The world of learning & development (L&D) is filled with jargon. For your convenience, we've collected many learning terms here.

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Accelerated learning

A broad concept that combines aspects of established learning theory with brain-based approaches to engage learners mentally and physically and "accelerate" the process of learning. Techniques may include mind maps, music, applied multiple intelligences theory, memory techniques, colour, pattern spotting and individual learning styles. Accelerated learning is based on the work of Greorgi Lazanov, a medical doctor and professor of psychiatry.


A technology characteristic that enables persons with disabilities (sight, hearing and physical impairments) to use technology. Can be used in relation to elearning courses where the authoring tool and instructional design supports how the course can be navigated by these users. Also see Section 508, WCAG.


The process that an organization follows to receive certification by a guiding or controlling institution. To receive accreditation, the organization must demonstrate and meet specific measures of quality, conformance or adherence.

Action verb

A word that conveys an action/behaviour and reflects the type of performance that is to occur in learning (i.e., place, cut, drive, describe, write, analyse, open, etc.) Action verbs are measurable, observable, verifiable and reliable.

Active learning

A process of learning new ideas, skills and attitudes from doing, performing and taking action. The action can be either mental (e.g., reflection) or physical (e.g., case study). Active learning examples include games, simulations, introspection and role playing.


Provide information about the current existing skills, knowledge, perspectives and environment of individuals in an organization. Actual performance is typically identified and defined in the training analysis phase of design instruction. Also see Causes, Optimals, Gap, Gap analysis.

Adaptive learning

Also called personalized learning. Refers to how training is designed to the skill level, needs and learning preference of the learner.

ADDIE model

A classic instructional design model consisting of five phases: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation.

Adult learning theory

Principles and practices of providing instruction to adult learners. Primarily concerned with an adult's learning goals, barriers to learning, experience, ability and motivation to direct his or her own learning. See Andragogy.

Affective learning

Learning that results in changes to emotions, attitudes, appreciations, beliefs and values, such as enjoying, conserving, respecting and supporting. Also see Domains of learning, Bloom's Taxonomy.


Software development methodologies based on iterative development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams.


See Artificial intelligence.


An abbreviation for Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee. The AICC sets guidelines in the development, delivery and evaluation of elearning programs specifically for the aviation industry, but these guidelines are being widely used in a variety of other industries. Also see SCORM.

Alpha version

Also known as the pilot version. Used to test the overall usability and training effectiveness. Feedback from the test audience is used to revise and refine the course before the beta version is released. An alpha version typically speeds up the development process by cutting down on rework. Also see Beta test.


The first step in the classic ADDIE model of Instructional System Design. In the Analysis phase, the target audience is defined and performance improvement needs are identified. Also see Instructional System Design, ADDIE model, Needs assessment, Front-end analysis, Job analysis, Cost-benefit analysis.


The art and science of helping adults learn. Introduced by Malcom Knowles, andragogy emphasizes an adult's capability to direct and motivate themselves, use past knowledge and experience to assist learning and evaluate the contents of training for relevance and quality. Andragogy is the opposite of pedagogy (the education/teaching of children). Also see Pedagogy.


The rapid sequential presentation of slightly differing images to create the illusion of motion. Animation is typically used for presenting dynamic content and can be more effective than a static image in illustrating a process. It requires more information to be processed by a computer and requires a higher bandwidth.


An abbreviation for Application Program Interface. A set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications. It specifies how software components should interact.

Artificial intelligence

Also referred to as AI. The range of technologies that allow computer systems to perform complex functions mirroring the workings of the human mind. Gathering and structuring knowledge, problem solving and processing a natural language are activities possible by an artificially intelligent system.


A process of systematically measuring and evaluating a learner's progress/achievement in a course. Questions, activities, case studies, roleplaying and simulations can be used to assess learning. Also see Evaluation", Evaluation instrument.

Asynchronous learning

A learner-centred teaching method that uses online learning resources to facilitate information sharing without the constraints of time and location. Communication between learners and the instructor does not occur at the same time so does not include real-time instructor guidance. Some examples of asynchronous learning include taking a self-paced course, exchanging e-mail messages with a mentor and posting messages to a discussion group.


The intended end user population of a training course. Learning styles, level of education, experience, limitations, preferences, background, location and job responsibilities are all considered when defining the audience. Identifying the audience is an important step during the Analysis phase of the instructional design process. Also see Analysis and Target population.

Augmented reality

Also referred to as AR. An artificial environment created through the combination of real-world and computer-generated data.


Similar to programming. Course authors assemble media components using a rapid authoring tool or authoring system to create an elearning or web course. Also see Rapid authoring tool.

Authoring tool

A software application used to create media-based learning content such as elearning courses. Authoring tools are used to create/build interactive elearning content that complies with industry standards (i.e., AICC, SCORM). Some of the more popular authoring tools are Articulate, Captivate, Director, Toolbook, Lectora, Flash and DreamWeaver. An LCMS (Learning Content Management System) can also be used to author content. Also see Learning Content Management System and Rapid authoring tool.


Graphical representation of a user, script, program or non-human system within a virtual world. Also see Virtual world.


An image which signifies the learner's participation in an event, contest or gamified elearning course. Also see Gamification.

Balanced scorecard

A structured method of measuring business performance, based on a mix of financial and non-financial parameters.


An overt action or set of actions the learner is expected to demonstrate after training. The activity should be observable and measurable. Also see Learning objective.


A standard by which something can be measured or judged. The performance of a learner is measured against a benchmark such as the performance of an expert or a set of standards.

Beta test

Part of the quality assurance process, usually the last step before course development is complete. Beta testing generally takes place after the initial alpha version is tested and revisions made. Beta testing is more involved and requires the test group (typically selected users) to formally try out the course and document all errors, including software coding, navigation, content, grammar, spelling and usability errors. Also see Alpha version, QA.

Big data

Refers to the large volume of data — both structured and unstructured — available within or outside an organization. Big data can take the traditional learning and development methods and strategies to a new level. Learning resources are no longer restricted to organization boardrooms, content development agencies, training facilitators and educational programs; they are being generated on social media platforms, in online forums and communities and in the cloud. Big data is also available in the form of webinars, blogs, videos, podcasts, etc. Organizations can use big-data analytics to sort and gather these learning resources according to their training needs.

Blended learning

Training that uses multiple delivery methods. An example of blended learning is a combination of a classroom workshop and an elearning module.


An abbreviation of web log. Refers to short messages that are posted to a web site by an author. Blogs are typically informal, personal messages and are a quick way of sharing and accessing knowledge.

Bloom's taxonomy

A hierarchical learning domain of educational activities developed by Benjamin Bloom. Includes cognitive (mental skills/knowledge), affective (feelings/attitudes) and psychomotor (manual or physical skill). Trainers and instructional designers often refer to these three domains as KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Attitude). After the learning session, the learner should have acquired new skills, knowledge and/or attitudes. Also see Affective learning, Cognitive learning, Psychomotor learning, Learning taxonomy, Domains of learning.


A scenario-based approach to learning. Branching is a tutorial structure that progresses through material on a path that is dependant on the learner's response to previous questions, problems or situations. The use of branching in elearning applications avoids the user being tested on materials they are already proficient in.

Cascading style sheets

See Style sheets.

Case study

A scenario used to illustrate a "real world" situation that provides enough detail to enable the learner to recommend a solution. The case study may be factual or hypothetical. Also see Simulation.


The things that get in the way of individual and organizational performance. There are typically four types of causes: absence of skills and knowledge or information, weak motivation, improper environment and flawed incentives. Causes are typically identified and defined in the training analysis phase of designing instruction. Also see Actuals, Gap, Gap analysis.


See Computer-based training.


See accreditation.


The process of dividing content into sections, or "chunks," to facilitate understanding.

Classroom training

Training conducted where learners and facilitator interact in a real, physical classroom. Also known as Face-to-face (F2F) training. Also see Face to face and Instructor-led training.


See Content management system.


A process where a more experienced person, the coach, provides a learner or learners with constructive advice and feedback, with the goal of improving performance. Coaching is task oriented, more short term than mentoring, and is performance driven. Also see Mentoring.

Cognitive learning

The mental processes of perception, memory, judgement and reasoning used in learning that results in changes to knowledge recall and intellectual skills. Also see Affective learning, Psychomotor learning, Domains of learning, learning taxonomy, Bloom's taxonomy.

Collaborative learning

Learning that occurs when people actively and collaboratively learn by exchanging and sharing information, opinions and experiences. Activities can include collaborative writing, web conferencing, instant messaging, email, group projects, threaded discussions, joint problem solving, debates, weblogs and study teams. These tools allow collaborative learning to take place between individuals and groups that are geographically dispersed. Also see Community of practice, Virtual community.

Community of practice

A meeting place on the Internet or intranet for learners to share common interests, profession and needs who support informal and collaborative learning. It can be open to all or be by membership only and may or may not be moderated. Can be used alone or as part of a blended learning solution. Also see Collaborative learning, Virtual community.


A structured list of desired knowledge, skills and behaviours that are required for job performance. Competencies are used as the foundation for needs analyses and evaluations. They are powerful drivers of assessment and training. Also see Learning outcome.

Competency-based instruction

Instruction that is organized around a set of learning objectives based upon the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to perform a set of skills, which are called competencies. Evaluation of learner success is based on observable, measurable performance of the skills.


Elearning that meets established standards of and has received official approval from an accredited organization. Can also refer to web accessibility compliance, where learning complies with web accessibility standards. Also see Accessibility, Section 508 and WCAG.

Computer-based training

Also referred to as CBT. Course or educational material presented on a computer, primarily by CD-ROM or floppy disk rather than online. Unlike web-based training, computer-based training typically does not require the computer to be connected to a network and typically does not provide links to learning resources outside of the course. Also see eLearning and Web-based training.

Computer-managed instruction

An instructional strategy that uses the computer to provide learning objectives, learning resources and assessment of learner performance. Computer-managed instruction helps the instructor with instructional management without actually doing the teaching.


One of the three required elements of an instructional objective, as defined by Robert Mager. Conditions are the circumstances under which the performance will take place and will be tested. Also see Instructional objective, Performance and Criterion.

Content curation

Sifting out valuable content from a large amount (e.g., the Internet) and presenting it to learners in a meaningful way. It can also, in the “museum curator” sense, mean tending to a collection of content items to ensure that it stays relevant and current.

Content gathering

The process of collecting all of the content required to teach instruction. Content gathering is one component of the Analysis phase. The designer works closely with the SME during this process and identifies "need to know" vs. "nice to know" information. Also see Analysis, SME and Task analysis.

Content management system

Also referred to as CMS. A software application that manages the design, testing, approval, storage, retrieval and display of elearning content. Content management systems work by indexing text, audio clips and images within a database. They often provide version control and check-in/check-out capabilities. They can also be used to organize documents and media assets.

Corporate university

A learning entity that is a strategic tool designed to assist the organization in achieving its goals by conducting activities that foster individual and organizational learning and knowledge.

Cost-benefit analysis

A method of analyzing and weighing the total expected costs against the total expected benefits of one or more actions, to choose the best or most profitable option. Benefits and costs are often expressed in monetary terms. Cost-benefit analysis considers all benefits, including productivity, savings and motivation, and weighs them against all costs, including expenditures, overheads and lost opportunities. Also see ADDIE model, Analysis.


A collection of learning elements on any given subject. Typically a course includes lessons, sections, chapters or modules, media, resources and evaluation.

Course map

A chart, document or diagram that details the designed sequence for events of a course. Course maps often illustrate the recommended order in which learners should complete the training. Also see Storyboard.


A way of recording lectures and other teaching activities and making the recordings available over the Internet via podcasting channels. Also see Podcast.


Software designed specifically to use in a classroom or other educational setting, and containing instructional material, educational software and/or multimedia materials.


See Criterion Referenced Instruction.


One of the three required elements of an instructional objective as defined by Robert Mager. The criterion is the accepted degree or standard the learner must meeting in their performance. Criterion can also include three classifications: time, quality and quantity.

Criterion Referenced Instruction

Also referred to as CRI. A framework of instruction developed by Robert Mager for the design and delivery of training programs. Critical components include goal/task analysis, performance/instructional objectives, criterion referenced testing and development of learning modules tied to specific objectives. CRI training programs tend to be self-paced courses involving a variety of media.


A group of related courses, coursework and their content given in a learning environment. The courses are arranged in a sequence to make learning a subject or topic easier.

Delivery method

The way in which training is provided to learners. Delivery methods can include printed workbooks, elearning, classroom, video, audio tapes, CD-ROM and Internet.


The second step in the classic ADDIE model of Instructional System Design. Information gathered in the Analysis phase is used in the Design phase to design a detailed plan for the instruction. Also see Instructional System Design, ADDIE model.


The third step in the classic ADDIE model of Instructional System Design. The Development phase follows the detailed plan created in the Design phase to create instructional material. Also see Instructional System Design and ADDIE model.

Didactic design

The design of instruction in which the learners are presented information and asked to respond to questions.

Discussion board

An electronic online bulletin board where you can leave messages and find responses to those messages. Also known as a discussion forum, message board or online forum.

Distance learning

Training that is delivered to learners who are separated from the instructor by time and/or location. Training courses are delivered via synchronous or asynchronous means of instruction, including written correspondence, text, graphics, audio, video, CD-ROM, online learning, audio and videoconferencing, interactive TV and fax. Also see Distributed learning.

Distributed learning

Learners take courses from a variety of sources (and delivery modes) to customize a program of study. Similar to distance education/learning, but involving a blend of online, face-to-face (F2F) and self-study methods. Also see Distance learning.

Domains of learning

Three divisions used to classify types of learning: psychomotor (physical), cognitive (mental) and affective (emotional). Also see Bloom's Taxonomy, Learning taxonomy, Affective learning, Cognitive learning, Psychomotor learning.


An electronic version of a traditional printed book that can be downloaded from the Internet and read on a computer or tablet.


The method of using technology, such as CD-ROM, Internet, Intranet, wireless and mobile learning, to deliver learning. Elearning uses written, audio and visual content to deliver learning content that can be accessed with a computer anytime, anywhere. Also see Computer-based training, Web-based training.

eLearning 2.0

Learning through digital connections and peer collaboration. It refers to new ways of thinking about elearning inspired by the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies. Learners become empowered to search,create and collaborate information. It differs from traditional learning by encouraging learners to contribute in creating and sharing information and their experiences. Also see Web 2.0.

Electronic performance support system

Also referred to as EPSS. Applications designed to run simultaneously with other applications or embedded within other applications that provide support for the user in accomplishing specific tasks. It is structured to provide immediate, individualized online access to a full range of information, software, guidance, advice and assistance, data, images, tools and assessment and monitoring systems. The EPSS supports job performance with minimal intervention and support by others. A good example of an EPSS is the built-in help functions of many software programs.


Components of a task or the smallest meaningful activity that describes what employees in an organization are expected to be able to do. Elements combine to form a task, tasks combine to form a duty and duties combine to form a job. Elements are identified in the Analysis phase of the instructional design process by means of a job or task analysis. Also see Job analysis.

Enterprise resource planning

Also referred to as ERP. The integration of all the information and processes in an organization such as manufacturing, human resources, supply chain management and finance. Enterprise resources planning packages are designed to automate many of the fundamental processes in a company. Enterprise resource planning is broader in scope than a human resource information system (HRIS), which manages the activities and processes related to human resources in an organization. Also see HRIS.

Enterprise-wide elearning

Elearning that is intended for all or most employees within a company. Typically used to support core processes.


See Electronic performance support system.


See Enterprise resource planning.


The process of gathering information in order to make decisions. It is broader than testing and includes both subjective (opinion) input and objective (fact) input. The final step in the classic ADDIE model of Instructional System Design. Results of evaluation are used to improve training, determine whether the objectives have been achieved and assess the value of the training to an organization. Also see Instructional System Design, ADDIE model.

Evaluation instrument

A test or other measurement device used to determine the level of learning achievement of an individual or group. Evaluation instruments include questionnaires, checklists, tests, rating forms, observations, inventories and standard interviews. Also see Formative evaluation, Summative evaluation.

Events of Instruction

The nine events outlined by Robert Gagne, conditions of learning that activate processes needed for effective learning. Both external conditions (stimuli presented and arranged by the trainer) and internal conditions (skills and capabilities the learner has already mastered) are necessary for learning. The nine Events of Instruction are hierarchical: (1) gain attention, (2) inform learners of objectives, (3) stimulate recall of prior learning, (4) present content, (5) provide learning guidance, (6) elicit performance (practice), (7) provide feedback, (8) assess performance and (9) enhance retention and transfer to the job.

Experiential learning

A learning activity having a behavioral based hierarchy that allows the learner to experience and practice job related tasks and functions during a training session.


See Face to face.

Face to face

Also referred to as F2F. A term used to describe traditional classroom environment where the learners and instructor are in the same location at the same time. Also called instructor-led training or ILT. Also see Instructor-led training.


A person who makes it easier for learners to learn by attempting to discover what a learner is interested in knowing and then determines the best way to make that information available to the learner. Someone who aids learning in a classroom or online learner-centred environment.


See Front-end analysis.


Communication between the trainer or system and the learner resulting from an action or process. Feedback can be positive or negative. It is used to shape behaviors and should closely follow an action for maximum results.

Formative evaluation

An evaluation conducted during instruction to assess learner progress. Examples of formative evaluation are worksheets, oral questions, case study, written worksheets, etc. Also see Evaluation, Summative evaluation.

Front-end analysis

Also referred to as FEA. The first phase, or front end, of the instructional design process. FEA is conducted to define performance problems, identify possible causes and gaps and identify potential solutions. This phase of the design process is the foundation of an effective training program. FEA can include many types of analysis such as needs assessment, population/audience analysis, gap analysis, content analysis, job/task analysis and cost-benefit analysis.


An interactive experience where the interaction has been play-balanced to achieve optimal playability. Also see Gamification.


A concept of using game design elements (like fixed rules, 3D environments, ranks, reputation, player effort, variable outcomes), game mechanics (like points, leaderboards, levels, rewards/consequences, time constraints) and game thinking (like storytelling, narratives, challenges, quests) in non-game contexts to make learning more compelling. Gamification takes the entire learning process and turns it into a game. Also see Game.


Identifies the difference between optimals (the ideal or accepted level of performance) and actuals (the actual performance). The gap is typically identified and defined in the training analysis phase of instruction design. Also see Actuals, Causes, Optimals, Gap Analysis, Job analysis.

Gap analysis

Compares a person's actual job performance to the ideal or accepted level of performance required for the job. A gap analysis consists of the list of skills required for a specific job and a rating of the employee's level for each skill. Ratings below a certain predetermined level identify a skill gap. Also see Actuals, Causes, Optimals, Gap, Job analysis.


A broad general statement of a desired learner outcome.

Hard skills

Specific, observable and measurable actions/skills. Examples of hard skills include typing, speaking a foreign language, software development and operating machinery. Also see Soft skills.


An abbreviation of human resource information system. A database that helps organizations keep track of all activities and processes related to human resources in an organization, including payroll management, labor and time management, benefit management and human resource management. HRIS is smaller in scope than ERP, which involves all the processes in an organization. Also see Enterprise resource planning.

Human resource information system



Links text, graphics, video, text, audio and animation to create a generally nonlinear medium of information. It leaves the control of navigation in the hands of the user. The Internet is an example of hypermedia.


See Internet-based training.


A graphic symbol, usually a simple picture, that represents a program, command, object, process or concept. For example, a question mark symbol is used to represent help functionality in a computer program. The user clicks the icon to access help files.


See Instructor-led training.


The fourth step in the classic ADDIE model of Instructional System Design. This is the course delivery phase that includes course delivery, course pilot procedures, scheduling, enrollment of learners, training delivery logistics and tools and equipment required. Also see Instructional System Design, ADDIE model.

Incremental design

A design/development approach where small portions of the final product are produced and tested. Each piece is completed before the next is developed. Also see Iterative design.

Informal learning

Learning that is unofficial, unscheduled, unprompted and independent from instructor-led and online programs. Informal learning techniques include talking, observing others, trial and error, working with people and using social media.

Instructional designer

Generically, someone who applies learning theory to the organization and design of instructional programs.

Instructional objective

A specific, measurable statement of what the learner will be able to do at the end of the objective or course, stated in behavioral terms (the behaviour you can observe). It describes the intended outcome of instruction (what the learners will be able to do) rather than a description or summary of the training content (what the instructor will teach). Instructional objectives consist of three elements: performance, conditions and criterion. Also see Performance, Condition, Criterion, Behaviour.

Instructional strategy

An approach used to select and sequence learning activities and teach content, with or without an instructor.

Instructional System Design

Also referred to as ISD. A formal, systematic, formal process for designing computer-based or traditional instructor-led training. The ISD process includes Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. Also referred to as system approach to training (SAT) or ADDIE. Also see ADDIE model.

Instructor guide

A set of materials that provide a trainer with course content, instructional direction, teaching resources, training schedule, training activities and handouts, evaluation and other supplemental information.

Instructor-led training

Also referred to as ILT. Training facilitated by a live instructor, in a classroom setting or in live classes delivered via a network (e.g., web-based conference). Also see Classroom training, Synchronous.

Interactive media

A type of collaborative media that allows for active participation by the learner with multimedia course material, another computer or another individual. Interactive media examples include interactive text, graphics, moving image and sound, Internet, interactive digital TV, computer games, multimedia CD-ROM/DVD, voice commands, video and real-time interaction. Also see Media, Multimedia.


An elearning feature that requires the learner to do something. The interactivity should maintain the learner's interest, provide practice and/or reinforce prior learning. Interactivity examples include open questions, simulations and instructional games.

Internet-based training

Also referred to as IBT. Delivery of anywhere, anytime training content via a web browser over the Internet or intranet. Internet-based training provides links to learning resources outside of the course, such as references, email, bulletin boards and discussion groups. Internet-based training can be synchronous (instructor facilitated) or asynchronous (self-directed and self-paced). Also referred to as web-based training, interactive training, computer-based training and online training. See Web-based training, synchronous, Asynchronous learning.


See Instructional System Design.

Iterative design

Also called successive approximation or rapid prototyping. Creating and user-testing multiple prototypes of a product, and using the feedback to improve the next prototype. Also see Incremental design.

Job aid

A training tool that provides on-the-job instruction for a specific task or skill. Used in situations where it is not feasible or worthwhile to commit a procedure to memory. Job aids can be paper-based or in electronic format.

Job analysis

A process of identifying and determining in detail the particular duties and requirements of a given job and the importance of these duties. Analysis is conducted on the job, rather than on the person doing the job. It breaks the complexity of the job into elements, duties and tasks. It also identifies and organizes the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to perform the job correctly. This is accomplished by gathering task activities and requirements through observation, interviews, task inventories, checklists, work logs or other recording methods. Also see Task analysis, needs assessment, performance gap, Front-end analysis.


A popular file format that compresses images for display on web pages. The file extension is .jpg.

Just-in-time training

Instructional information delivered to learners at the moment and location they need it, 24/7.

Kirkpatrick four-level evaluation model

"The four-step training evaluation methodology developed by Donald Kirkpatrick to assess training effectiveness. Evaluation should always begin with Level 1. Then as time and budget allow, you move sequentially through the remaining levels. Level 1, Reaction, measures what the learners think and feel about the training (the "smile sheet"). Level 2, Learning, measures the increase in knowledge, skill or attitude during and immediately after training. Level 3, Behaviour, measures the effectiveness of the transfer of knowledge, skill or attitude to the job. And Level 4, Results, measures the effects of on-the-job behaviour changes on organizational outcomes.


See Learning Content Management System.


See Learning Management System.

Learner-centric approach

Supports collaborative and individualized learning by developing and presenting learning materials in a learner-friendly way. The learner is responsible and actively involved in gaining new knowledge.

Learning 2.0

eLearning design that relies on collaboration, informal learning and blended learning. Should not be taken to mean that people learn any differently today than in the past.

Learning Content Management System

"Also referred to as LCMS. A knowledge management environment where instructional designers (IDs) and subject matter experts (SMEs) can create, collect, store, deliver and reuse elearning content from a central object repository, usually a database. Learning content, including media, is stored in reusable content chunks called learning objects. Learning objects can then be shared by all users throughout the organization. These systems usually have good search capabilities, allowing IDs and SMEs to quickly find the text or media needed to build training content. Also see Learning Management System.

Learning environment

The physical classroom or virtual web-based setting in which learning takes place.

Learning Management System

Also referred to as LMS. A system that manages the addition, deployment and tracking of learning content used for training administration and performance management. Most LMSs includes functionality for searching and browsing course catalogues, launching courses, registering students, tracking student progress and assessments, tracking certification and compliance and delivering reports. Most of the Learning Management Systems are developed to be used independently of Learning Content Management Systems; some LMSs also have some authoring functionality. Also see Learning Content Management System.

Learning object

Also referred to as reusable learning object, or RLO. Reusable, media-independent collection of content created, stored and maintained for use as a modular building block for elearning. Also see Learning Content Management System.

Learning objective

See Instructional objective.

Learning outcome

A very specific statement that describes exactly what a learner will be able to do in some measurable way after the learning. There may be more than one measurable outcome defined for a given competency. Also see Competencies.

Learning portal

A website that offers learners or organizations consolidated access to learning and training resources from multiple sources.

Learning style

The preferred approach(es) that a learner uses to engage with learning material based on strengths, weaknesses and preferences. Though experts do not agree how to categorize learning styles, four main learning styles are visual (learn through seeing), auditory (learn through listening), verbal (learn through speech, writing and reading) and tactile/kinesthetic (learn through moving, doing and touching). An effective learning program should consider as many learning styles as possible.

Learning taxonomy

A taxonomic classification of cognitive, affective and psychomotor behaviours for the purposes of test design invented by Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues. Also see Affective learning, Cognitive learning, Psychomotor learning, Bloom's taxonomy, Domains of learning.

Lesson plan

A written guide for instructors that show how to achieve the intended learning outcomes. It provides specific definition and direction on learning objectives, equipment and materials, instructional media material requirements and the conduct of training.


A method of tailoring learning to meet the needs of a specific geographic area, product or target audience. This can be extremely useful when cultural differences exist that may disrupt the learning objects of a course.

Massive open online course


Mastery learning

Also known as Criterion Referenced Instruction, in which learners are evaluated as having "mastered" or "not mastered" specific criteria or learning objectives. Also see Criterion Referenced Instruction.


Different ways to communicate/deliver content in a learning program. Some examples of media are audio, video, DVD, CD, text, images, graphics and simulations. Many training programs include a combination of media types. Also see Multimedia, Interactive media.


A method of providing a safe, power-free, two-way mutually beneficial environment in which less experienced employees (mentees) are matched with more experienced colleagues (mentors) for guidance and support. Mentoring can occur either formally (through programs) or informally, and may be delivered in-person or by using various media. Mentoring is relationship oriented, more long term than coaching and development driven. Also see Coaching.


A short, focused learning nugget typically 1-5 minutes in length, that is designed to meet a specific learning outcome. The learner-centric approach provides just-in-time training that is available on multiple devices (desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones) when the learner needs it. Microlearning is context-rich, media-rich, ready-to-use content. It is about usefulness, not just dividing a learning course into smaller bits.


Also referred to as mobile learning. The delivery and use of training programs on wireless devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptop computer and mp3 players (iPod).

Mobile learning

See mLearning.


A representation or hypothetical description of a complex entity, process, object, behavior or attitude used by a learner for comparison/contrast and duplication/avoidance. Both positive and negative examples can serve as models.


A well-defined stand-alone learning unit or "theme" of content consisting of a hierarchical structure and associated learning materials. A module is typically one part or component of a course or training program and integrates training content, evaluation and media.


An abbreviation for massive open online course. An online course aimed at large-scale, unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials (filmed lectures, readings, etc.), many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions among learners and facilitators. MOOCs typically do not offer credits awarded to paying learners at schools, but assessment of learning may be done for certification.


The integration of different media, including text, graphics, audio, video and animation, in one course or training program. Also see Media, Interactive media.

The method used to move through an elearning program or website. Navigation can be a simple series of links, a menu or a bar located on the screen.

Needs assessment

The essential first step in the planning of a potential learning program. It provides the justification for whether or not training is the solution. A needs assessment focuses on the big picture, identifying potential gaps related to environment, motivation/incentives and skill or knowledge level. Also see Front-end analysis, Performance gap, Job analysis, Analysis.

Off-the-shelf courseware

Elearning products developed for a broad audience. Training topics are typically generic in nature, to fit a wide variety of situations/audiences.


See On-the-job training.

Online learning

Also known as web-based training and elearning.

On-the-job training

A training activity undertaken in the workplace while the employee is doing the actual job. It is designed to improve an individual's job skills or knowledge.


Define the ideal or accepted level of performance of individuals in an organization (what should be happening). Actual performance is typically identified and defined in the training analysis phase of designing instruction. Also see Actuals, Gap.


A derogatory term for elearning that offers little to no graphics or interactivity, and is instead primarily made up of pages of text.


Opposite of andragogy. A teacher-centred approach, in which the teacher is viewed as an authority figure and learners are not generally involved in decisions or actions in regard to learning. Often referred to in relation to the education of young children. Also see Andragogy.


One of the three required elements of an instructional objective, as defined by Robert Mager. Performance is an observable, measurable action that should be undertaken by the learner to demonstrate mastery of the instructional objective. A statement of performance always begins with an action verb that is linked to the type of task to be learned. Also see Instructional objective, Condition, Criterion.

Performance gap

The gap between desired and actual performance. The gap is the performance deficiency that currently exists. Also see Needs assessment, Front-end analysis, Job analysis, Analysis.

Performance measures

The actions that can be objectively observed and measured to determine if a learner has mastered the task/performance stated in the learning objective.

Performance objective

See Performance, Learning objective.

Pilot test

A test version of a training course or program that is delivered to a sample of the target audience. Its purpose is to evaluate the instructional effectiveness and make final revisions and adjustments before the official release to the intended audience.


A series of digital media files distributed over the Internet. Users can set it up so that new episodes are automatically downloaded to the user's own local computer or portable media player. Podcasts may be included in a blended learning solution. Also see Blended learning, Coursecasting.


Test or evaluation that is given to learners after the learning experience. Post-test identifies what skills and knowledge the learner has gained from training and what gaps, if any, still exist. Also see Pre-test.


A basic requirement or step in a process that must be completed prior to moving on to an advanced step.

Prescriptive learning

Process in which training is provided that matches a learner's identified skill and knowledge gaps, with the goal of making the learning experience more meaningful, efficient and cost effective.


Test or evaluation that is given to learners prior to learning. The pre-test identifies what skills and knowledge the learners have before training to better determine what content is required. Also see Post-test.


The ability to perform a specific behaviour (e.g, task, learning objective) to the established performance standard in order to demonstrate mastery of the behaviour. Also see learning objective.


A working model created to demonstrate and test crucial aspects of a program or course without creating a fully detailed, finished version.

Psychomotor learning

Learning that results in changes to physical skills. Also see Affective learning, Cognitive learning, Domains of learning, Learning taxonomy, Bloom's taxonomy.


An abbreviation of quality assurance. A process that ensures that a course or program meets a organization's standards for excellence. QA is typically a formal internal process that occurs after the design and development of a course/program is complete and prior to alpha testing. Rigorous testing of software coding, processes, navigation, content, grammar, spelling and multimedia is completed and documented at the QA phase. Revisions are then made to the course/program before an alpha version is provided to the test audience. Also see Alpha version, Beta test.

Quality assurance

See QA.

Rapid authoring tool

A software tool used to rapidly create courses and tutorials. Rapid authoring tools range from web-based or installed screen recorders and PowerPoint plug-ins to full-featured elearning authoring tools. Built-in templates and tools are available to the course author to enhance the course design and learner usability. Also see Authoring tool.

Rapid prototyping

See Iterative design.


Instantaneous response to external events. In elearning, it refers to immediate access to content anywhere in the world.


To reuse existing training content and media for a different delivery format. For example, instructor guides and student manuals are often repurposed into elearning.

Responsive design

A design approach that detects the type of display in use, as well as the width, height, orientation and resolution of a computer, tablet or smartphone screen, and adjusts to fit that window.

Reusable learning object

See Learning object.


See Learning object.


An abbreviation of Successive Approximation Model. An agile instructional system design model that emphasizes collaboration, efficiency and repetition. It consists of repeated small steps, or iterations, with an emphasis on creating the end product right from the start while continually analyzing and refining the design and development as it's being produced. Also see ADDIE model, Agile, Instructional System Design.


A real life or realistic simulation that immerses users in learning experiences that allow them to practice and apply what they are learning. Learners are given a situation with one or more questions. Depending on what answer is chosen, they follow one or more paths in the situation. It provides learners with opportunities to explore and make decisions in a safe environment.


Abbreviation for Sharable Content Object Reference Model. A series of elearning standards that share common specifications and standards for web-based learning. These standards enable web-based learning and Learning Management Systems/Learning Content Management Systems to find, import, share, reuse and export learning content in a consistent manner. It also allows user tracking and reports to be generated based on learning objectives. Many organizations create content that can be used in a variety of Learning Management Systems. Also see Learning Content Management System, Learning Management System.

Section 508

The section of the 1998 Rehabilitation Act which requires that all electronic and information technology procured, used or developed by the federal government after June 25, 2001, must be accessible to people with disabilities. Affected technology includes hardware such as copiers, fax machines, telephones and other electronic devices, as well as application software and websites. Also see Accessibility, WCAG.


The process in which the learner determines his or her own level of knowledge and skills.

Self-directed learning

See Self-paced learning.

Self-paced learning

Also referred to as self-directed learning. Learning events that allow learners to complete training on their own, without the guidance of a facilitator.


Arranging the teaching points, teaching steps and instructional objectives into the most appropriate order for effective learning.

Sharable Content Object Reference Model



A representation or imitation of reality. An instructional strategy used to teach problem solving, procedures or operations by immersing learners in situations resembling reality. The learners actions can be analyzed, feedback about specific errors provided and performance can be scored. A simulation provides a safe environment for learners to practice real-world skills.They can be especially important in situations where real errors would be too dangerous or too expensive. Also see Case-study.

Skills inventory

A list of skills, capabilities, qualifications and competencies of an individual learner.


An abbreviation for subject matter expert. An individual who is an expert in a specific area or in performing a specialized job, task or skill. A SME's knowledge is typically captured by the instructional developer during the analysis, content gathering stage.

Social learning

Learning that happens exclusively or primarily in a social group. In elearning discussions, it refers to collaborative learning mediated through social software such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other Web 2.0 applications.

Soft skills

The non-technical, intangible, personal skills that enhance a person's interactions, job performance and career prospects. Examples include coaching, communication, teamwork, leadership, listening, negotiation and conflict management. Also see Hard skills.

Spaced learning

Also referred to as spaced repetition. An instructional approach that alternates short, focused periods of learning with breaks. The breaks give the brain time to process information. Repeating material in multiple sessions aids in creating a permanent memory.


A person with a vested interest in the successful completion of a project. Stakeholders in learning often include the course author, facilitator, learners, learners’ managers and customers.


The criterion or standards of performance that must be attained. An established norm against which measurements are compared. The time allowed to perform a task including the quality and quantity of work to be produced.

Standards compliant

See Compliant.


A design document (paper or online), typically designed by an instructional designer. Usually contains text, multimedia, evaluation and graphics. A storyboard is created to guide a course author in programming or building an elearning course. Generally, each page of the storyboard represents one screen in an elearning course. Also see Instructional designer. Also see Course map.

Streaming media

Allows audio or video files to be played as they are being downloaded over the Internet, rather than having to wait for the entire file to download first. Requires a media player program.

Style sheets

Also referred to as cascading style sheets. Used for standardizing elements such as fonts (size, color and type), page layout (margins and paragraph levels/breaks) and line spacing to ensure consistency in the look and feel.

Subject matter expert

See SME.

Successive approximation

See Iterative design.

Successive Approximation Model

See SAM.

Summative evaluation

An evaluation performed after training is completed to assess the outcome of the training. Knowledge-based summative evaluations evaluate mastery of new knowledge using written worksheets and/or tests. Performance-based summative evaluations evaluate physical performance using a checklist or rating scale. Also see Formative evaluation, Evaluation.


A real-time, instructor-led learning event in which the learner and instructor participate at the same time and information is accessed instantly. Typically involves the instructor "broadcasting" audio and content out to the learners in geographically dispersed areas. Examples of synchronous elearning include real-time chat and video/audio conferencing. See also Asynchronous.

Target population

The audience for whom a course is designed, based on their age, geographic location, background, skills and experience, attitudes/ biases and/or preferences.


The smallest essential part of a job. A task is a unit of work activity that is a logical and necessary action in the performance of a job. It can be described in simple terms. It also has an identifiable start and end point and results in a measurable accomplishment or product.

Task analysis

A process by which an instructional designer uses observation, questionnaires, focus group sessions and/or one-on-one Q&A with a SME to identify the specific tasks and a detailed analysis of each task necessary to perform a skill or build knowledge. It also identifies such things as task frequency, task allocation, task complexity, environmental conditions, necessary clothing and equipment and unique factors involved or required to perform a given task. Task analysis information is used as the foundation for developing instructional objectives, identifying and selecting appropriate instructional strategies, sequencing instructional content, identifying and selecting appropriate instructional media and designing performance evaluation tools. It is always done in the context of a specific job. Also see Front-end analysis, Job analysis, Analysis, Needs assessment.

Tin Can API

An elearning software specification that allows learning content and learning systems to speak to each other in a manner that records and tracks all types of learning experiences. Commonly referred to as the Experience API.


The basic organizational unit of instruction covering one or more closely related learning objectives. Also see Learning objective.


A method of instruction that presents content and evaluation in a training manual or web or elearning format for individual self-study.


An indicator of how easy an elearning course, computer program or object is to use. Usability measures may include navigation, installation, access and features (printing, retrieving results, etc.).

User-centred design

An approach to elearning design and development that involves actual users at every stage, with the goal of producing easy-to-use elearning products that meet the needs of actual learners.

Virtual classroom

A simulated classroom that allows learners to interact using software such as live chat, forums and desktop sharing.

Virtual community

An online community where learners can communicate and share ideas. Also see Collaborative learning and Community of practice.

Virtual world

A computer-based simulated environment that supports multiple players who inhabit and interact via avatars. Also see Avatar.


See Web-based training.


An abbreviation of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. A technical standard outlining a set of guidelines and success criteria for making web content accessible to people with disabilities. There are three WCAG levels: A, AA and AAA. Also see Accessibility, Section 508.

Web 2.0

The use of Internet technology and web design to support and enhance information sharing and collaboration, interoperability and user-centred design among users. These concepts have led to the development and evolution of web-based communities and hosted services, such as social networking sites, wikis and blogs. Also see Social learning, eLearning 2.0.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines


Web portal

A central website that offers a variety of Internet resources or links to other sites. For example, Yahoo.

Web-based training

Also referred to as WBT. On-demand training delivered over a network and accessible using an Internet browser. It can be either instructor led or computer based. Also see eLearning.


A media file that is distributed over the Internet using steaming media technology to multiple users. A webcast can be distributed live or on demand. Also see Streaming media.


Short for web-based seminar. An online learning event, conducted using web conferencing software, in which a presenter/trainer and audience members communicate via text chat or audio using online slides and/or an electronic whiteboard. Webinars can be archived for asynchronous, on-demand access. Also see Synchronous, Asynchronous.


See Blog.


A visual representation of the structural elements, navigation and layout of a webpage or elearning course. A wireframe helps determine scope, user interactions and content placement without the design elements. It also allow developers and course authors to identify issues before time and energy are spent in the design process.


Pronounced "wizzy wig," a program that allows course authors to see text and graphics onscreen exactly as they will appear when printed out or published online, rather than in programming code.