The Ultimate Glossary of Elearning Terms
The elearning industry is particularly jargon heavy, which can make getting the whole picture a bit of a challenge when researching your next elearning investment.
At HT2 Labs we love to break down barriers to learning, which is why we’ve curated this handy glossary of both technical & conceptual terms to help you become an expert in no time.
In web analytics, A/B Testing is a controlled experiment with two variants [A and B]. It is a form of statistical hypothesis testing that allows the comparison of two versions of a single variable.
An authoring tool that is used for creating elearning content in a quick and responsive fashion.
A multimedia software platform used to produce animations, applications and games, and is often used to create content for elearning.
Activity Profile API
Part of the wider xAPI specification, the Activity Profile API is used in any scenario where interaction between learners is required, such as collaboration, social or competition-type activities.
Activity Providers (AP)
The actual tools and courses that report Tin Can statements. A SCORM package is one example of an AP; an app which reports jog times is another.
Agent Profile API
Part of the wider xAPI specification, Agent Profile API deals with the definitions of agents (e.g. learners themselves) and can store documents across activities such as user settings, and personal documents such as a reflective learning journal, career plan or development goals.
Allows you to compute aggregate statistics about existing table and column data
A content/software development practice that aims to minimize development time through short, incremental projects focusing on very specific areas of the product in question. This way, alterations can be made and issues rectified as and when they appear before moving on to the next part of the overall project.
Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation & Evaluation (ADDIE)
ADDIE refers to a framework used to direct instructional designers and training developers when building effective online tools for learning, training and performance.
A software program that runs on a computer. Web browsers, word processers, games and photo editors are all examples of applications. The term ‘application’ is often abbreviated to ‘app’ when describing software programs that are designed for mobile phones.
Application Programming Interface (API)
A set of functions and procedures that allow the creation of applications which access the features or data of an operating system, application, or other service.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Software that is capable of analyzing (both digital and real-world) stimuli to make informed, rational decisions to help perform its intended function.
In elearning, Artificial Intelligence can be used to make data driven decisions to optimize course content for an individual user, using data that is constantly being gathered around the user’s competencies, weaknesses, habits and behaviour. This predictive logic and analysis is exceptionally useful when helping maximize a user’s understanding of new concepts and ideas.
An authoring tool that allows for the creation of interactive, animated elearning courses. Projects created with Storyline are presented using various media elements that are animated together, often using motion paths, to deliver a visually rich customized online course.
The ability for learners to access and consume an online course at different times. This is a core concept in elearning and Web Based Training (WBT) and allows a course to be delivered at a pace that suits each individual learner.
Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability (ACID)
A set of primary attributes ensured to any database transaction, as described in ISO/IEC 10026-1:1992 Section 4.
Augmented Reality (AR)
The addition of superimposed, computer generated interfaces, graphics or objects to a user’s vision, often delivered via camera enabled mobile hardware such as smartphones or digitally enhanced glasses/goggles to create a digitally altered view of the real world.
Refers to a wide variety of educational and instructional techniques focused on connecting what students are taught in school to real-world issues, problems, and applications.
A tool that allows instructional designers to integrate an array of media formats to create training/elearning that is engaging and interactive.
A globally used Learning Management System (LMS) widely implemented in schools and higher education institutions. Blackboard’s services are used by 75% of U.S colleges and universities.
An educational syllabus that combines multiple media types with a combination of offline and online learning; often a blend of classroom environments and elearning.
Brinkerhoff Success Measures
A method for evaluating the success of a learning initiative, developed by Robert Brinkerhoff. This method uses 5 steps, working toward identifying the critical causal difference between successful learning and learning that was not successful.
Plan Evaluation > Create an ‘Impact Model > Conduct a Survey > Conduct Interviews > Collect and Analyze Data
A style of learning delivery that typically adopts a traditional teacher/learner format. Although self directed learning methods are not at play in a classroom setting (with learning being directed by the teacher), each learner is often given an individual workstation.
The delivery of software via the internet (usually accessed via a web browser) with no localized installations necessary.
Part of the wider xAPI specification, cmi5 is essentially a set of rules providing all capabilities of SCORM of xAPI at the same time, and allows for SCORM-like data to be captured using xAPI.
A form of training that employers are obligated to deliver to their employees to reduce the risk of health and safety or data security related incidents. Compliance training is often delivered using elearning.
When used in the context of an online environment such as an elearning plaform, cognitive presence refers to the construction of meaning through sustained communication between users. This ultimately contributes to a higher order of knowledge on the subject in question through the collaborative accumulation of recorded ideas and solutions.
When a common learning task is undertaken by multiple learners, enabling them to benefit from one another’s skills, resources, experiences and evaluation.
Computer Based Training (CBT)
A general term describing the use of information technology in an educational/training context. This term also includes CMI (Computer Managed Instruction) and CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction).
Content Management System (CMS)
A system that facilitates the creation, organization and consumption of digital content. An LMS is likely to contain a CMS function, to allow the internal curation of educational content.
Corporate Open Online Course (COOC)
Similar to a MOOC, a COOC is simply delivered in a corporate context for businesses of any size.
A term used to describe software with an educational purpose.
The sourcing, organization and presentation of content or media. In elearning, the curation process is often a core part of creating online courses, in which a diverse range content is collated from internal and external sources. Curating learning content can drastically reduce the time taken to create an online course and enables course content to stay highly topical and relevant.
In elearning, custom content refers to learning resources that is tailored to a specific audience and created with the company’s goals and objectives in mind in order to achieve their desired results.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
A digital operation that allows a company to profile, organize, value and communicate with their customers on a large scale.
Digital Learning Objects
A re-usable multimedia resource used to deliver a single learning outcome, often via a Learning Management System (LMS). Videos, quizes, animation, text/articles/reports, images, or audio clips are are examples of digital learning objects.
A learning framework that aims to provide learners with different avenues to learning to best suit their individual needs. Various aspects of learning can be ‘differentiated’, including content, processes, assessment or the learning environment itself.
An instructor-initiated learning exercise, undertaken in a controlled environment and adherent to a pre-determined agenda or syllabus.
This occurs when instructors/teachers are in a different geographical location to their students, and is facilitated through learning technology platforms. This type of learning can be delivered in both synchronous and asynchronous fashion.
Elearning / e-learning / eLearning
Elearning refers to the delivery and consumption of education content, as well as the analysis of learning performance as facilitated by information technology. Elearning has valuable application in both corporate and education environments through its ability to record and analyze rich data about user activity, engagement and competence through the xAPI.
The accumulation of evidence demonstrating an individual’s work, accomplishments, as hosted and displayed on a web-based or digital platform.
Electronic Performance Support System (EPSS)
An online system that provides learners/employees with a complete range of information, guidance, advice and assistance to enable maximum job performance with minimal intervention from others.
Experience Application Programming Interface (xAPI)
xAPI develops on existing API functions by recording data in a consistent format using a universally applicable vocabulary. Learning in both online and offline environments can be recognised and recorded using xAPI, which also allows for vastly different systems to communicate this learning data securely and efficiently.
The xAPI vocabulary format consists of an ‘Actor > Verb > Object’ structure. In simple terms, this may look like; John Smith > Completed > Learning Activity.
Face-to-face learning refers to an environment in which both teacher and learner are physically present and able to converse naturally with no need for digital intervention. This is a traditional method and retains merit through ease of discussion, adaptability and engagement. However, face-to-face learning requires physical resources and can only be delivered on a small scale.
The integration of participation incentives that are largely based upon gaming principles to encourage engagement with a software platform. In elearning, this includes the use of point scoring, trophies and badges, various ‘levels’ and leaderboards to increase engagement with and retention of education content.
An unstructured, unconventional and informal approach to learning built around the individual requirements of a learner. Learning content is sourced or curated on an ad hoc basis from the immediate learner’s environment. An example of this is solving a problem by searching for an instructional video on YouTube.
Globally Unique Identifier (GUID)
A set of numbers and letters in a standard format that can uniquely identify something in an application/system. A GUID usually looks like this: d2d2c1f9-5248-40ef-8add-65c1b81b5414.
Graphical User Interface (GUI)
A type of user interface that is built around graphical icons and visual indicators, such as windows, tabs, tiles & folders, as opposed to a purely text based interface.
HTML5 Package (H5P)
A similar concept to blended learning (which focuses on a blend of online and offline content), hybrid learning focuses on curating the right mix of all possible learning content regardless of whether it sits online or offline.
Identity Provider (IdP)
In a Single Sign On environment, the IdP is the service that holds the directory of users and is where authentication usually takes place; using a password or a set of other pre-determined credentials.
Learning that occurs outside of structured, planned learning initiatives. This learning often occurs naturally as an individual spends time in the appropriate environment, such as a new job.
Someone who creates learning content based on instructional learning theory and design principals.
Instructor Led Training (ILT)
Training that follows the traditional a ‘teacher/learner’ structure.
Internationalized Resource Identifier (IRI)
Similar to URIs and URLs, but able to use international characters and still be unique.
The ability of software or hardware components to work together.
An object-oriented computer programming language commonly used to create interactive effects within web browsers.
A lightweight data-interchange format that’s both easy for humans to read and write and easy for machines to parse and generate.
Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model
A model designed to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of training in a team or organization. It consists of the following levels:
Reaction > Learning > Behaviour > Results
The measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data accumulated during an online learning activity. Learning analytics allow for deep insight into the behaviors, competencies and experiences of learners in addition to accurately identifying areas for improvement in both the learner and the learning environment.
Information that is produced about an individual or group of learners during the completion of an online learning course. It is traditionally captured in the SCORM (see SCORM) format, with more recent elearning iniatives capturing learning data in the xAPI (see xAPI) format.
Learning Experience Platform (LXP)
A Learning Experience Platform (LXP) is a cloud-based learning solution that focuses on delivering a personalized user experience. Building on the foundations laid by the LMS, the LXP looks to curate and aggregate content, create learning/career pathways, and build on skills development in the workplace.
Learning Management System (LMS)
A software platform for the delivery and reporting of training courses or educational programs. In an LMS, learning content is centralized and can be made available to users 24/7, in addition to the tracking and analysis of learning data for enhanced performance and continued learner improvement. Content can be changed or upgraded directly with very minimal administrative resources needed.
Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI)
A standard of cross-system operability created by the IMS Global Learning Consortium. It exists to connect learning systems, such as the LMS, with external tools in a way that is standardized; enabling enhanced accessibility of learning content across many institutions.
Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP)
LDAP is used as a Single Sign On method in large organizations.
Learning Record Store (LRS)
A database that stores, manages and performs analysis on learning data. An LRS can be part of a Learning Management System (LMS) that supports the xAPI data format, or a standalone system.
A key example is Learning Locker, the most widely installed LRS in the world.
The ability of computer programs to gather information and utilize it to make decisions without being explicitly programmed to do so. Personalized product or content recommendations in services such as Amazon or Netflix are a key example of machine learning.
An open-source e-portfolio and social networking tool used in education institutions.
Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
An online course delivered to large numbers of users at any one time, MOOCs can be applied for both corporate training and the delivery of educational content. In addition to the delivery of content, MOOCs often facilitate collaborative discussion and interactions between students and teachers, or instructors and learners.
A method of delivering content to users in small, specific bursts. Users control what and when they learn. At one extreme, imagine the length of a tweet being used to convey a learning point.
Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
In product development, the minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and to provide feedback for future development.
A free and open source Learning Management System widely used in education institutions. Moodle is vastly customizable with the use of plugins and allows for learning environments to be tailored for the specific needs of institutions
Near Field Communication (NFC)
The ability of two devices to wirelessly interact with each other and exchange data when placed in a near proximity. An example of near field communication is a contactless card payment.
Not SQL (NoSQL)
Typically refers to a type of database that is non-relational, but instead stores everything in a “document” format. For instance, Mongo is a NoSQL database.
Content that is designed and sold as is, with no personalization or modification, to a training provider. Often used in the case of compliance training, where universal rules and instruction are applicable.
An accomplishment recognition initiative developed by the Mozilla Foundation. ‘Open Badges’ refer to a method of packaging information about achievements and fulfilled goals which is embedded it into a portable image file; acting as a digital badge.
A piece of software with a source code that is freely available for the public to modify to suit their individual needs. Often, changes are shared and the software is collaboratively improved upon.
Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)
A term often used in E-Learning as ‘OEM License’, referring to software that is sold to computer builders and hardware manufacturers (OEMs) in large quantities, for the purpose of bundling with computer hardware.
Personas (or Learner Personas) are considered and detailed profiles designed to reflect the goals, interests, education background and specific skills of learners. They are used by Instructional Designers to help understand their audience when designing courses or learning initiatives, ensuring courses are engaging and relevant to the end user.
The Proximity Beacon API is a cloud service that allows you to manage data associated with your Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons using a REST (see Representational State Transfer) interface. In elearning, proximity beacons can be used to designate ‘learning zones’, and deliver educational to content to people’s mobile devices once they have entered the designated zone.
Tracking and analyzing personal data in a numeric format to gain a deeper understanding of behaviors with a view to implementing changes and improvements.
Relation Database Management Service (RDBMS)
A relational database is a very typical database format which splits up data into different “tables” that can be “related” with IDs. SQL is a relational database.
Representational State Transfer (REST)
A software architecture style consisting of guidelines and best practices for creating scalable web services.
Secure Assertion Markup Language (SAML)
Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML, pronounced sam-el) is an XML-based, open-standard data format for exchanging authentication and authorization data between parties – typically in the context of Single Sign On.
Self Directed Learning
A learner-initiated learning exercise in which an individual recognizes their own learning needs, develops personal goals, identifies appropriate resources and evaluates their learning outcomes. This learning is performed independently without the guidance of an instructor.
Self Paced Learning
When a learner is able to consume educational content at a rate which suits them, as facilitated by instructional design that allows the learner to control the rate of content delivery.
In linguistics, semantic analysis is the process of relating syntactic structures, from the levels of phrases, clauses, sentences and paragraphs to the level of the writing as a whole, to their language-independent meanings.
Sentiment analysis refers to the use of natural language processing, text analysis and computational linguistics to identify and extract subjective information in source materials.
Service Level Agreement (SLA)
An agreement between a service provider and its customers that defines obligatory performance standards and which services will be provided during the working relationship.
Service Provider (SP)
In a Single Sign On environment, the SP is the service that talks to an IdP in order to get user information. Can be used in the context of SAML e.g. “Your Active Directory system will act as the SAML IdP, whereas Stream LXP (formerly Curatr) will be the SAML SP”.
Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM)
An XML-based framework used to define and access information about learning objects so they can be easily shared among different Learning Management Systems (LMSs).
Single Sign On (SSO)
An authentication service that allows users to sign into multiple platforms using a single set of credentials.
Learning that occurs in a classroom situation with specific physical and social contexts. Knowledge is facilitated by learners interacting with the setting.
A learning concept recognizing that undertaking training/educational courses in a collaborative forum in which ideas can be discussed and concepts freely explored contributes to much higher engagement and retention than more traditional teacher/learner environments.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Software that is licensed to a company or individual on a subscription basis. SaaS has notable benefits, such as cost savings resulting from the absence of hardware installations, maintenance and upgrades. Additionally, SaaS products are easily scaled to suit the precise needs of the customer as the software is hosted externally by the vendor. This benefit extends to development and upgrades, as SaaS users can simply log on to a service that is consistently maintained.
Usually sitting within the solutions development team, a solutions architect is often responsible for the design of one or more applications or services within an organization. They help provide strategic direction in solving technical problems while working closely with clients and customers to ensure their specific product needs are met.
A learning method that aims to maximize retention, in which condensed ‘bite size’ content is repeatedly delivered to learners over a period of time. Intervals are left between the delivery of learning content, the size of which can be adjusted depending on the audience, content and objectives. Content may be presented in different media formats each time, or in the same format.
Small Private Online Courses
Part of the wider xAPI specification, State API allows learning activities without their own database to store some basic bookmarking data or settings.
Statement API is essentially the heart of ‘Tin Can’ (xAPI) and deals with the tracking and reporting of learning activities.
Structured Query Language (SQL)
A standardized language used in database management. Various versions exist: MSSQL, MySQL, SQLite.
Subject Matter Expert (SME)
A person with a high level of authority and expertise in a certain field of application. Not to be confused with the common usage of ‘SME’ when referring to a Small/Medium Enterprise.
Successive Approximation Model (SAM)
An Instructional Design Model that has been introduced as an alternative to ADDIE (see ADDIE). Although like ADDIE it emphasizes collaboration, efficiency and repetition, SAM is a more cyclical process which can be scaled and extended to suit varying needs.
A course structure that dictates that learners must access and consume an online course simultaneously, regardless of geographical location. Synchronous learning allows for real time interaction among instructors and learners, whereas Asynchronous learning does not.
Talent Management System (TMS)
HR focused software that facilitates four key areas of talent management: Recruitment, Performance Management, Learning and Development, and Compensation Management. It develops on traditional HR management systems with the ability to provide strategic assistance to organizations when meeting long term, human capital focused business goals.
A technical architect is generally responsible for defining the overall structure of a program or system, identifying the technical needs of their organization and those of their clients, and completing large scale projects. They are also responsible for testing systems to satisfy quality standards.
Commonly used to refer to the (experience) xAPI.
Urchin Tracking Module (UTM)
A UTM code is a simple code that you can attach to a custom URL in order to track a source, medium, and campaign name. This enables Google Analytics to tell you where searchers came from as well as which campaign directed them to you.
User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
The last phase of the software testing process. During UAT, actual software users test the software to make sure it can handle required tasks in real-world scenarios, according to specifications.
Unique User Identifier (UUID)
An identifier unique to a user in a system. Commonly will take the GUID format.
Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA)
VUCA is an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. These terms refer to unfavourable business environments that sometimes cannot be avoided. For instance, a business that operates globally is subjected to vastly varied regulations, values, cultures, currencies and markets; which can be considered a complex environment.
The delivery of learning content via video. Considered an effective method, elearning videos are designed to be short, engaging and thought provoking in order to maintain the attention of the audience.
Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)
A web based platform to organize resources, courses and users, often within an educational institution.
Virtual Reality (VR)
The computer generated construction of a 3D environment that can be interacted with by a user, often with a headset and/or gloves fitted with sensors to allow for the realistic interaction and manipulation of objects. Virtual reality has application in online compliance training as it can safely simulate dangerous scenarios.
Wearables refer to hardware that can be worn and interacted with on the body. Examples include smart watches, fitness trackers, pedometers and smart glasses.
Web Based Training (WBT)
Delivery of learning content via a web-based application or internalized intranet. Content may be hosted within a web-based application (such as an LMS), or retrieved from external sources to allow a diverse and up-to-the-minute consumption of learning content.
An online workshop, in which an individual or multiple people ‘host’ a session which is then broadcast to participants. The host will ‘share’ their screen to all participants, enabling them to explore subjects and dictate learning visually, and in real time. Webinars are often used for software demonstrations and are a common communications tool in the elearning industry.