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The ultimate guide to eLearning terms

We’re excited to launch our new eLearning Glossary, designed specifically to help you learn more about the common terms and phrases used in the eLearning Industry. Just starting your research for an LMS provider? Not even sure what an LMS is, let alone how it can benefit your organization? And just what is blended learning, and how does it relate to a flipped classroom? 

Once you’re familiar with some of the popular eLearning terms, you’ll soon realize just what a SaaS LMS and custom online courses can do to improve your bottom line by enhancing the effectiveness of your organization’s training and development program.

70:20:10 Model:

A learning and development model developed from research at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in the 1980s. This model suggests that the most effective learning comes from on the job experience (70%), from observing others (20%) and from formal training such as classroom training or online courses (10%).



A well-known instructional design model to create effective, relatable courses. Includes Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation.


Aviation Industry CBT (Computer-Based Training) Committee: A non-profit association of technology professionals who set standards for learning technology vendors to ensure eLearning courses and LMSs communicate properly with each other.


The art and science behind teaching adult learners.


A “test” that determines how well learners can apply information they’ve attained over how much information they’ve attained.

Asynchronous Learning:

Generally, self-directed eLearning courses not involving an instructor or classmates; just the learner and the content.

Authoring Tools:

Software designed to help instructional designers (or aspiring instructional designers) create professional, engaging and interactive custom online training courses by integrating a variety of media. Popular software includes Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate and Lectora programs.


Blended Learning:

A method of learning that incorporates technology into traditional classroom learning.

Branching Logic:

Also known as “branching eLearning scenarios” or “branching scenarios”, this type of training is like reading choose your own adventure books. After each lesson you are assessed by being placed in a real world scenario. Next, you will be taking to a specific courses dependent upon your results.



Computer-based training: any course that runs solely on a computer without the involvement of an instructor present.


The process by which an individual is assessed and deemed “qualified” by an accredited or authorized person or agency.


Continuing education unit: A unit of credit equal to a certain number of hours of participation in an accredited program often required for licensed or certified professionals to continue to practice professionally.


Chief Learning Officer: the executive responsible for a company’s corporate training program who helps form strategies for training, learning and development.

Cloud Computing:

Centralized, Internet-based storage, management and processing of data using a network of remote servers.


Material or information directed toward a target audience- can include text, audio, video, graphics and more.

Continuing Education:

An educational program designed to further one’s professional or personal skills and development.


Computer programs or educational material designed for a training course via computer/web.


Incorporation of the lessons, activities and course content comprising a certain subject of study.


Distance Learning:

A method of learning in which classes are carried out remotely over the internet , with students and instructors in various locations.


Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve:

A theory explaining the decline of memory retention over time. The graph shows how humans lose memory of learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks unless material is continuously reviewed.


With many ways to spell it (Elearning, e-learning, e learning…) eLearning is learning via electronic technologies accessible outside of traditional classroom learning. Can include all types of training, education and instruction doing via computer, tablet or mobile phone.

eLearning Platform:

An integrated set of interactive, online services that provide instructors, teachers or trainers with information and tools to teach; usually referred to as a learning management system (LMS).


Flipped Classroom/Learning:

A type of blended learning where learners are introduced to content outside of the classroom or workplace through an eLearning platform, then knowledge learned online is applied collaboratively in the classroom.

Functional Requirements:

In eLearning, the “critical” behavioral or operational features needed for LMS to perform to satisfy the needs of learners, admins and decision-makers.


Game-based Learning:

This model of learning presents educational content or learning principles through interactive games which engage learners to apply knowledge and enhance retention. 


Using game-like design techniques, like point scoring, competitive ranking or rewards, in non-game contexts to motivate and engage learners to achieve objectives.



Phasing out the use of Adobe Flash, the latest version of Hypertext Markup Language, HTML5, is a mobile-friendly code that structures and presents content on web pages. Updated in 2014, new features were included to help better support multimedia and graphical content.



Instructor-led training: Also referred to as classroom training, it is the practice of training where instructors or facilitators and learners are together in the same time and location allowing for discussion, Q&A or hands-on demos of training material.

Instructional Design:

The process of identifying the knowledge or skills gap of an audience and creating instructional materials and activities that make retaining knowledge and skills more efficient, effective and appealing.


Job Aid:

Any tool or resource that an individual can access quickly to obtain the information they need to complete a task.


Kirkpatrick Model:

The worldwide standard for evaluating the effectiveness of training created by Dr. Don Kirkpatrick in the 1950s. The 4 levels of evaluation are applied before, during and after training to demonstrate it’s value to an organization. Level 1 – Reaction evaluates how participants respond to the training. Level 2 – Learning measures if they actually learned the material. Level 3 – Behavior considers if they are using what they learned on the job, and Level 4 – Results evaluates if the training positively impacted the organization.

Knowledge Gap:

The hypothesis suggesting a knowledge difference between those with more and less formal education, but also that this gap in knowledge widens as more information enters a society.



Learning Course Management System: A software application that developers, authors, instructional designers, or subject matter experts use to create, store, repurpose, manage, and deliver digital eLearning content for the web. An LCMS manages learning content creation while an LMS manages user performance tracking.


The desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt skills that will help you remain relevant and succeed. In other words, to learn something rapidly and remember it forever.

Learning Objective:

An outcome statement that defines what knowledge, demonstrable skills or attitudes learners should be able to exhibit following course or training program completion.

Learning Style:

The way in which a person prefers to learn or learns best based on strengths, weaknesses, preferences or behaviors. There are 7 styles: Visual (spatial), physical (kinesthetic), auditory (aural), verbal (spoken or written), logical, social and solitary. (Find out your learning style!)


Learning Management System: a software application or web-based technology platform developed to manage and deliver eLearning content and resources, assess and track performance results, and create reports to evaluate the effectiveness of training and development. Many LMSs now have a built-in course authoring tool to also create eLearning content.


Mastery Learning:

An instructional strategy and educational philosophy where students must achieve a specific level of mastery (like an 80% or higher on a test) before moving on to learn further information. If a student doesn’t master the test, they’re given additional learning support and review of information, then tested again. This continues until the learner accomplishes mastery, and moves on to the next stage.


Also known as “Generation Y”, this generation was born between the 1980s and early 2000s and represent the first generation to grow up using technology at higher rates than any other generation. Characteristics associated with this group include a strong sense of community and entitlement especially when it comes to flexibility and a strong work–life balance in their jobs.


Mobile learning: eLearning that is able to be delivered across multiple electronic mobile devices.


Massive open online course: a web-based distance learning model that includes online courses or learning content without prerequisites, and is accessible by an unlimited number of people. MOOCs aim for large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web, free of charge.


A software architecture where a single instance of a software application (an LMS, in the case of eLearning) serves multiple customers. With a multitenant architecture, each “tenant” or, user, viewer or admin, share the same view on their dedicated instance including its content, data, configuration, user management and functionality. See what we mean.



Available as soon as needed, wanted or “just-in-time”.



The art or best practice of teaching a subject or concept.

Phillips Evaluation Model:

Model of learning evaluation created by Jack Phillips that expands on Kirkpatrick’s Model by adding a fifth level to determine the return on investment (ROI) of learning initiatives.



Rapid eLearning:

This term is used in two ways. One, refers to the process of building effective, focused eLearning courses quickly. The second refers to learning that’s delivered in short, quick or “bite-size” electronic-based modules.

Risk-free Environment:

Simulated real-world scenarios in eLearning that help learners develop critical thinking skills by offering room to make mistakes without the fear of failure.



Software as a service: A software distribution model based on subscription services from a third-party provider to host, deliver, maintain and support applications on the web. SaaS is one of the main categories of cloud computing which reduces the need for internal IT maintenance, support or hardware by outsourcing to the SaaS provider.


An element developed as an eLearning course, or part of a course that simulates a real-life or situational obstacle, problem or challenge to engage the learner to apply what they’ve learned. Based on their response to the situation, immediate feedback is presented to the learner to show how the results of their action would affect them in the real world. (See also Branching Logic).


Shareable content object reference model: Technical standards for eLearning software interoperability. A set of specifications applied to course content that enable eLearning materials to be shared across systems.


In eLearning, the content of a course prepared for a narrator to read and record. The voiceover recording is then typically added into a course as audio to supplement the content being shown simultaneously.

Self-directed Learning:

A method of learning where the individual takes the initiative and responsibility to select, manage and assess their own learning activities at any time, in any place through any means, rather than from an instructor.


In an eLearning course, interactive applications that allow a learner to think through and act out how they would respond to a scenario modeled after a potential real-world experience., Simulations allow the learner to practice learned skills in a risk-free environment. (See also Scenario).

Skills Gap:

The growing gap between the number of jobs available and the number of hires being made due the qualifications employers want and the skills employees can offer.


Subject Matter Expert: In eLearning, refers to an individual who provides information or content for educational material due to their proficiency and knowledge on a particular topic or subject.

Social Learning:

The theory that combines cognitive learning theory and behavioral learning theory to suggest that people learn from one another by observing or imitating those around them.

Soft Skills:

Also known as “people skills” or “social skills”; soft skills are character or personality traits that characterize an individual’s relationships with other people. Examples of soft skills include communication, etiquette, empathy, leadership, dependability, listening, negotiation, problem solving and critical thinking, to name a few.

Spaced Learning:

A learning approach that aims to minimize the Forgetting Curve. The method for creating long-term memories in which a concept or learning objective are presented to learners, allowing a period of time to pass (days, weeks, or months), and then the same concept is presented again.


In eLearning, a document that visually organizes, text, graphic and audio elements, as well as interactions and branching (where the user will go next) of every screen in an online course. Many people also add the learning objectives.

Synchronous Learning:

A real-time eLearning method in which the instructor is in a separate location from the learners encourages discussion and collaboration as well as immediate feedback. Examples include: webinar or virtual classroom, video/audio conferencing, online chat or instant messaging.


Technical Requirements:

The technical performance, reliability and availability needs an LMS must fulfill to satisfy the needs of learners, admins and decision-makers. Examples include specifying needs for deployment, systems integration, customization, feature development, enhancements, security, operating system and browser compatibility, SaaS or installed software and support.

Tin Can API:

Also known as Experience API (xAPI), this eLearning software specification allows learning content and LMSs to speak to each other in a manner that records and tracks all types of learning experiences. 

Training and Development:

Or Learning & Development: an instructional process of human resource management where employees learn skills, concepts or attitudes to gain knowledge and enhance performance and improve self-sustainment.

Training Needs Analysis:

The first stage in the training process that determines the skills, concepts or attitudes needed to most efficiently operate, and what training is needed to address skills or knowledge gaps that are identified.



User interface: the visual display or set of menus or commands through which a user communicates with a computer application, operating system or other electronic device. A good UI allows the user to interact with the software or hardware in a natural, intuitive way.



Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing Preference, and Kinesthetic: 4 of the main learning styles. (See also Learning Styles).

Virtual Learning Environment (VLE):

A web-based system that delivers educational content; sometimes modeled after conventional, in-person learning.



Web-based training: delivery of instructional content via the Internet or a local intranet. Examples include streaming audio/video, webinars, online forums or instant messaging.


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