Online Learning Glossary – Real Meanings For Real People

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Have you been looking into online learning as a training or education medium for your workplace or classroom? Or are you wondering about a possible career in the design and development of online learning, but you aren’t sure what all the terms mean?

When you’re new to a field, it’s important to get the terms right so you can understand what others are saying and so you can communicate about this topic effectively. This article provides an introduction and glossary to the terms associated with online learning. After making this list, even I was surprised at how many terms there were!

AUDIO CONFERENCING: Audio conferencing refers to a connection between three or more locations that involves a voice-only connection. This can be done via telephone or via the computer. When the audio conference is done between computers over the Internet, it uses a technology known as VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol).

ASYNCHRONOUS LEARNING: When learners participate in an online learning course at different times, it is known as asynchronous learning. This might also be called eLearning or web-based training (WBT). Asynchronous learning allows learners to go through a course at their own pace and on their own schedule.

BLENDED LEARNING: Blended learning is an instructional approach that includes a combination of online and in-person learning activities. For example, students can complete online self-paced assignments by a certain date and then meet on-site or online for additional learning activities.

COMPUTER-BASED TRAINING (CBT): CBT refers to any type of course that runs on a computer, either on a CD, on a person’s hard drive or on the Internet. The distinguishing point is that computer-based training does not involve an instructor or facilitator who is physically present. Now that most computer-based training occurs via the Internet, the term is used infrequently. More common terms are online learning, eLearning and Web-based Training (WBT).

COURSEWARE: Courseware refers to any instructional software that is delivered on a computer.

DISTANCE EDUCATION or DISTANCE LEARNING: Distance Education/Learning occurs when students and their instructors are in different geographical locations and the instruction occurs on an electronic device, such as a computer or mobile phone. The learning can occur in a synchronous environment, in which all participants are connected at the same time or in an asynchronous environment, when participants are engaged in learning at different times.

eLEARNING: eLearning (short for electronic learning) is an umbrella term that refers to all types of training, education and instruction that occurs on a digital medium, like a computer or mobile phone.

HYBRID LEARNING: See blended learning.

INFORMAL LEARNING: Informal learning occurs when people have a need to know something. They set their own learning objectives and acquire knowledge, skills and information in their own ways. This could be through asking questions, observing experts, practicing and conversing. It’s the kind of natural learning humans do outside of a structured environment.

INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN: Instructional design involves the identification of the knowledge, information, and skill gaps of a particular group …