Ultimate eLearning terms you should know: Part 1 (A-L)

Ultimate eLearning terms you should know: Part 1 (A-L)

eLearning is full of specialist terms and acronyms that aren’t always clearly defined. From API to xAPI, the words we use everyday can be complex and confusing. Even if you’ve been working in eLearning for years, you can still be stumped by a three letter acronym of uncertain meaning. We trawled through our archives to bring you the first part of our ultimate A-Z guide on everything online learning. Here are the eLearning terms you really need to know, from A-L.


Accessibility: If you create online learning content, making it accessible to all learners is crucial. Accessibility means that content can be used by people with varying abilities and disabilities, from the sensory to the intellectual or technological. eLearning content developers and instructional designers should aim to make courses clear, easy to understand, and simple to use. Trainers and instructors should provide assistive technology to those who need it in order for their courses to be considered accessible.


Active learning: Strategy focused on encouraging learners to actively participate in training. Active learning was popularized by Bonwell and Eison. The approach prompts learners to read, discuss, and solve problems in order to synthesize content. Examples of active learning activities include practical tasks and problem solving conducted in small groups.


ADDIE: An acronym made up of the words: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. The ADDIE process for developing learning solutions has gone through a number of iterations since it was first used in the 1950s. When implementing ADDIE, the outcomes from each phase are fed into the phase that follows. In today’s fast-paced learning environments, the AGILE method is often seen as more efficient than ADDIE.


ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning): An initiative established by the US Department Of Defense in 1999, aiming to make the delivery of online training consistent across content formats, technologies, and organizations. One outcome of the project was SCORM, an interoperable content standard that’s still very popular today.


Agile learning: Often contrasted with the ADDIE process, the Agile design method emerged in the 1970s and became widely adopted in the 1990s. Unlike ADDIE, the Agile method dives straight into a project, producing small pieces of content very quickly. Results are then refined over multiple quick iterations.


AICC (Aviation Industry Computer-Based-Training Committee): The first official eLearning content standard, AICC was developed by the Aviation Industry CBT Committee in 1993 as a CD-ROM based standard. Online web support was added to the specification in 1998. A predecessor to SCORM, AICC was difficult to work with and many steps were required to get content in the format running in an LMS.


API (Application Program Interface): Provides an interface that allows developers to interact with programs and applications, including learning management systems. An API includes a set of credentials known as keys that are used by admins and developers. Similar to a username and password pair, the key allows developers to access the API and interact with data in an LMS. Integrating with a vendor’s API can speed up eLearning processes by automating time-consuming manual tasks like updating, deleting, or exporting lists of users.
Assessment: Often takes the form of a test included at the end of a course to evaluate learner performance. Assessment should be aligned with the objectives of a course to accurately measure learner progress.


Assimilation: Incorporating new ideas, concepts, or experiences into an existing mental schema. Assimilation can also describe the association of new information with preexisting knowledge. Many factors can influence the rate of assimilation, including distractions, a learner’s traits, and motivation levels.


Asynchronous learning: Allows learners to train individually at the time, place, and pace that suits them. Similar in meaning to online learning, computer-based and web-based training.


Authoring tool: Software used to develop content for online learning and training programs. There are many commercial authoring tools on the market, including ElucidatArticulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, iSpring Pro, and Camtasia. Based on their requirements, some organizations choose to build an authoring tool in house instead. To create content in the SCORM format, check that the authoring tool you select is compatible with all relevant parts of the standard’s specification. Which authoring tool you select should be determined by your requirements, skills, and the resources available to build a course.


Blended learning: The combination of traditional face-to-face (or synchronous) learning methods and technology-based online learning (asynchronous) methods. Blended learning shouldn’t be used just for the sake of it. The selection of face-to-face or online learning techniques must serve course objectives. When creating blended learning, consider how each goal might be best achieved in either an online or offline setting.


Branching navigation: An adaptive learning technique that gives learners control over outcomes. Learners are prompted to choose from multiple solutions to given scenarios. Different outcomes are presented for each challenge encountered along the way.


Catalog: A collection of courses available to given groups of learners or potential customers.


Certification: A certificate confirms that a learner has completed a training program to a pre-defined standard. Many professional bodies require registered members to be recertified at regular intervals.


Chunk: A small unit of a larger piece of learning content designed to make assimilation more manageable for learners. Chunking content also helps to combat learner fatigue.


Classroom-based training: Also known as face-to-face training. A traditional training method during which an instructor guides learners in a real-world classroom environment.


Child portal (or client portal): A sub-portal within a main LearnUpon portal that can be individually branded and customized for a specific client or user group.


Cloud LMS: A web-based platform that helps companies to deliver, track, and report on eLearning. The main difference between a cloud-based LMS and other solutions is that learning content and tracking and reporting data is stored in the cloud. One benefit of a cloud LMS is that it’s quicker and more cost-effective to install than self-hosted learning solutions. Cloud-based learning management systems also tend to require less in house technical expertise to maintain and run.


Cognitive load: A theory developed by John Sweller that describes the strain working memory experiences when information is being processed.


Compliance training: Mandatory and often legally enforced training that’s particularly common in highly regulated industries. Compliance courses must typically be completed one month after an employee takes up a post. They’re often followed by refresher periods of 1-3 years. Compliance learning content usually includes online text, audio and videos elements, with a corresponding risk assessment.


CPD (Continuing Professional Development): CPD programs aim to help professionals stay up-to-date with developments in their field after tertiary or postgraduate training has ended. Also known as Continuing Professional Education (CPE), professionals use CPD to maintain knowledge and skills throughout their working lives. CPD obligations are common across professions and include formal, informal, structured and self-directed learning approaches. 


Custom user data: Describes the custom data fields added when an LMS is configured. Examples included “Location”, “Job Role” or “Department”. The use of custom fields allows you to deal with groups of learners as a unit and to assign all learners in that group to a specific assignment or learning path. Custom fields can be used as filters to return detailed information for reports.


eLearning (electronic learning): Learning and training content and activities delivered through an electronic device, like a desktop computer, tablet, or mobile phone. Also referred to as e-learning.


Feedback: Feedback can be provided while a learner completes a course, an exam or assignment in an LMS. Types of feedback include showing the learner if an answer submitted is correct or incorrect, or displaying correct answers after submission.
Flash: Adobe Flash technology has supported the delivery of multimedia content for nearly twenty years. Three popular eLearning formats rely on Flash technology: SCORM, Tin Can (xAPI), and video. That’s one reason why the decline of Flash technology is a concern for many of us working in the eLearning industry. Although the movement away from Flash technology will generate cost and complexity for eLearning professionals, LearnUpon offers customers a number of alternatives including support for HTML5 content delivery.


Gagne’s nine events of instruction: In The Conditions of Learning (1965), educational psychologist Robert M. Gagne argued that nine instructional design principles provide a framework for developing a powerful learning experience. The nine events Gagne defined are: gain attention, set objectives, stimulate prior knowledge, present information, guide learners, elicit performance, provide feedback, assess performance, and enhance retention and transfer.


HTML5: HTML5 technology provides many tools to fill the gap left by the decline of Flash. HTML5 enables video and audio content to render directly in the browser. It’s also more efficient than Flash because it requires less processing power.


Instructional designer: Applies a methodology based on cognitive psychology and instructional theory to create learning content. An instructional designer also needs to balance the needs of an organization and its learners to develop effective content that delivers learning objectives.


Instructor-led training: Modules delivered by an instructor either in a classroom or web-based conference setting.


Intentionality: The act of doing something with purpose. Every action is aimed at achieving a specific outcome. For example, an employee might intentionally complete a scenario because they know it will help improve their professional performance.


Interactive: Interactive content aids learning by encouraging users to actively engage with it. An authoring tool can be used to transform static content in formats like PowerPoint into an interactive course. Techniques to make eLearning content more interactive include adding drag and drop elements and prompting learners to make a decision before progressing.


Interoperability: The extent to which hardware and software elements work together. eLearning standards like SCORMTin Can (xAPI) and AICC were developed to enhance the interoperability of online learning content and technologies.


JavaScript: Scripting language used in eLearning to add interactivity to webpages. Commands in JavaScript allow tasks to be completed by a browser when a user views a webpage. JavaScript also manages communications between standards like SCORM and xAPI and an LMS.


Just-in-time learning: Having appropriate learning available at the time a learner wants to use it. It usually takes the form of bite-sized courses that learners can access and complete while on-the-job. Support for mobile learning (or mLearning, see below) is an important factor in the delivery of just-in-time learning.


Knowledge base: Specialized repository used to store information and knowledge assets. LearnUpon gives all customers access to a knowledge base of information developed to support use of our LMS.


Knowledge construction: Making learners aware of how the absorption of knowledge is influenced by their belief system, experience, and background. Online learners benefit when they can apply preexisting knowledge to assimilate new material.


LCMS (Learning Content Management System): Once distinguished from the term Learning Management System (LMS), the two are now mostly interchangeable. Like an LMS, an LCMS manages the creation, storage and delivery of eLearning content.


Learning path: Learning paths are useful for instructors who need to build structured learning programs. They allow admins to control the timeframe in which courses are made available and the order in which they’re completed. For example, a “New Hire Learning Path” could include all courses a new employee needs to take during induction, starting with Orientation and moving through things like Policies and Procedures or Health and Safety.


LMS: A software platform that manages the delivery and reporting of online training. There are now more than 600 learning management systems on the market, including self-hosted and cloud-based learning solutions. The features included with a good LMS allow you to deliver course content in a range of eLearning standards, sell online courses, assess and evaluate learner performance, deliver blended learning, brand or white label your LMS, integrate with existing systems and the vendor’s API, and much more.


Library: In LearnUpon, a library is a repository of reusable content, like videos, documents, question pools, SCORM and Tin Can files, from which a course can be created.


Linear course: Presents information in a simple page-by-page order. Linear courses are now often viewed as inferior to other course types. The structure is still suited to delivering information with simple objectives that a learner needs to assimilate quickly.


LRS (Learning Record Store): A system that works with the Tin Can API to collect, store and retrieve statements that track learning experiences. Data stored by an LRS can be presented in a way that’s accessible and easy to interpret. LearnUpon integrates with all popular learning record stores – including Wax LRS, Grassblade LRS, Watershed LRS and Learning Locker.


Phew! And that’s just part one of our glossary of eLearning terms. Tuck into part two, covering everything manifest files to white labelling, now.