hours

These are hours full time faculty schedule each week for students to be able to ask questions outside of class. Find your instructor’s office hours in the class syllabus.

Priority Registration

This is the week when registration for the next semester first opens. Each student will be assigned a priority date throughout the week (based on how many credits they have completed at Kirkwood) where they are able to access and register for classes.
For summer/fall classes registration opens in April, and in November for winter/spring classes. It is recommended that students meet with their advisor prior to this date so they can plan ahead and have the best possible selection of classes to choose from when possible.

Proctored Exam

If a class requires a proctored exam, this means that an instructor or qualified staff must monitor the students while they take their exam. This can be accomplished during class, in the Test Center, at an alternate testing location, or online through Respondus or Examity.
To set up an appointment to take a proctored exam for an online course, click here to see options and find the forms you need.

Program Conference

Some departments require students to attend a program conference prior to being admitted into the program as a way to share information specific to their program. This is in addition to new student orientation. Timing varies by program, so it is recommended to check with the department or your advisor to see if and when this is needed.


This is an outline of the course received at the beginning of the term that include learning outcomes, book information, instructor information, class policies, etc. A syllabus can also include assignment and exam schedules.
As a student, you are agreeing to the terms outlined in the syllabus and will be held to these expectations as laid out by your instructor through the semester. It is important to read thoroughly.


This is an official record of a student’s classes and grades at an institution. This is what you will need to request after you have earned your degree or credential if you are transferring to another institution to continue your education.


This is the amount each student pays for college per class or semester.

Work Study

Work study is a form of federal financial aid. Students must complete the FAFSA for eligibility, demonstrate financial need, and be enrolled at Kirkwood in good standing. Students work approximately 5-10 hours per week to help earn money to assist with educational expenses. Click here for more information or call 319-398-7600.

Kirkwood-specific Vocabulary


This is the free placement test for Kirkwood math courses. It is available in MyHub and be taken multiple times if needed.


The EagleCard is the official Kirkwood identification card. It is required to buy/sell back books at Kirkwood bookstores, check out books from the library, and for free admittance into the Recreation Center, the computer lab, and athletic or entertainment events on campus.


MyHub is online access to many Kirkwood resources and registration information. It provides links to campus maps, Talon, student email, and the course catalog. It allows students to check grades, register for or drop classes, see their class schedule, check tuition bill, check financial aid status, and more.
The MyHub user ID is called a k-number. The k-number is the letter k and a sequence of seven numbers (example: k0003750).


Sammy the Eagle is Kirkwood’s mascot, named after Samuel J. Kirkwood!


Talon is Kirkwood’s online learning platform where you can access online class material. You can access it through MyHub.

Guided Pathways at kirkwood

Guided Pathways is a nationally recognized framework that Kirkwood is using to support learner success, helping students to clarify and understand their educational path.
Click here for more information on this initiative at Kirkwood.

Program Area

Program areas are collections of academic program options organized by similar career/ interest categories. At Kirkwood, those are:

    • Animals, Food, & Land
    • Arts & Design
    • Business
    • Culture, Communication, & Human Behavior
    • Health & Wellness
    • Manufacturing, Trades, & Transportation
    • Social Services, Safety, & Education
    • STEM & IT

If a student doesn’t yet have a specific program selected, a program area can help narrow their focus and better complete courses in their interest area. For more information, go to

Program Maps

Program maps help by listing a recommended course sequence and other important information for each program at Kirkwood. This helps with keeping on track for graduation and making sure students understand all requirements.
If needed, a student can work with their advisor to customize their own plan and check in regularly to make sure they are making good progress.


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Kirkwood Community College Academic Coaching Resources Copyright © by Myranda Hadley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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