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Terms e-Learning Designers Should Know

— by Bill Cushard

There are concepts and terms that are part of the every day life of the professionals within an industry. In order for a professional to be successful in one’s craft, a thorough understanding of industry concepts and terms is a minimum requirement. e-Learning professionals have their own set of terms that are vital to know and understand. Below is a collection of some of the most important e-learning terms. My aim is that these concepts will help you do your job better and inspire you to find other terms not included here.

Note: Instead of listing terms in alphabetical order, I have decided to group them together by relevance to each other. I thought this would help to better absorb the definitions than if they were in alphabetical order.

e-Learning: e-Learning is a broad term used to describe learning that occurs through the use of electronic means, which can include web-conferencing, CD-ROM, and web-based training. E-Learning can be live or self-paced. e-Learning can be referenced as instructor-led training (ILT), web-based training (WBT), and even computer-based training (CBT).

Asynchronous: Asynchronous learning is a method that uses on-line technology to facilitate learning outside the constraints of time and place among a network of people. Asynchronous learning is also known as self-paced learning. In other words, learning that takes place on-line when the participants are not all together. Learners choose when to participate. Examples of technologies that can be used to facilitate asynchronous learning include learning management systems, enterprise social networks, wikis, blogs, on-line discussion forums, and even email.

Synchronous: Synchronous learning refers to a learning environment in which everyone participates at the same time. We usually think if this as classroom training, but synchronous learning can occur on-line in a virtual classroom or web conferencing system. It can also occur on a video conference or traditional conference call. As enterprise 2.0 technologies grow in importance, synchronous learning can be facilitated on enterprise social networks and on on-line chat and instant messaging services. The key is not when and where the learning occurs, but that the learning occurs when all participants are together at the same time.

vILT: Virtual instructor-led training (vILT) is any live (synchronous) training that is facilitated by an instructor using virtual classroom technology. vILT can be every bit as engaging as live, classroom training without the costs of travel and effort it takes to bring large groups together who may work in different offices all over the world.

Blended Learning: Blended learning is a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning. An example of a typical blended learning approach would be for learners to complete a self-paced course on their own time. Then, attend a live training class as a second part of the overall course to engage in further discussion of what was covered in the self-paced course. Perhaps the self-paced course introduces new concepts and the live training focuses on how to apply the concepts through role plays and simulations. Blended learning applications are limited only by the imagination of the e-learning designer.

Learning Management System (LMS): A learning management system (LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of education courses or training programs. Learning management systems can be used to administer and track both self-paced e-learning and live, on-line or classroom training. In additional to administrative tasks that LMSs allow learning professionals to perform, learners are able to use an LMS to search for, register, complete, and follow progress of courses and learning tracks that they must complete.

Learning Content Management System (LCMS): The difference between and LMS and an LCMS is that an LCMS has the added functionality of authoring e-learning content in the LMS. Instructional designers, content author, and subject-matter experts can create content in the LCMS and collaborate together to create content. An LCMS has a built-in authoring tool, and LMSs do not.

AICC: The Aviation Industry CBT Committee (AICC) is a nonprofit, membership-driven organization dedicated to helping the aviation training community get the most out of today’s technology. If someone uses the term “AICC compliant” it means their training complies with at least one of the nine AICC guidelines and recommendations for designing training. Some of these guidelines include recommendations and guidelines for using digital audio and video, icon standards and user interface, and delivery stations and devices. The AICC shares its standards with the public in order to recommend best practices among e-learning professionals.

Tin Can API: “The Tin Can API is a brand new learning technology specification that opens up an entire world of experiences (online and offline). This API captures the activities that happen as part of learning experiences. A wide range of systems can now securely communicate with a simple vocabulary that captures this stream of activities and can sends these back to an LMS. This opens an entirely new list of possibilities for a learning designer. It is conceivable that by using Tin Can, you can record whether learners download a document, participate in a discussion group, or upload an assignment that they completed off-line. Tin Can is a new technology that is worth learning more about.

What’s Missing?

I hope you found some of these terms useful and valuable. What terms do you find important that are missing from this list? Please share those terms on the comments below and include a link to the term, if possible.

Bill Cushard, author, blogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technologist (HPT) with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations in start-up and hyper-growth organizations like E*TRADE, the Knowland Group, and Allonhill. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.

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