More glossaries


ADL. Advanced Distributed Learning, an initiative originally established by the U.S. Department of Defense and now a collaboration between government, industry, and academia. The purpose of the ADL is to ensure access to high-quality education and training materials that can be tailored to individual learner needs and made available whenever and wherever they are required. The ADL maintains a set of guidelines under the acronym SCORM to accomplish their purpose.

AICC. Aviation Industry CBT Committee. The granddaddy of standards bodies. Originally formered to set guidelines for the aviation industry, AICC concepts are the foundation for subsequent work by ADL, IMS, and others.

Andragogy. Word coined by Malcolm Knowles to describe how adults learn -- which is different from how children learn ("pedagogy"). I'm beginning to suspect pedagogy denigrates children and that andra is the gogy to go with for all. Main points are:

  1. What's in it for me?
  2. Let me decide how I'll learn it.
  3. Where does this fit in relation to the other stuff I know?
  4. Sell me on learning this.
  5. Remove the obstacles from my path, please.

Asynchronous. [pretentious] Any time you like, e.g. watching a rerun on your VCR.

Bandwidth is a description of how much information can squeeze through a data pipe. Your intranet has high bandwidth; your dial-up connection is low bandwidth. Also used anthropomorphically, e.g. "He has low bandwidth" is equivalent to "He is a taco short of a combo plate" or "Her elevator doesn't go all the way to the top."

Blended. Current rage in eLearning circles. Means using more than one learning medium, generally adding an instructor component to web-based training. Duh! Blended is only a revelation for people who had been trying to do everything with just one tool – the computer. Classroom teachers having been blending various means of learning – lecture, discussion, practice, reading, projects, and writing, for example -- for eons.

Blog. An easily updated personal website, generally updated daily and expressing. See About Blogs or look at a sample.

Broadband. Unscientific term for sufficient bandwidth to receive streaming video and sound. Usually refers to bandwidth equal to or greater than DSL or Cable Modem speed.

Career Limiting Move. It refers to any incident that puts a roadblock in your career path. "Jack spilled coffee on the boss. It was a major CLM."

Caution: Learning isms ahead. You can lead a very full life wihout knowing these three:.

  • Behaviorism. Show me. If you can't show me a change in behavior, nothing was learned. A vital aspect of rat-maze psychology.
  • Cognitivism. It's all in your head. Cogito ergo sum = I think, therefore I am. Unlike Behaviorism, I don't have to show you.
  • Constructivism. Learning is what changes your current worldview. It builds on what you already think you know. A teacher who knows where you're coming from has a better shot at positioning new learning to have impact.

Certification. Pass the test, get a certificate. This started with technical subjects, e.g. Certified Novell Engineer and Microsoft Certified Professionals. Cisco offers a progression of certificates that reminds me of the ranks in Boy Scouts. Since there's no authority legitimizing the certifications, expect a continuing proliferation of these things. Certifications simplify hiring decisions; on the downside, they encourage "studying to the test." For $500, I can get you an Certified Internet Time Professional ranking.

Chat. Real-time communication, text or voice. Generally, messages disappear when the session's over. Otherwise, you're probably having a discussion.

c-learning. Classroom learning. Used to be just "learning," but now we need to differentiate c-learning from eLearning.

Collaborative filtering. Example: Amazon tells me that other people who like the books I like are buying a particular book.

Community. A group of people united by a common purpose who share information and knowledge with one another.  

Community of Practice. An informal group that shares values, perspectives, and ways of doing things. The motivation to learn is the deisre to participate in a "community of practice."  

Content. What’s being learned, information. If it doesn’t cause change, it’s not information. The challenge is how to get the right content to right person, at the right time. This involves media choice (e.g., paper versus on-screen), speed, delivery cost, relevance, learner motivation, and other factors.

Course. Rigid unit of learning, generally expressed in days and “led” by an instructor. Opposite: “Just enough.”

Dynamic information. “Real time.” Current, up to the second. Instead of reading pages prepared in advance, the pages are assembled on the fly, incorporating current information and taking into account current needs. 

eLearning. Also e-Learning. Best practices for learning in the new economy, implying but not requiring benefits of networking and computers such as anywhere/anytime delivery, learning objects, and personalization. Learning on Internet time. Often includes ILT.

Explicit knowledge. Knowledge that's easy to communicate. (Opposite of "tacit knowledge.")

Gap analysis. Figure out what to do by assessing the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Most people then begin building from the present into the future. We favor looking at the step right before the ultimate one and backing toward the present one step at a time.  

ILT. Instructor-led training, generally a workshop.

IMS - A standards body developing and promoting open specifications for facilitating online distributed learning. Its traditional emphasis surrounded meta-tagging specifications

Informal/formal learning. Formal learning is a class, a seminar, a self-study course – everyone recognizes it as learning. Informal learning is over the water cooler, at the poker game, asking the guy in the next cube to help out, collaborative problem solving, watching an expert, or sharing a terminal for eLearning. More than half of corporate learning is the informal kind.

Instructional design. A systems approach to designing a learning experience. Heavily promoted by DoD investment, formal instructional design is currently under attack for fostering slow development, a printed-paper mindset, and insufficient attention to informal learning.

Internet time. The accelerated timeframe of the new economy brought on by eBusiness and the Internet. A year of Internet time may equal seven years of calendar time. Or more. Or less.

Job aid. Cheat sheet. Checklist. Process map. Generally, a piece of paper that helps you do your job.

Just-in-time learning. Getting the right knowledge to the right person at the right time.

Learner-centric. Organize things for the good of the learner, not the instructor and not the institution. The core tenet of eLearning.

Learning. To gain knowledge or information of; to ascertain by inquiry, study, or investigation; to acquire understanding of, or skill; as, to learn the way; to learn a lesson; to learn dancing; to learn to skate; to learn the violin; to learn the truth about something.

LMS or Learning management system. eLearning infrastructure. At the simplest level, a tracking system. LMS's range from simple course-by-course registration systems to humongous, real-time databases that deal with personalization, learning prescriptions, job competencies, and parsing learning objects.

LCMS. Learning content management system. An LCMS is a multi-user environment where learning developers can create, store, reuse, manage, and deliver digital learning content from a central object repository.

Learning object. A machine-addressible "chunk" of learning. When labeled with metadata, an eLearning system can mix and match learning objects to create individualized learning experiences. Controversy swirls around the question, "How large is a chunk?" A course is too large -- that's yesterday's object. A couple of sentences is too small -- you would lose the context that provides meaning. Think five or ten minutes.

Learning service provider. Delivers eLearning - including learning management -- over the Internet. A learning ASP. Focus in-house IT on core processes; outsource eLearning to an LSP.

Low-hanging fruit: In an apple orchard, it’s the apples on the low branches. In business, it’s the easy sales to get. Problem: You run out of low-hanging fruit long before you become profitable.

. On the Web, a destination site that links to other worthy sources of information.

Metadata. Information about information. Often, "metatags" that describe what's inside a chunk of learning. Generally machine-readable. Analogous to a barcode on an incoming shipment.

Meta-Learning. The process of learning. Learning to learn is a major component. See Meta-Learning Lab.

Meta-tags - Descriptive labels applied to media assets, pages, information objects and/or learning objects that describe the object so it can be managed more effectively. Machine-readable.

M-learning. Mobile learning. See wireless.

Nurnburg funnel. Source of the metaphor of training being akin to pouring knowledge into a person's head.

Ontology. The capstone of the Semantic Web. XML describes what the data is. RDF explains what the XML tag means in our context. An Ontology describes how all the pieces fit together.

Paradigm drag. When old thinking holds back new. From David Gelernter’s Machine Beauty: Elegance and the Heart of Technology.

Peer to peer. When the PC is both client and server, able to swap resources directly with other PCs. Resources? Files, songs, videos, processor cycles, disk space. This wil be big for self-organizing teams.

Performance. The goal of learning. AKA productivity, results. It’s relative to context. Decide what constitutes performance, then design the learning to support it.

Performance support. Learning imbedded in work. Microsoft’s talking paperclip and “Wizards” that guide users through applications are examples.

Permalink. A permanent marker or reference point to a certain document on the world wide web. Most commonly used for weblogs, news sites and newspapers. A permalink is denoted through the use of a symbol (pound sign, arrow, dot), date of content creation, the word permalink or image.

Personalization. Learning opportunities tailored to the learner’s background, style, previous knowledge, etc. “Mass customization” and “1:1 marketing” applied to learning. Results are saved time, accelerated learning, more wheat/less chaff, phenomenal performance gain.

Portal. Synonyn for entry screen. Widely hyped 1998-1999 because anyone can imagine the utility of an in-house Yahoo.

RDF - Resource Description Framework. A dictionary and thesaurus for XML tags that sits between XML and an ontology.

RLO - Reusable Learning Object. A discrete chunk of reusable learning that teaches one or more terminal objectives.

Search learning. When you learn from perusing Amazon, looking up topics on Google, or paging through business magazines on the airplane.

Semantic Web. Will enable computers to talk with one another. How we will address "the difference between information produced primarily for human consumption and that produced mainly for machines. At one end of the scale we have everything from the five-second TV commercial to poetry. At the other end we have databases, programs and sensor output. To date, the Web has developed most rapidly as a medium of documents for people rather than for data and information that can be processed automatically. The Semantic Web aims to make up for this." Tim Berners-Lee in Scientific American.

SCORM. Sharable Content Object Reference Model. Standards are very popular; that's why there are so many of them. SCORM is the Federal government's standard. It seeks to track and manage courseware developed by various authoring tools using a single system. The objective is to bring together diverse and disparate learning content and products to ensure reusability, accessibility, durability, and interoperability. Built on the work of AICC, IMS, the IEEE, and others, this is the one with staying power. See for the latest.

Shelf-life. Knowledge is perishable. Some suggest it be labeled with pull-dates, like cartons of milk. (And others point out that spoiled milk may have been put in the eLearning bottle to being with.)

Synchronous. [pretentious] Live event.

Tacit/explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is knowing how; it's impossible to transfer to it you in words. Explicit knowledge is the opposite – you’re reading it right now.

Timing. The first 90% of a development project takes 90% of the time. The remaining 10% also takes 90% of the time.

Training. An attempt to impose learning, often more at the convenience of the provider than the learner.

VOIP. Phonecalls over the Internet. When you conduct a meeting with Centra or Groove, people from all over the world can speak with one another with NO PHONE CHARGES. The technology is not yet out of the woods; unable to reach someone at Cisco last year, a colleague explained, "Oh, she's testing one of our VOIP phones. She never receives her calls."

Warchalking. Marking the location of open wi-fi connections to the net on the sidewalk or wall in chalk.

Web log. AKA blog. Try this one. "If journalism is the first draft of history, then blogging is sometimes the first draft of journalism...." says Ed Cone.

Wireless learning. Tell me once again. If my cell phone craps out at random intervals, how will a wireless modem enable me to cut the cord.

XML. eXtensible Markup Language. Like HTML but more flexible because you can redefine tags to say whatever you want. Instead of <H1>, you might have <duration> or <invoice>. This enables computers to talk with one another without pesky human intervention.

For learning objects, XML is equivalent to the labels on cans at the supermarket -- it's lets you determine what's inside without opening the package. This enables an object-level Learning Management System to assemble strings of learning objects into personalized learning paths.

YMMV. "Your mileage may vary." Recognition that your results may not be the same as mine. (Other things are never equal.)

e-Learning or eLearning?

To hyphenate or not to hyphenate, that is the question. All my early work uses the hyphen, as does SmartForce, The e-Learning Company, and Cisco, the most prominent champion of e-learning.

Internet Time Group dropped the hyphen at the turn of the century. eLearning is coming into its own. More than traditional learning plus a web page, eLearning fosters freedom of choice, flexible timing, rapid rewards, cluetrain honesty, and human interaction.


Other worthwhile glossaries

Learning Circuits' eLearning Glossary

Cisco's eLearning Glossary

Big Dog's Learning Glossary

Glossary of Financial and Business Terms (New York Times)

Salesperson's Glossary

BuzzWhack for buzzwords

Wired's Encyclopedia of the New Economy

Accounting Glossary

eCommerce Glossary

Business 2.0 Glossary

Encyclopedia of Educational Terminology

Encyclopedia of Business Case Terms

Specialty Dictionaries

Library Spot

Genetics Glossary


Semiotics Glossary

Online Dictionary


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