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Building Online Glossaries to Support Student Learning

Terminology and vocabulary is a critical component of information context, it allows students to build meaning about larger pieces of information and to connect pieces of information together which builds bigger meaning. These are some of the reasons that most textbooks on subjects will bold important words. These meaning of these is often in close proximity to the word in the text to provide the meaning and its context to the larger meaning and relationship to the information. Most publishers will build collections of these terms in the back of books in a glossary, however as books have gone digital or teachers have moved to building their own information many of these glossaries have fallen to the wayside. These glossaries are important part of information gathering for our students, especially as we move away from traditional textbooks and towards digital information delivery. Digital glossaries serve the same purpose as when they were printed on paper in textbooks, but in a digital format allow students to easily search and can have greater use as they can readily be translated into other language and very easily be reused by students.


I build my glossaries in Google Sheets, though Microsoft Excel could be used as well for this task. I build these glossaries as semi-living documents for students to use as study and information resources. In the past couple of years, I have been moving many of teaching and informational sources into an online medium since they are originally based on books and written information.


Creating a Glossary to Be Inserted into LMS:

  1. Open up Google Sheets and create columns with the headers; Term, Definition, Related Image and Related Topics. The last two columns will be used later on once we have the glossary started and can be an extra-credit opportunity for students.

  2. Next find a term you want to include and type it in the column labeled terms with the definition of the in the Definition column. Be sure that when you are copying the terms over, you are pasting without formatting (CTRL+SHIFT+V - PC) or (OPTION+COMMAND+V - MAC) this will make the text easier to put into the spreadsheet without funky formatting issues.

  3. Once you have your terms into your spreadsheet, you will need to embed it into a page on your website or LMS. This can be done by creating and HTML space (this will vary depending on your website or LMS).

  4. Back in our Google Sheet, click on the File Menu and then Share and Publish to Web.

  5. Choose the Embed option and click Publish. You will be prompted with a code snippet that you can paste into your HTML space of your website or LMS where you want the glossary to appear. I typically will put this on its own page that is just for the glossary.

In the future as you come across new terms that  you want to add to this glossary, simply add them into your spreadsheet and they will automagically  be added to the glossary on your website. In the Related Topics and Related Image columns you can add in additional and related information to help students build understanding to the meaning of words such as example graphics, links to other/deeper information on the subject or topic.


Now students can scroll through and search the different words and terms in your online glossary, adding words to your glossary can be a great activity the students can use to build knowledge and understanding. Your glossary can be temporarily shared with them if you choose to do so.

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Unknown member
Jan 15

Thanks for the information. I am no longer teaching in a classroom but we are building a website right now using LMS to train inspectors, this will help!

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