eLearning is one of the most effective ways of delivering all kinds of training courses.

Yet, somewhat ironically, if you haven’t used it before, eLearning also uses a large number of terms which aren’t exactly self-explanatory…

In this handy eLearning glossary of terms, we’ll cover pretty much all the terminology it’s possible to come across when looking into delivering eLearning courses.

If you often find yourself facing a wall of jargon when it comes to electronic learning, read on:

What is eLearning?

eLearning, or electronic learning, includes any kind of training course or educational materials delivered to students via a digital device.

Electronic learning is delivered via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets as well as online. This is so much the case that the terms WBT (Web-Based Training) and CBT (Computer-Based Training) are starting to fall out of use, being replaced by eLearning.

Why is eLearning popular?

There is a huge range of reasons why eLearning is popular. We can start our exploration of the world of key eLearning terms with some of the phrases which are usually used when discussing its benefits:

1) Retention rate

Retention rate refers to the proportion of learners who retain the information they gained from a given course. Having retained it, they will then be able to apply it in their career or daily life.

eLearning is known for producing much higher retention rates among learners than other kinds of training. This is especially true when it is used in conjunction with other types of training in a blended learning approach.

2) eLearning ROI

ROI, of course, stands for Return On Investment. eLearning’s ROI is usually cited as being particularly high. It’s also relatively easy to determine when the correct metrics are used to measure it.

3) Micro-learning

Micro-learning is a mode of delivering eLearning courses which are designed to be delivered in a bite-size fashion. Increasingly, modern audiences want to be able to fit their eLearning in smaller chunks – often when they’re on-the-go.

Not only is this convenient for learners, but it’s also been shown to increase retention rates and result in knowledge being gained more rapidly.

4) 24/7 accesse

Learning courses can usually be accessed anytime, anywhere. When paired with micro-learning practices, this allows learners to learn when they are ready to.
Overall, this has been proven to increase the effectiveness of all kinds of training.

5) Accessibility

eLearning provides incredibly high levels of accessibility.

The easiest way to think of accessibility is to say that if a given tool, interface or piece of technology exhibits a high level of accessibility, then it is easy for the largest number of people to interact with.

This may often include people who have some kind of physical or mental disability. But it may also include people who might otherwise not be able to access the technology (or, in this case, course) in question for other reasons.

eLearning, of course, hugely increase accessibility for learners even in very remote regions. It also does so for learners who cannot access course materials during a standard working or school day. See asynchronous learning.

Basic eLearning vocabulary

Let’s start with the real basics. These are the kind of eLearning terms which it’s very difficult to have a simple conversation on the subject without understanding:

1) Authoring tool

As you might be able to guess, an authoring tool is a piece of software which allows you to create or “author” eLearning courses.

Most authoring tools tend to be relatively straightforward to use. The best will offer a wide range of features which help the user create everything from text to images to videos to interactive elements. There are several different types of authoring tool, most of which focus on creating one or other of these types of content.

Well-known examples of multimedia eLearning authoring tools include Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline and Trivantis Lectora for desktop. There are also various cloud-based tools available as standalones or on a subscription (SaaS, Software as a Service) model.

2) Blended learning (a.k.a. hybrid learning)

Blended learning refers to a blend of two different types of learning. Specifically, online and in-person, classroom-based Instructor-Led Training.
Good examples of blended learning include courses where students learn the theory via online training then meet up to put that theory into some kind of practical practice.

Hybrid or blended learning is widely regarded as giving students the best of both worlds. Corporations around the world tend to prefer combining approaches rather than focussing on just a single one.
See also 70:20:10 learning.

3) Learning Management System (LMS)

If you’ve already used a Content Management System (CMS), you’ll be familiar with the way an LMS works. These systems are designed to facilitate the development and swift deployment of your eLearning courses.

An LMS platform:

  • Controls who can access your content (which is usually stored in the cloud or on a website)
  • Permits the registering of new users
  • Allows you to do things like host online events
  • Lets you track student progress and performance
  • Will usually feature the authoring tools which allow for course creation in the first place.

4) HTML5

HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. All most people need to know is that HTML5 is the computer language which makes eLearning courses usable on any device or internet browser.

Most importantly, this includes mobile devices. HTML5 has replaced Flash as the top tagging method used in course creation because Flash is not supported by many mobile devices.

As most online learners will access their courses via mobile devices, the adoption of HTML5 is in large part responsible for the current popularity of eLearning as a whole.

5) Mobile learning (a.k.a. m-learning)

Mobile learning is, as you might expect, the term used to refer to learning which can happen on mobile devices.
This will require the course to use HTML5 and the course provider to use a mobile-ready LMS.

6) Instructional design

Instructional design is a design practice in which specialists known as instructional designers identify knowledge gaps in their target audience and seek to fill them with the materials the course provides.

Although this sounds simple, the actual practice of instructional design can include everything from selecting the best learning methods for this particular audience to employing cognitive psychology techniques in order to make sure course materials deliver their intended message most effectively.

The best instructional design practices should also seek to remove reliance on culture or regional references, paving the way for eLearning localisation.
Instructional design isn’t a practice only used in eLearning courses. But it is particularly suited to them.

7) Learning method

A learning method is the style by which a given individual or target audience prefers to receive new information. Some people learn better from video content, for example. Others prefer straightforward logic.

The popular VARK model of learning methods lists Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing and Kinaesthetic as the main methods, though other systems list up to seven.
Identifying the most suitable learning method for your specific audience is always key to designing the best eLearning courses. Because many people learn differently, multi-sensory eLearning courses are often the best practice.

8) eLearning localisation

eLearning localisation is the adaptation of your course materials for learners who speak different languages and hail from different cultures.

Several steps beyond a basic translation of the words your course uses, eLearning localisation ensures that students who speak a different language and who may have completely different cultural understandings and touchstones receive the same message from your content.

This is critical in all kinds of fields and for all sorts of content, with corporate brand training and safety videos being one of the most common.
eLearning localisation will include adapting not only the text of your course but every single element of your course:

  • User Interface (taking into account right-to-left readability or text expansion and contraction, for example)
  • Images and video content
  • Voice-overs and subtitling
  • Units of date and measurement
  • Examples and cultural references
  • Law and legal references

eLearning localisation is one of the best ways to boost your eLearning ROI. That’s because you’ll instantly expand the reach of your materials to massive new audiences.

9) Subject Matter Expert (SME)

A Subject Matter Expert is a specialist in a particular field.

Courses which are produced with and by SMEs result in much better learning outcomes than those which aren’t. For instance, a course designed for training new employees of an international bank and partially created by an expert in the banking industry is going to be much more relevant and useful than one created by someone else.

Subject Matter Experts are also vital for effective eLearning localisation. So make sure your LSP (Language Service Provider) uses them.

10) Scenario-based training (a.k.a. immersive learning)

Scenario-based training is one of the key ways in which eLearning can offer superior outcomes to other courses.

Various educational theories show that humans learn best by doing, by making decisions and seeing how those decisions play out.

For this reason, eLearning scenarios – especially branching scenarios in eLearning – are highly effective. They are designed to present a realistic situation. The learner must then apply the knowledge or information they’ve gained in the course so far in order to attain the most successful outcome.

Other examples of immersive learning include virtual reality and roleplay simulations.

An in-depth eLearning glossary

Armed with just those basic eLearning terms, you should be able to follow just about any discussion on the subject.
Digging a little deeper, many conversations on eLearning may also feature phrases such as:

70:20:10 Learning

This is often said to be the optimal division for delivering training, especially when it comes to eLearning. This division is based on a great deal of research done in the 1990s and onwards.
The different elements are:

  • 70% is on-the-job or in the workplace (sometimes called experiential training)
  • 20% is social learning, through peers or in group settings
  • 10% is coursework and formal training

AICC Standard

The AICC was the Aviation Industry Computer-based Training Committee. Although it sounds like an odd place to start, the universal standards for training material which the hard-working aviation industry team developed were soon in use by course creators in every industry.

It was essentially the world’s first eLearning standard and one which many people still swear by despite it being officially dissolved since 2014.
Because of this, ensuring that your LMS is AICC-compliant is still a worthwhile thing to do. There is still quite a lot of older content around. Not being able to access it because of poor backwards-compatibility can be a major issue.

Since being officially dissolved, the AICC standard has been replaced by standards such as SCORM, CMI-5 and API.


This general computing term stands for Application Programming Interface. Essentially, it’s an interface which lets programs, web servers or web browsers communicate with each other.

Assessment software

Just like sounds, this software is designed to assess a learner’s knowledge level.

Asynchronous learning

During asynchronous learning, learners can study training courses whenever it is convenient for them to do so. They are not required to be online at a certain time or to attend any classroom events.

This is one of the main reasons why eLearning is such a useful tool. Because it means that the learner and their needs are the main focus of how the training is delivered. The learner can access the learning materials – be they articles, blogs, branching scenarios and more – at any time and in any place.

The opposite of asynchronous learning is synchronous learning.

Bespoke content

Bespoke content, as opposed to off-the-shelf content, are made-to-order eLearning materials.

This will almost always lead to better specific learning outcomes. This is because every aspect of the course subject matter, the strengths and weaknesses of the learners, course goals and the unique needs and requirements of the organisation will be taken into account during course development.

Bitesize learning

Bitesize learning focuses on delivering training on one specific subject or goal at a time. These sections are frequently less than 20 minutes in length.
Bitesize learning is similar to micro-learning. But instead, it concentrates on the topic rather than the method by which learning is delivered.

CMI-5 standard

CMI-5 is a newer eLearning standard – similar to SCORM or the older AICC – but not yet finished.


The materials which make up an educational or training course.eLearning standardsThe creators of eLearning standards such as AICC, SCORM, CMI-5 and others have sought to create principles which would ensure (or, at least, increase) interoperability between the creators of all courses.

EE (Extended Enterprise)

Your extended enterprise is often said to be the sum total of the network of suppliers, distributors and other partners you use to get your product to market.
When it comes to eLearning, extended enterprise courses are designed for staff within your entire extended enterprise – not just within your own company. These courses are frequently delivered via discrete content hubs for each part of your extended enterprise.

Extended enterprise eLearning can also include courses aimed at customers. These are designed to allow your clients to get the best out of your products.

Flipped learning

Flipped learning is somewhat analogous to asynchronous learning, where the emphasis is on the students being able to learn at their own time and pace.
It also tends to be a form of blended learning, incorporating a classroom-based training portion.


Gamification involves incorporating gaming aspects such as points, levels, badges and achievements into a learning course. The goal is to increase user motivation and attainment.
This is not to be confused with the similar concept of game-based learning. This latter refers to content which is designed with the structure of a game from the start.

ILT (Instructor-Led Training)

This is the type of training which happens in a classroom with an instructor.Interactive learningInteractive learning consists of things like scenario-based training and other learning methods which eLearning is particularly well-suited to deliver.

Any training which requires some sort of decision to be made, which has consequences and which promotes immersion in the subject could be said to be interactive learning.


LXPs or LEPs are Learning Experience Platforms or Learning Engagement Platforms. They’re a new idea in the field of eLearning. The concept behind them is to create a learner-focussed alternative to the employer-focused LMS.

They’re something of a cross between the ultimate in gamification of the learning process and a kind of on-demand streaming service for course content – with all of the smooth interface, personal recommendations and high-quality content this implies.

The goal is to create a place where employees want to go and learn. This means an LXP or LEP will or should probably provide more than just the usual company needs-mandated sort of learning materials.

MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)

MOOCs are generally provided by universities and other educational institutions because they are free and open to all.

That said, they’re also a useful tool for many companies.

Off-the-shelf content

Generic, off-the-shelf content – the opposite of bespoke content – has been designed to be as accessible to as many people as possible.
This can make it suitable for a wider range of people and organisations. But it can make the learning outcomes it delivers less tightly defined and refined.


SCORM, which stands for Shareable Content Object Reference Model, is a type of eLearning standard.

It’s one of the most widely-spread standards, used across the industry and possessing multiple versions.

Many eLearning specialists will be happy to explain to you that there are quite a few problems with SCORM. But making sure your content is SCORM-compatible is pretty vital if you want it to work with other software.

Simulation or system simulation

SCORM, which stands for Shareable Content Object Reference Model, is a type of eLearning standard. It’s one of the most widely-spread standards, used across the industry and possessing multiple versions.

Many eLearning specialists will be happy to explain to you that there are quite a few problems with SCORM. But making sure your content is SCORM-compatible is pretty vital if you want it to work with other software.

Social learning

In the 70:20:20 learning model, social learning makes up the 20% portion. Social learning is any time a learner shares or gains knowledge from another student or professional.

It generally includes online debate and conversation via social media as well as in-person exchange.


When developing eLearning courses – especially scenario-based training – proper planning is vital.

A storyboard in eLearning looks and functions in a way which will be familiar to most people from film or animation production documentaries, behind-the-scenes and the like.

Story-based learning

This is much like scenario-based learning but with an even greater emphasis on guiding the learner through a journey to reach specific outcomes.

Synchronous learning

The opposite of asynchronous learning, synchronous learning means learners and teachers being in the same place – even if that is the same online place – at the same time.

Synchronous learning portions of courses can be a good way to encourage social learning. They can also be highly immersive.

The downside is that one of the major advantages of eLearning – the ability for learners to learn any time and anywhere – is curtailed.

Virtual classroom

A type of synchronous learning, teachers and learners enter the same virtual classroom environment online in order to learn.

A virtual classroom might be a mobile app, desktop application or cloud-based.


A contraction of the words “web” and “seminar”, a webinar is a seminar carried out over the internet. This may either be live with live debate possible or, more rarely and usually less effectively, pre-recorded.


XML – Extensible Markup Language – is a markup language which defines a set of rules for a document format which can be read by both humans and machines.
In eLearning, having your content in XML is very useful as it can be readily understood and edited by anyone or any system.


Another eLearning standard, xAPI – sometimes referred to as Tin Can – is a more advanced version of SCORM.

However, it is also more complex, meaning that it has not completely made the older standard obsolete.

One of its major advantages is that it supports content being played on devices outside of the LMS, making it ideal for mobile learning.

Need more information about eLearning?

Asian Absolute specialises in eLearning localisation. We regularly advise on and localise courses and training materials for businesses of all sizes – and in every industry.

Get in touch to get more information with zero commitment. You can also request a free, no-obligation quote on your latest eLearning project at any time.