How to Speak Like an eLearning Pro

glasses resting on a stack of books

With the increasing shift to elearning, new people have the “jargon experience” each day. For novices, it can be difficult to get started when the response to a simple question is laden with what sounds like absolute gibberish: “No problem! All we have to do is to convert all the media to .flv so it can be embedded in the SWF, then publish the SCORM package to the LMS.”

Here are the essentials. I've listed commonly used elearning terminologies rewritten in plain English to make sure everybody understands everybody - from veteran elearning developers to new hires.

eLearning: Any learning content that can be delivered using technology. It can be transmitted over the Internet, Intranet, CD/DVD, thumb drives, etc. As long as you can open it in your computer, view and learn from it, it’s elearning. Some other terms that are used interchangeably include: Computer Based Training (CBT), Internet Based Training (IBT), Web Based Training (WBT), Online Training, etc.

mLearning: Learning content that can be delivered using mobile devices. While designing a learning experience, mlearning designers have to consider smaller screen sizes, processing power, device compatibility and availability of bandwidth among other issues.

Learning Objects (LO): These are independent units of learning. Each unit is not connected to any units presented before or after it. These units can be arranged in different orders to create multiple courses from the same set of LOs. For example, let’s say you have a set of LOs that teach learners how to survive a Zombie attack. You can put together these LOs and create different courses that will cater to people who are interested in just surviving and the advanced user who might be interested killing a few zombies, too, in the process.

Learning Management System (LMS): Once you have created your elearning course you will need to put it in a place for the learners to access it. You may also be interested in reporting options that show the time taken to complete the course, the learner’s assessment score, etc. A Learning Management System (LMS) is the answer. It’s a platform that helps you to deliver and track training, including hosting courses, organizing them and reporting on learners’ success taking the courses.

Learning Content Management System (LCMS): Add content creation functionality to a platform in addition to regular LMS capabilities and you have your LCMS.

Simulations: Imitation of something real world in a virtual environment. For example, having learners practice in a software “sandbox” instead of using the actual software. Simulations enable learners to get comfortable using new skills before applying them in “do or die” scenarios.  

Scenarios: Scenarios are constructed situations that enable learners to put information into the context in which they might actually use the new skills. Since the human brain learns new things using association, scenarios help learners perceive information in a manner that they can retain easily and use long after they take the course.

Flash: Flash is a technology platform originally developed by Macromedia and later acquired and developed by Adobe systems. Flash allows development of animated content that can be played using a browser. This is done by using ‘Flash Player’, a program available for free download from the Adobe website. It’s a widely used format in elearning, and other sectors. Approximately 95% of the PCs in the world have flash player installed.

SWF: Small Web Format (SWF) is a file format that can store multimedia and vector graphic while still retaining a very small footprint, making it ideal for the Web. This format was originally designed by a company called FutureWave Software. The company was later acquired by Macromedia.

Authoring Tools: While elearning development spans a wide range of technical knowledge, content authoring tools enable subject matter experts to create content without programming knowledge. These tools basically provide the user with pre-built templates for inserting content, interactions and multimedia elements. Once everything is aligned with the template the user can publish the content. The user can specify the intended platform, including Web, CD-ROM and even mobile phones.

Some authoring tools even allow users to use PowerPoint slides as input material. Some popular authoring tools are Articulate, Lectora, Knowledge Presenter and Adobe Captivate/Presenter. Open source authoring tools include CourseLab, CALI Author, eXe etc.

A-D-D-I-E Model: A widely used model that divides the entire e-learning development process into five steps: Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate.

F2F: Face-to-face training.

Formative Evaluation: A type of evaluation that is ever-present and constantly making evaluations as the learner progresses through a module. The ‘check your knowledge’ type of questions can be broadly categorized under formative evaluation.

Summative Evaluation: Assessment generally done at the end of a module/session. Ideally, it should measure more than just recalled knowledge.

GUI: (Pronounced 'gooey') Graphical User Interface. It’s the part of any software you see on-screen.

FLV: Flash Video is a container file format used to deliver video over the Internet using Adobe Flash Player.

SCORM: Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a collection of standards and specifications for web-based e-learning. Basically, different people create content using different technologies and methods. Therefore, when you try to put the content on an LMS there may be a compatibility problem. Adhering to SCORM makes sure that any content can be used with any LMS.

HTML5: The latest version of Hyper Text Markup Language. It has gained lots of attention in the elearning sector and elsewhere because of its built in capacity to support multimedia. This capability allows HTML5 applications to run on any device without external plug-ins.

Learning Theories: Conceptual frameworks that try to explain how human beings learn something. There are three main categories of learning theory: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism.

Did we leave out any of your favorite industry vocabulary? Let us know in the comments. We'll add the most interesting and useful submissions to the list.