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The Online Learning Jargon Buster

It can be easy to get lost in the jargon and acronyms that can dominate the chat of our industry. But fear not, Learning Designer Andrew Trotter is on hand to break down this language and help you become fluent in online learning.

Online Learning AKA: e-Learning, Digital Learning

This is any kind of training or resource delivered online. 

This format allows learners to access it anytime and anywhere on an electronic device – PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone – and isn’t time or location bound like traditional classroom training.

Custom Content AKA: Bespoke Content

Online learning solutions that are built to meet a specific client’s needs.

This approach helps ensure that the solution you develop is perfectly suited to your audience, learning challenge and environment.

Library Content AKA: Off the Shelf, Catalogue

An alternative to custom content is library content. 

This is ready-made content designed to be suitable for a wide range of learners in different organizations (without additional customisation).

Typical library solutions might include: Fire Safety, Manual Handling, GDPR, IT Security and Anti-Bribery and Corruption.

Learning Design AKA: Instructional Design

Learning design is the practice of designing, developing and delivering learning experiences, both digital and physical.

Learning designers are the ‘architects’ of the learning experiences. They collaborate with subject-matter experts and use their expertize to decide the best way to help learners develop skills and knowledge online.

Authoring Tool

Learning Pool authoring is an authoring tool that allows you to create fully responsive, multi-device, HTML5 e-learning courses that display effectively on tablet devices and smartphones (as well as PCs and laptops).

With a deep scrolling approach, as opposed to clicking through a long list of pages, Learning Pool stands out from other authoring tools.

Learn more about Learning Pool authoring here. 


Storyline is an authoring tool used to create interactive e-learning courses. It enables sophisticated levels of interactivity including game-based solutions and gamification elements. It also allows varied and engaging multimedia presentation of content.


HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. It is used to create web pages. 

Each web page is created using a series of ‘tags’, such as <p></p> to specify that text within the tags is one single paragraph.


Javascript is a programming language used to add interactivity and dynamic contact to web pages.

Javascript can be used to enhance Storyline modules.


Bandwidth refers to the maximum rate of data that can be transferred across a connection. 

You will often hear people talk about bandwidth when discussing their  internet connection speed.

This can be an important factor when considering your solution type as some locations may have low bandwidth or unreliable internet connections.


A browser is a software application used to access information on the web suchs as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer and Safari.

Browsers can affect the way that content appears on screen so it’s important that you establish what browser your learners will be using to access the web.

Responsive vs Adaptive

Responsive layout is designed to respond to the size of the browser window or device screen at any given point. Responsive content will resize dynamically based on the size of the browser window or device (so the content looks equally good on a PC and a smartphone).

Adaptive layout has a series of specific points of ‘sizes’ that the browser window or device screen will adhere to. The screen will not respond to resizing until it meets the dimensions of one of the smaller ‘sizes’


SCORM is a development standard for tracking learner progress and assessment scores on e-learning courses. 

It ensures that any SCORM-compliant e-learning course can be hosted on any SCORM-compliant Learning Management System (so customers have freedom on switching between different LMS systems, if they wish).

There are a few different versions of SCORM but most online courses and LMSs use SCORM 1.2 or SCORM 2004.

xAPI (Tin Can)

xAP (the eXperience API) is the next evolution of the SCORM standard. 

It tracks and records learners undertaking a wide range of learning activities (e.g. listening to a podcast, taking e-learning, reading a web page). 

It can offer more detailed tracking than SCORM, and does not simply record ‘completion’ or assessment scores. This enables it to provide a more detailed record of individuals’ learning.


LMS is short for Learning Management System. It is a software application used for the administration, hosting, delivery, tracking and reporting of online, digital training solutions (e-learning).


LxP is short for Learning Experience Platform. It is a software application that offers learners a modern, personalised and social online learning experience. Some call it the modern evolution of the traditional LMS.

An LxP gives learners the opportunity to discover new learning opportunities for themselves (rather than being presented with a catalogue of mandatory e-learning courses), enhancing the experience through choice rather than necessity. 

Learn more about Learning Pool’s LxP platform here. 


Accessibility is a feature of online/digital training that optimizes content to help individuals with different impairments (e.g. a visual or hearing impairment). 

It does this by supporting tools such as screen readers and screen magnifiers. It also does this by offering options such as text transcripts of videos. 

Most organizations look to meet the W3C standards on accessibility.


An LRS or Learning Record Store is a data storage system that stores records collected from an LMS or LxP (i.e. stores information about learner progress on e-learning courses and other digital content).

Learn more about our Learning Pool Learning Record Store here. 


Flash is a multimedia software platform used to create animated and interactive web content and web applications. 

Viewers need to download the Flash ‘plugin’ to view content created in Flash in their web browser.

The software is being deprecated at the end of 2020, which means it will become a thing of the past.


A digital learning format where training is delivered in short, ‘bite-sized’ chunks related to specific learning objectives. 

These chunks or modules are typically 10 minutes or less. 

Micro-learning can be videos, animations, audio files, or e-learning.

Mobile learning

Mobile learning refers to any e-learning delivered on mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. 

The content is adapted to display effectively on different devices meaning it’s suitable for ‘on-the-go’ access.

VR vs AR

VR or Virtual Reality is an immersive simulation of an environment. The simulated environment can be realistic or a fantasy environment. These environments are interactive so learners can take actions within them (wearing a headset and having a joystick to take actions).

AR or Augmented Reality is an interactive experience where a view of the real-world is enhanced with computer-generated content. For example, you might use your smartphone’s camera to view the real world and this could be overlaid with information such as your location or who you are talking to.

The video games industry is where both are prevalent, but learning and development is fast becoming a part of the trend.

360 Video

360 video is a fully immersive, spherical video used to capture footage in every direction. It is shot using an omnidirectional camera and when viewed offers an entirely panoramic experience. The viewer can move the ‘point of view’ of the video by touching (or clicking on) the video and moving it around.

The Discovery Channel has created a great example of this showcasing a rollercoaster ride. Click here to watch.


Used both in software development and project management, the Agile methodology is an iterative process that seeks to develop a product through continuous collaboration and communication. 

The idea is to quickly develop a Minimum Viable Product as soon as possible and then enhance this within the available time and budget remaining. 

Development is divided into a number of ‘sprints’, with each sprint focusing on completing specific deliverables. 

Learning Pool have delivered projects for a range of clients using this methodology.


The waterfall approach is a linear process where a project is completed in clearly defined, pre-planned stages. In online learning, the stages are typically: Analysis, Design, Development, Deploy and Evaluate.

Using this method, the working product is delivered only at the end of the project, all in one go. It is a good method for allowing effective planning and risk-control, but is not as quick as Agile methods.

Blended learning

Blended learning is how we would describe an approach that combines different forms (modalities) of learning. For example, if a course utilises both face-to-face training and e-learning. Or, a course features different online learning elements (e.g. e-learning course, a learning game, and some support videos) to form a digital blend.


Gamification is where elements of game design are used to enhance a learning experience. These are often seen in the form of offering challenges, fun narratives, points/scores, leaderboards, and rewards. 

You can gamify real-world activities too, such as gamifying how sales people meet their targets.

Game-Based Learning

Game-based learning is where actual games are integrated into a learning experience to motivate learners and increase engagement. 

In fact, an entire learning solution can be a game – for example a fun, online knowledge quiz competition.

Spaced Practice

Spaced practice is a method of delivering learning (reinforcing or rehearing learning) over an extended period of time with the end goal of reducing the forgetting curve (discovered by Ebbingaus). 

An example would be an individual being prompted to test themselves at various points to see if they can still recall information.

Though it’s quite long, this video featuring Will Thalheimer offers great insight into the theory of spaced practice.

Cognitive Overload

Cognitive overload occurs when a learner is challenged with learning or memorising too much information at once. Or, when a learner is required to process too much information at once (e.g. trying to read something and listen to audio at the same time).

There are methods to minimising cognitive overload such as:

  • keeping your learning simple
  • break your learning into bite-size chunks
  • change up your mode of delivery or presentation where possible.
  • Avoid presenting competing information at the same time (e.g audio and text at the same time)

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