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A comprehensive glossary of common terms used in eLearning and online training.


ADDIE is an acronym for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation. The ADDIE model is a framework used by eLearning professionals to create course content. ADDIE offers a traditional, yet still widely used, approach to instructional design. It involves five steps:

  • Analysis: Identify learner characteristics, learning goals, delivery options, timeline and pedagogical basis.
  • Design: Outline the project’s design strategy, create storyboards, design the learning experience, develop a prototype and apply visual design.
  • Development: Compile content assets, integrate technology, troubleshoot problems, and review / revise the content.
  • Implementation: Establish a process for training the instructors and learners to ensure all necessary technology is functional.
  • Evaluation: Perform a formative and summative evaluation.

Recently, a new instructional design framework has been developed called SAM (Successive Approximation Model).


An adult learning theory term widely used by an American educator named Malcolm Shepherd Knowles. Knowles used the term synonymously with adult education. This methodology moves away from a teacher-centric approach toward a more learner-centric or collaborative learning relationship between learner, teacher and peers, usually in an informal adult learning environment. Knowles’ theory suggests that with maturity comes greater self-directedness and autonomy.

Also see related words: pedagogy and heutagogy.

Asynchronous Learning
An approach to education in which learners receive and work on the same material at different locations and times. This learning environment enables learners to study at their own pace and on their own schedule. Asynchronous learning is opposite synchronous learning.
Authoring Tool
Software used to develop and package multimedia eLearning content for online delivery to end learners. Authoring tools can be used to produce modules that include text, images, video, audio and animation. Most importantly, they enable eLearning professionals to create interactive eLearning content with robust quizzing and hot spots functionality. Examples of authoring tools include Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline.
Blended Learning
A learning program that combines traditional classroom methods with online media to create a hybrid learning program. With blended learning, the instructor and learners are face to face in a brick-and-mortar environment but also utilize online content delivery and engagement. Blended learning is also known as hybrid learning and mixed-mode instruction.
Chief Learning Officer (CLO)
The highest-ranking role in an organization for learning management. CLOs typically have extensive experience in corporate training, instructional design, education, professional development or business. They play the leading role in driving a company’s learning and development strategy to impact key business metrics.
Cognitive Load
Cognitive load is defined in cognitive psychology as the extent of mental effort used in working memory. In eLearning, the term typically is introduced through the ideas of the Cognitive Load Theory, which argues that effective instructional design can be used to reduce cognitive load for learners.
Cognitive Overload

A situation created when an instructor or trainer delivers too much information to learners all at once, making it difficult for learners to process the information. When this occurs, the learning activity’s processing demands surpass the learner’s processing capacity. The result is stress and anxiety, which causes a negative learning experience.

To combat this problem, educators developed a methodology called microlearning.

Compliance Training

Training that educates employees on regulations, laws and company policies. The goal of compliance training typically is to:

  • Avoid violations by employees that could have legal consequences.
  • Provide a defense in the event that an employee violates guidelines, despite having received the training.
  • Create a positive and comfortable work culture for every employee.

Examples of compliance training topics include workplace discrimination and harassment, safety training, record management etc.

Content Library
A central repository for resources and eLearning content. Content libraries can be used to store assets such as documents, presentations, video, audio, images, SCORM packages and more. A content library is a particularly useful feature in a learning management system (LMS) as it typically enables users to upload and manage eLearning assets in bulk, use the same asset across multiple courses and easily update existing assets.
Course Builder
A platform or feature in a Learning Management System (LMS) used to create online courses. A course builder typically allows for combining assets such as presentations, documents, video, audio and SCORM packages to produce course content. A course builder may also allow for authoring new eLearning content and adding quizzes, assignments and other assessment tools. Once the content is produced, the course builder is used to organize the content into learning activities and structure the activities into a cohesive online course.
Course Catalog
A comprehensive collection of courses available to learners at any given time. Public course catalogs, such as those in marketplaces like Udemy and edX, are accessible to everyone. While private course catalogs, such as a company’s new hire onboarding course, are pre-designated for a specific audience.
Customer Service Training
Training that educates customer-facing employees on competencies required to deliver quality customer service. The target audience for customer service training includes customer service representatives, customer success managers, technical support agents and salespeople. The goal of the training is to ensure employees are prepared to field customer questions, inquiries and complaints in a manner that aligns with company standards and increases customer satisfaction.
Customer Training
Not to be confused with customer service training (see above definition), customer training focuses on teaching a company’s customers how to gain maximum value from its products and services. Examples of customer training include new client onboarding, product “how to’s,” and target market best practices.
Distance Learning
Learning that takes place without face-to-face contact with an instructor. Distance learning commonly takes place entirely online and gives learners the flexibility to learn on their own time and at their own pace. It is especially beneficial when learners are located in different geographic locations and time zones.
Education that leverages technology for its delivery to end learners. Nowadays, eLearning is used synonymously with learning that occurs entirely on the web. It is typically used in reference to a course, training module, program or degree.
Formative Evaluation
An assessment of a learning program’s value that occurs while the program activities are in development or during early implementation. It can be performed during any stage in the ADDIE process to determine how to best revise and improve the learning program. In contrast to summative evaluation, formative evaluation focuses on the process.
The application of game-related components (keeping score, competing with others, applying rules) to other types of activities, such as learning. In eLearning, gamification is believed to increase engagement and knowledge retention in learners by capturing and keeping their attention in an entertaining and challenging fashion. Examples of gamification include awarding badges to learners for course completion and making leaderboards visible to everyone in a course or program. A great example of gamification is how Duolingo uses it to teach learners new languages.
The development of self-directed learning skills. The goal is to develop learner capacity and create autonomous workers who are well-equipped to meet the demands of the workforce. With its roots in andragogyheutagogy puts mature learners in the driver’s seat, as the final stop in the learning continuum.
ILT is an acronym for Instructor-Led Training and refers to an individual leading a group of learners in training sessions. These sessions typically take place at a specific place and time or in a live webinar session.
Instructional Design
Also known as instructional systems design or eLearning design, instructional design involves analyzing learner or organizational needs and developing instruction to meet those needs. Instructional designers typically use technology, such as authoring tools and learning management systems (LMSs), to create course content. As part of this process, they may bring in subject matter experts (SMEs), LMS consultants, designers and technical experts to assist in the development and implementation of their learning program.
Interactive Multimedia
Media that is typically presented on computers and mobile devices that responds to a user’s actions on the screen. Types of media that can be made interactive include text, images, video, audio, animation, etc. In eLearning, interactive multimedia is used to increase engagement in learners, and authoring tools are most commonly used to produce interactive modules.
JITT is an acronym for Just-In-Time Training and refers to a type of training in which employees receive critical information when and where they need it. As opposed to completing a full training course, JITT training resources are brief, convenient and highly targeted to specific employee needs. These resources are easily accessible, applicable and available at the moment of need.
Job Aid
A source of information used to help employees successfully perform tasks in the workplace. Job aids may be physical objects or digital assets produced with the intention of supporting people in their roles.
Kirkpatrick Model

A global standard for evaluating training effectiveness. It considers training across four levels:

  • Reaction: The extent to which learners find the training engaging and relevant to their roles.
  • Learning: The extent to which learners glean the intended knowledge, attitude, skills, commitment and confidence from their training participation.
  • Behavior: The extent to which learners apply what they learned in the training to their jobs.
  • Results: The extent to which the intended outcomes were achieved as a result of the training.
Learning Analytics
Web analytics used to profile a learner and their interactions in an online program. It may encompass raw and analyzed data and is presented as individual data points, data tables, graphs, charts, etc. When delivered through eLearning software, learning analytics may be displayed in a designated dashboard and/or downloadable reports. Examples of learning analytics include course completion rates and quiz scores.
Learning And Development
A strategy used by organizations to develop their workforce’s skills and knowledge. Learning and Development teams are typically tasked with assessing the company’s needs and creating learning programs and resources to address those needs.
Learning Content Management System (LCMS)
Software used to author, manage and deliver learning content (typically via the web). While the LCMS’s authoring and managing content component is chiefly what differentiates it from a learning management system (LMS), many modern LMSs also offer these functionalities.
Learning Experience
Any course, program, interaction or activity in which learning takes place. In eLearning, the learning experience typically refers to the interface wherein learners engage with the course content. The average learning management system (LMS) offers a learning experience (the interface utilized by the end user) in addition to an admin dashboard (used to create and manage the learning program).
Learning Management System (LMS)
Traditionally, a learning management system was software used specifically for course administration, classroom management, learner enrollments and minimal learning analytics. However, many modern LMSs also offer content authoring and management functionalities that were once found only in learning content management systems (LCMSs). Learn more about LMSs here.
Learning Objectives
Brief statements (typically one sentence) used to communicate what learners can expect to learn from a course. Learning objectives are meant to be actionable; they tell learners what actions they will be able to perform upon successful completion of a course.
Learning Pathway
Also known as a “learning path,” a learning pathway is a route made up of multiple courses or lessons. The courses in a learning pathway are frequently based on a specific theme, skill or competency that learners are expected to master upon completion. Learning pathways are set up by a learning program administrator. While there is usually one route through the pathway, some offer route “branches” that enable learners to choose the path that is most relevant to them.
Learning Styles

The understanding that each individual learns differently. A person’s “learning style” refers to their preferred way of consuming, processing, comprehending and retaining information. Learning styles are commonly grouped into seven categories:

  • Visual/spatial: Learning through pictures and images.
  • Aural/musical: Learning through sound and music.
  • Verbal/linguistic: Learning through words in speech and writing.
  • Physical/kinesthetic: Learning through the use of hands, body and sense of touch.
  • Logical/mathematical: Learning through logic and reasoning.
  • Social/interpersonal: Learning through working with others.
  • Solitary/intrapersonal: Learning through working alone.
Lifelong Learning
All learning activities that take place throughout one’s life. The goal of lifelong learning is to continually seek to improve your skills and knowledge in your personal, civic, social or work life. Lifelong learning is similar to self-directed learning, as those who engage in this type of learning share many characteristics—characteristics such as high self-confidence, active curiosity, self-discipline, comfort with autonomy, undying persistence and a strong desire to learn.
LMS Administrator
A person who works for a company or as a contracted consultant to provide training on how to use and navigate a learning management system (LMS), offer technical support and customer service to all LMS users, troubleshoot problems when needed, teach other team members to administer the LMS and consult with trainers on ways to assign and deliver training through the LMS.
LMS Integration
An LMS integration enables organizations to connect systems together and allows data to flow between an LMS and other systems. LMS integrations can be used to embed content in other systems, permit learners to log in using credentials from other systems or receive LMS notifications in other systems. An example of an LMS integration would be an integration with Salesforce, wherein learner progress data can be viewed from a company’s Salesforce account.
The translation and adaptation of learning elements (e.g., video captions, documents, text etc.) to specific languages based on locale.
Microlearning breaks down instructional content into brief modules, typically a lesson that takes only minutes to complete instead of hours. Studies have shown that people remember what they are taught when it is broken down into easily absorbed bits. Microlearning mimics how we learn best.
Mobile Learning
Otherwise known as m-learning, mobile learning is learning that takes place on portable devices. Its main benefit is that it offers learners the flexibility of learning when and where they want.
MOOC is an acronym for Massive Open Online Course. It is a model for online course delivery that is free to the public and has no limits on attendance.
On-The-Job Training (OJT)
Employee training that occurs while the individual is working in the role. A trainer or supervisory role is typically present to offer hands-on guidance and support.
The process of acclimating a new employee, channel partner or customer to an organization and / or the organization’s products and services. Onboarding typically includes orientation and training on topics relating to the company, operational processes and the business’ product offerings.
Online Assessment

The evaluation of specific skills and competencies conducted via the web. Online assessments are also known as e-assessments and may consist of quizzes, questionnaires, assignments or surveys.

Online Courses
A series of lessons most often delivered through a web browser or app on desktop or mobile devices. An online course is a web-based environment for learning that often includes learning activities, assessments, discussions and various types of learning resources.
Partner Training
Also known as channel partner trainingpartner training is education delivered by a company to the organizations that market or sell its products and services. Partner training topics typically include product knowledge, compliance, brand standards, selling skills and sales process.
The methodology and practice of teaching, specifically in K-12 education. Pedagogy considers theories of learning and student needs and applies them to teaching strategies. It informs teachers’ actions, judgments, decisions and interactions with students. Pedagogy serves as the foundation upon which andragogy and heutagogy were built.
Sales Training
Training focused on developing an employee’s skills and techniques related to creating sales opportunities and closing deals for a company. The goal of sales training is to prepare a salesperson to effectively influence prospects’ buying decisions.

SCORM is an acronym for Sharable Content Object Reference Model. The Sharable Content Object part of the term refers to the units of online learning material the learning management system (LMS) intends to impart to learners. In essence, the “SCOs” are the building blocks of digital instruction.

Simply put, SCORM is a standard that ensures instructional content will link with and appear correctly within the LMS if both the instructional content and the LMS are SCORM compliant. Therefore, if an LMS provider labels its product as SCORM compliant, users are assured that the selected LMS will integrate with the SCORM-compliant content creation platform used to develop the courses.

This is an abridged version of the SCORM definition. For a comprehensive look at SCORM, see the full definition.

Self-Directed Learning
A process in which individuals work autonomously to identify their learning needs, develop learning goals, find appropriate resources, implement learning strategies and evaluate their learning.
SME is an acronym for Subject Matter Expert. An SME is a person who is an authority on a particular topic. In eLearning, SMEs provide input to help create online courses that learners will find helpful. In the business sector, anyone in an organization could serve as an SME on topics specific to their role. For example, an instructional designer may interview a director of sales to develop sales training content for an online course.
Social Learning
A cognitive process that occurs through social interactions with the goal of making sense of new information and ideas. It is based on the ideas of Social Learning Theory, which emphasizes the significance of adopting new behaviors through observing and imitating others. In eLearning, social learning can occur in discussion forums, chats, live virtual sessions or even on social media.
The process of illustrating an eLearning or training course through text and mockups. Storyboards typically include screens that outline placeholders for learning elements that are to be developed. They are helpful in visually communicating ideas and concepts, as well as helping teams get organized and aligned on the development plans for their eLearning or training programs.
Successive Approximation Model (SAM)

Proposed as a more agile approach to eLearning development than the widely known ADDIE process, SAM focuses on an iterative method. This method offers benefits such as greater visibility to the project team and a faster time to launch. Using a cyclical process, SAM encompasses two models:

  • SAM1: The more basic process that is ideal for smaller teams or projects. It includes three iterations using the common instructional design steps of Analyze, Design and Development.
  • SAM2: For more complex projects, this process includes eight iterative steps that are spread across three phases: Preparation, Iterative Design and Iterative Development.
Summative Evaluation
An assessment of the value of a learning program at the end of the development and operating cycle. Summative evaluation typically comes at the end of the ADDIE process. Data is collected, and findings are used to determine whether a program should be adopted, continued or improved. In contrast to formative evaluation, summative evaluation focuses on the outcomes of a learning program.
Synchronous Learning
Learning that takes place at the same time for a group of learners. It may entail chatting or video conferencing to enable learners and / or instructors to interact, ask questions and collaborate in real time.
Talent Management System
A software suite that offers a solution for recruitment, performance management, compensation management and learning and development. It is commonly used by human resources (HR) professionals to hire and retain talent.
Training And Development
Company activities targeted at improving employees’ job performance. Training and development takes a production-centered and focuses on developing employees’ technical skills, whereas learning and development also takes a person-centered and problem-solving approach to human resource development (HRD).
Training Management System (TMS)
Software used to organize and deliver training content and manage schedules and records. While a learning management system (LMS) focuses mostly on eLearning management, a training management system focuses chiefly on instructor-led training (ILT).
Training Needs Analysis
The process of evaluating training to identify gaps between employee needs and the training offered. A training needs analysis is typically the first step in the training process. It allows trainers to pinpoint problems and determine how the training will successfully solve those problems.
Training Specialist
Also known as training and development specialists, training specialists help plan, develop and deliver training programs. These professionals assess an organization’s needs and produce programs that seek to improve employees’ skills and knowledge.
VLE is an acronym for Virtual Learning Environment and is a web-based interface through which learning materials are delivered to end users. Also, see Learning Experience.
WBT is an acronym for Web-Based Training. WBT is learning curriculum that is delivered through the web, either via the Internet or a corporate intranet. It is also known as eLearning.
A collaborative content database that displays information through web pages. Unlike average websites, wikis are different because of their collaborative component. With a wiki, content can be edited by any of its users. Businesses often use wikis to document company information and employee resources, as well as give workers the opportunity to collaborate and contribute to the content.
Workplace Training
Workplace training (also known as trade, industry or employee training) is learning that takes place while employees are on the clock. It usually includes a combination of off-the-job and on-the-job assessments that are relevant to the training provided.