E-Learning Glossary
Compiled by Eva Kaplan-Leiserson

E-learning is hot. And everyone has something to say about it, but are we communicating in the same language? Below you'll find a collection of terms and their definitions to help you "speak" e-learning. 

Any good glossary, especially when it comes to technology, is a work in progress. This one will be updated periodically. Have suggestions for listings to include or revise? Email ekaplan@astd.org. Good speaking!



AICC: Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee.

Amplitude: The amount of variety in a signal. Commonly thought of as the height of a wave.

Analog: A signal that is received in the same form in which it is transmitted, although the amplitude and frequency may vary.

API (application program interface): Operating system services made available to programs that run under the operating system. 

Application: The program a user activates to work on the computer. There are many computer programs that fit into the category of application; applications are generally referred to as software. 

ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interexchange): A computer language used to convert letters, numbers, and control codes into a digital code understood by most computers.

ASP (application service provider): The third-party organizations that manage and distribute software-based services to companies over the Internet from a central location. ASPs allow companies to save money, time, and resources by outsourcing some or all of their information technology needs. 

Asynchronous communication: A learning event in which people are not online at the same time and cannot communicate without time delay. Examples are self-paced courses taken via Internet or CD-ROM, Web presentations, videotaped classes, streamed audio/video presentations, Q&A mentoring, online discussion groups, and email. 

Asynchronous training: Training where interaction between teachers and students takes place intermittently, not simultaneously, such as through links to HTML content or email, news, or discussion groups. 

ATM (asynchronous transmission mode): A method of sending data in irregular time intervals using a code such as ASCII. ATM allows most modern computers to communicate with one another easily.

Audio bridge: A device used in audioconferencing that connects multiple telephone lines. 

Audioconferencing: Voice-only connection of more than two sites using standard telephone lines.

Audiographics: Computer-based technology that permits simultaneous transmission of voice and data communication and graphic images across local telephone lines in a way that is interactive between the instructor and all participants. 

Authoring tool: A software application or program that allows people to create their own e-learning courseware. Types of authoring tools include instructionally focused authoring tools, Web authoring and programming tools, template-focused authoring tools, knowledge capture systems, text and file creation and linkage systems.



Backbone: A primary communication path connecting multiple users.

Band: A range of frequencies between defined upper and lower limits.

Bandwidth: Information carrying capacity of a communication channel. 

Baud rate: See Bps

Binary: A computer language with only two letters in its alphabet.

Bit: The most basic unit of information on a computer. In accordance with binary code, each bit is designated as either a 1 or a 0; all other information stored on the computer is composed of combinations of bits. 

Bps (bits per second): A measurement of a modem's data transmission speed. Synonymous with baud rate. 

Bridge: A device linking two or more sections of a network. 

Broadband: High-speed transmission. The specific speed used to define broadband is subjective; the word often implies any speed above what is commonly used at the current time. See also narrowband

Broadcast: Television and radio signals designed to reach a mass audience. 

Browser: Software that allows you to find and view information on the Internet. Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator are two commonly used browsers.

Byte: A combination of 8 bits. 



Cable modem: Uses two cable TV channels to establish a two-way flow of computer information over the coaxial cables used to bring cable TV into the home.

CAI (computer-assisted instruction): Instruction mediated by computer in which the system allows for remediation based on answers but not for a change in the underlying program structure.

CBT (computer-based training): Course or educational material presented on a computer, primarily via CD-ROM or floppy disk. Unlike Web-based training, computer-based training typically does not require that the computer be connected to a network and typically does not provide links to learning resources outside of the course.

CD-ROM (compact disc read-only memory): A computer storage medium similar to the audio CD that can hold more than 600 megabytes of read-only digital information. 

Certification: Professional certification is a screening tool and a measurement of skills and knowledge. Certification credentials give employees and clients proof of an individual's level of specialization in his or her field of work. 

Chat: Communication between members of an online service using text. The messages are sent between members in real-time as in a conversation by typing in short statements. 

C-learning: See instructor-led training

Codec (coder/decoder): Device used to convert analog signals to digital signals for transmission and reconvert signals upon reception at the remote site, while allowing for the signal to be compressed for less expensive transmission.

Common carrier: A government-regulated private company that furnishes the public with telecommunications services (for example, phone companies). 

Community: See online community

Compressed file: A computer file that has been reduced in size by a compression software program. The user must decompress these files before they can be viewed or used. 

Compressed video: Video signals downsized to allow travel along a smaller carrier.

Connect time: The amount of time that a terminal or computer has been logged on to a computer or server for a particular session. 

Content: The intellectual property and knowledge to be imparted. Different types of e-learning content include text, audio, video, animation, and simulation content.

Cookie: Information stored on a user's computer after visiting a Website. Tracks data about that user, can be disabled in the browser.

Courseware: Any type of instructional or educational software program.

CPU (central processing unit): Part of the computer that contains the microprocessor, power supply, hard drive, and disk drives. 

CRM (customer relationship management): Methodologies, software, and Internet capabilities that help a company manage and organize customer relationships. Helps identify and categorize customers. 

Customer-focused e-learning: Web-based learning programs targeted at current and prospective customers. By training customers online, companies attract new business and make people more comfortable with e-transactions. 

Cyberspace: The nebulous "place" where humans interact over computer networks. Term coined by William Gibson in Neuromancer.



Default: A setting that the computer system uses automatically, unless it is changed by the user. 

Desktop videoconferencing: Videoconferencing on a personal computer.

Dial up: To open a connection between a user's computer and another computer via a modem. 

Digital: An electrical signal that varies in discrete steps in voltage, frequency, amplitude, locations, and so forth. Digital signals can be transmitted faster and more accurately than analog signals.

Digital Divide: The gap that exists between those who can afford technology and those who cannot. 

Discussion boards: On the Internet or an intranet, forums where users can post messages for other users to read.

Distance education: Educational situation in which the instructor and students are separated by time, location, or both. Education or training courses are delivered to remote locations via synchronous or asynchronous means of instruction, including written correspondence, text, graphics, audio- and videotape, CD-ROM, online learning, audio- and videoconferencing, interactive TV, and facsimile. Distance learning does not preclude the use of the traditional classroom. The definition of distance education is broader than and entails the definition of e-learning. 

Distance learning: The desired outcome of distance education.

Download: The electronic transferring or copying of a file from one computer to another. Files may be downloaded from another connected individual computer, a computer network, a commercial online service, or the Internet. 

DS (Digital Signal): Rate and format of digital signal, for example, DS-1 or DS-3. Often used synonymously with T, as in T1 or T3, although the T technically refers to the type of equipment. See T1 and T3.

DVD (digital versatile disc): Optical disks that are the same size as CDs, but are double-sided and have larger storage capacities.

DVI (digital video interactive): A format for recording digital video onto compact disk allowing for compression and full-motion video.



Echo cancellation: The process of eliminating the acoustic echo in a videoconferencing room.

E-learning: Covers a wide set of applications and processes such as Web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration. It includes the delivery of content via Internet, intranet/extranet (LAN/WAN), audio- and videotape, satellite broadcast, interactive TV, and CD-ROM. 

Email (electronic mail): Messages sent from one computer user to another.

End-to-end solution: A marketing term used by large e-learning suppliers. Meant to imply that their products and services will handle all aspects of e-learning. 

Enterprise-wide e-learning: E-learning that is intended for all or most employees within a company. Often part of a strategic change of direction with a very short timeline. Also used to support a core process such as sales.

Ergonomics: Design principles relating to the comfort, efficiency, and safety of users. 

ERP (enterprise resource planning): A set of activities supported by application software that helps a company manage such core parts of its business as product planning, parts purchasing, inventory management, order tracking, and customer service. Can also include modules for finance and HR activities. The deployment of an ERP system can involve considerable business process analysis, employee retraining, and new work procedures.

E-Training: See TBT.

Extranet: A local-area network (LAN) or wide-area network (WAN) using TCP/IP, HTML, SMTP, and other open Internet-based standards to transport information. An extranet is only available to people inside and certain people outside an organization, as determined by the organization. 



F2F (face-to-face): Used to describe the traditional classroom envrionment. Also see ILT.

Facilitative tools: Electronic applications used in online courses as part of course delivery. Examples are mailing lists, chat programs, streaming audio, streaming video, and Webpages.

Facilitator: The online course instructor who aids learning in the online, student-centered environment.

FAQ (frequently asked questions): A file established for public discussion groups containing questions and answers new users often ask.

Fax (facsimile): System used to transmit textual or graphical images over standard telephone lines.

Fiber-optic cable: Glass fiber that is used for laser transmission of video, audio, and/or data. This technology has much greater bandwidth capacity than conventional cable or copper wire. 

File server: Computer with a large storage device on a network, used for storing files and software that can be shared by users on the network. 

Firewall: Method to give users access to the Internet while retaining internal network security. 

Footprint: The region on the earth to which a communications satellite can transmit. Also, the floor or desk surface space occupied by a piece of computer equipment. 

Frequency: The space between waves in a signal. The amount of time between waves passing a stationary point.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol): A protocol that allows a user to move files from a distant computer to a local computer using a network like the Internet.

Full-motion video: Signal that allows transmission of complete action taking place at the origination site.

Fully interactive video (two-way interactive video): Two sites interact with audio and video as if they were colocated.



GB (gigabyte): Just over one billion bytes. 1,000 megabytes.

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format): File format used to store images developed by CompuServe. GIFs support 256 colors and are often used for Web images because they compress well. 

Grok: To reach total understanding of a subject. From Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.

GUI (graphical user interface): Computer interface using icons or pictures, pull-down menus, and a mouse. For example, Macintosh and Windows. 



HDTV (high-definition TV): Television that has over five times the resolution of standard television. Requires extraordinary bandwidth.

Homepage: A document with an address (URL) on the World Wide Web maintained by a person or an organization that contains pointers to other pieces of information. 

Host: A network computer that can receive information from other computers.

Hosting: Outsourcing of the technology and commerce parts of a company's Internet-based learning system to an outside organization.

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language): The code used to create a homepage and to access documents over the Web.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol): The protocol used to signify that an Internet site is a World Wide Web (WWW) site.

Hypermedia: A program that contains dynamic links to other media, such as audio, video, or graphics files. 

Hypertext: A system for retrieving information from servers on the Internet using World Wide Web client software. Hypertext consists of key words or phrases in a WWW page that are linked electronically to other Websites or pages on the Internet. 



IEEE: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

ILS (integrated learning system): A complete software, hardware, and network system used for instruction. In addition to providing the curriculum and lessons organized by level, an ILS usually includes a number of tools such as assessments, record keeping, report writing, and user information files that help to identify learning needs, monitor progress, and maintain student records. 

ILT (instructor-led training): Usually refers to traditional classroom training, where a room of students is led through a class by an instructor. The term is used synonymously with on-site training and classroom training (c-learning). With the advent of faster Internet connections, ILT courses are now being offered over the Internet.

Infrastructure: The underlying mechanism or system by means of which voice, video, and data can be transferred from one site to another and be processed. 

Interactive media: Frequency assignment that allows for a two-way interaction or exchange of information.

Internet: An international network first used to connect education and research networks begun by the U.S. government. The Internet now provides communication and application services to an international base of businesses, consumers, educational institutions, governments, and research organizations. 

Internet-based training: Delivery of educational content via a Web browser over the public Internet, a private intranet, or an extranet. Internet-based training provides links to learning resources outside of the course, such as references, email, bulletin boards, and discussion groups. It provides the advantages of computer-based training while retaining advantages of instructor-led training. Internet-based training is used synonymously with Web-based training and online training.

Internet Explorer: An example of browser software that allows you to design a home page and to browse links on the WWW.

Intranet: A LAN or WAN that transports information. An intranet is owned by the corporation and is only accessible to people working internally in an organization. It is protected from outside intrusion by a combination of firewalls and other security measures. 

IP (Internet Protocol): The international standard for addressing and sending data via the Internet.

ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network): A telecommunications standard allowing communications channels to carry voice, video, and data simultaneously. 

ISO: International Organization for Standardization. 

ISP (Internet service provider): A reseller of Internet access services. 

ITFS (Instructional Television Fixed Service): Microwave-based, high-frequency television used in educational program delivery.

IT training: Combination of desktop training and information systems and technical training. Includes training in areas such as system infrastructure software, application software, and application development tools. 



JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group): A standard for compressing digital photographic images. 

Just-in-time: Characteristic of e-learning, in which learner is able to access the information they need exactly when they need it. 



KB (kilobyte): 1,024 bytes, often generically applied to 1,000 bytes as well. 

Kbps (Kilobytes per second): Measurement of data transmission speed. 

KMS (knowledge management system): See knowledge management.

Knowledge management: Capturing, organizing, and storing knowledge and experiences of individual workers and groups within an organization and making it available to others in the organization. The information is stored in a special database called a knowledge base. 



LAN (local-area network): A group of computers and other devices, such as printers or servers, that are located in a relatively limited area, such as an office, and can communicate and share information with each other.

Learning object: Modular building block of e-learning content.

Learning platforms: Internal or external sites often organized around tightly focused topics, which contain technologies (ranging from chat rooms to groupware) that enable users to submit and retrieve information. 

Learning portal: Any Website that offers learners or organizations consolidated access to learning and training resources from multiple sources. Operators of learning portals are also called content aggregators, distributors, or hosts. 

Learning space: An imaginary geography in which the learning enterprise flourishes. Mapped by market analysts and mined by consultants, this territory is a recent annexation to the business landscape. 

Link: The result of HTML markup, a link signifies to a browser that data within a document will automatically connect with either nested data or an outside source. Used in the design of hypertext. 

Listserv: A powerful software program for combining and automating mailing lists and discussion groups on a computer network over the Internet. A form of one-to-many communication using email. 

LMS (learning management system): Infrastructure platform through which learning content is delivered and managed. A combination of software tools perform a variety of functions related to online and offline training administration and performance management.

Log in/Log on: The process of establishing a connection over a network or modem with a remote computer so that a user's computer may retrieve or exchange information. 

Log off: The process of terminating a connection to a computer or network. 

LRN: Microsoft's Learning Resource Interchange.

LSP (learning service provider): A specialized ASP offering learning management and training delivery software on a hosted or rental basis. 

Lurking: A person is lurking when he or she reads the postings in a discussion forum but does not contribute to the discussion. 



Markup: Text or codes added to a document to convey information about it. Usually used to formulate a document's layout or create links to other documents or information servers. HTML is a common form of markup. 

MB (megabyte): 1,000,000 bytes. 

Mbps (megabits per second): A million bits per second. 

Metatag: An HTML tag identifying the contents of a Website. Information commonly found in the metatag includes copyright info, key words for search engines, and formatting descriptions of the page. 

Microwave: Electromagnetic waves that travel in a straight line and are used to and from satellites and for short distances up to 30 miles. 

Modem: A piece of equipment that allows computers to interact with each other via telephone lines by converting digital signals to analog for transmission.

MPEG (Motion Picture Experts Group): A standard for compressing digital video images. 

Multimedia: Encompasses interactive text, images, sound, and color. Multimedia can be anything from a simple PowerPoint slide slow to a complex interactive simulation.



Narrowband: In data transmission, speeds from 50 bps to 64 Kbps. 

Navigation: Finding your way from page to page on the World Wide Web. 

Nesting: Placing documents within other documents. Allows a user to access material in a nonlinear fashion, the primary requirement for developing hypertext.

Netiquette: Online "manners." The rules of conduct for online or Internet users. 

Netscape: An example of browser software that allows you to design a homepage and to browse links on the WWW.

Network: Two or more computers that are interconnected in some fashion so users can share files and devices (for example, printers, servers, and storage devices). 



Onground environment: The traditional classroom environment, also known as face-to-face (F2F). Also see ILT

Online: The state in which a computer is connected to another computer or server via a network. A computer communicating with another computer.

Online community: Meeting place for learners on the Internet designed to facilitate interaction and collaboration among people who share common interests and needs.

Online environment: Courses, discussions, or other communication occurring in an electronic format via the Internet.

Online learning: Another term for e-learning. Also see internet-based training

Open platform: A computer and network design concept that dictates that all users of the Internet will have the ability to access, create, and publish information, as well as understand each other's information. 

Origination site: The location from which a teleconference originates.



Packet: A bundle of data transmitted over a network. Packets have no set size; they can range from one character to hundreds of characters. 

Plug-in: An accessory program that adds capabilities to the main program. Used on Webpages to display multimedia content. 

Point-to-multipoint: Transmission between multiple locations using a bridge.

Point-to-point: Transmission between two locations.

POP (point of presence): The geographic location of a particular switch or service.

Portal: A Website that acts as a "doorway" to the Internet or a portion of the Internet, targeted towards one particular subject. Also see learning portal

Post: To place a message in a public message forum. Also, to place an HTML page on the World Wide Web. 

PPP: A software package that allows a user to have a direct connection to the Internet over a telephone line.

Private communication: Electronic communication (email) sent to the personal email mailboxes of one or more individuals as opposed to a public conferencing forum. 

Projection system: A device for showing video, television, or computer images on a large screen. 

Protocol: A formal set of standards, rules, or formats for exchanging data that assures uniformity between computers and applications.

Public communication: Electronic communication sent to a public conferencing forum, listserv, or mailing list where one message is distributed to all list members. 

Publishing tool: A software application or program that allows people to publish their own e-learning courseware to a specific location, such as an Internet server. 

Pull technology: In reference to the Internet or other online services, the technology whereby people using software such as a Web browser to locate and "pull down" information for themselves. Also see push technology

Push technology: In reference to the Internet or other online services, the technology whereby information is sent directly to a user's computer. 



RAM (random-access memory): Temporary storage for data and program instructions. 

Real-time communication: Communication in which information is received at (or nearly at) the instant it is sent. Real-time is a characteristic of synchronous communication. 

Receive site: A location that can receive transmissions from another site for distance learning. 

Resolution: The clarity of the image on the video display screen. 



Satellite TV: Video and audio signals relayed via a communication device that orbits around the earth.

Scanner: A device that converts a printed page or image into an electronic representation that can be viewed and manipulated on a computer. 

SCORM: Sharable Courseware Object Reference Model. 

Screen reader: Computer software that speaks text on the screen. Often used by individuals who are visually impaired. 

Scroll: To move text and images on a computer screen in a constant direction--down, up, right, or left. 

Seamless technology: Technology that is easy to use, intuitive in nature, and is not the focus of the learning experience. Also called transparent technology. 

Server: A computer with a special service function on a network, generally to receive and connect incoming information traffic.

Simulations: Highly interactive applications that allow the learner to model or role-play in a scenario. Simulations enable the learner to practice skills or behaviors in a risk-free environment. 

SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol): Allows a user to connect to the Internet directly over a high-speed modem.

Slow scan converter: Transmitter or receiver of still video over narrowband channels. In real time, camera subjects must remain still for highest resolution. 

Soft-skills training: Education on specific business topics, such as communications and presentation skills, leadership and general management skills, human resources, sales and marketing, professional development, project and time management, customer service, team building, administrative skills, accounting and finance, purchasing, and personal development.

SQL: Database standard employed primarily by Microsoft in its SQL Server product.

Streaming media (streaming audio or video): Allows audio or video files to be played as they are being downloaded over the Internet instead of having to wait for the entire file to download first. Requires a media player program. 

Synchronous communication: Communication that allows participants to interact simultaneously in real time through methods such as live chats, electronic whiteboards, or videoconferences. 

Synchronous learning: A real-time, instructor-led online learning event in which all participants are logged on at the same time and communicate directly with each other. In a virtual classroom, the instructor maintains control of the class, with the ability to "call on" participants who raise their electronic hands from a distant location. Students and teachers use a whiteboard to see work in progress and share knowledge. Content can also be delivered using audio- or videoconferencing, Internet telephony, and two-way live broadcasts of lectures to students in a classroom. 

Synergy: The dynamic energetic atmosphere created in an online class when participants interact and productively communicate with each other.



T-1 (DS-1): High-speed digital data channel that is a high-volume carrier of voice and/or data. Often used for compressed video teleconferencing. T-1 has 24 voice channels.

T-3 (DS-3): A digital channel that communicates at a significantly faster rate than T-1.

TBT (technology-based training): The delivery of content via Internet, LAN or WAN (intranet or extranet), satellite broadcast, audio or video tape, interactive TV, or CD-ROM. Includes CBT and WBT.

TCP (Transmission Control Protocol): A protocol that makes sure that packets of data are shipped and received in the intended order.

Telecommunication: The science of information transport using wire, radio, optical, or electromagnetic channels to transmit and receive signals for voice or data communications.

Telecommuting: Working at home but connecting to one's office by way of a computer network. 

Teleconferencing: Two-way electronic communication between two or more groups in separate locations via audio, video, and/or computer systems.

Text-based training: The delivery of content through books and manuals. 

Touch screen: Input device used to simplify user input and response. The user touches the screen to control the output, working with menus or multiple-choice decision points. Allows some simulation of hands-on training, for example, pointing to parts on a machine. 

Training management system: See LMS.

Transparent technology: Technology that is easy to use, intuitive in nature, and not the focus of the learning experience. Also called seamless technology. 

Transponder: Satellite transmitter and receiver that receives and amplifies a signal prior to retransmission to an earth station.

24/7: Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Used to describe the hours of operation of a virtual classroom or how often technical support should be available for online students and instructors. 



Uplink: The communication link from the transmitting earth station to the satellite.

Upload: To send a file from one computer or server to another. 

URL (Uniform Resource Locator): The address of a homepage on the WWW.



Value-added services: In the context of the e-training industry, value-added services include custom training needs assessment and skill-gap analysis, curriculum design and development, pre- and posttraining mentoring and support, training effectiveness analysis, reporting and tracking tools, advisor services and implementation consulting, hosting and management of Internet- or intranet-based learning systems, integration of enterprise training delivery system, and other services. 

Videoconferencing: Using video and audio signals to link participants at different and remote locations.

Virus: A destructive type of computer program that attempts to disrupt the normal operation of a computer, rewrite or delete information from storage devices, and in some cases, cause physical damage to the computer.

Virus detection program: A software program to detect, diagnose, and destroy computer viruses. 

Vortal: Vertical portal; a portal that targets a niche audience.



W3C: World Wide Web Consortium.

WAN (wide-area network): A computer network that spans a relatively large area. Usually made up of two or more local area networks. The Internet is a WAN.

WBT (Web-based training): See Internet-based training

Workstation: A device, often a microcomputer, that serves as an interface between a user and a file server or host computer. A computer or a computer terminal. 

WWW (World Wide Web): A graphical hypertext-based Internet tool that provides access to homepages created by individuals, businesses, and other organizations. 



XML (Extensible Markup Language): The next-generation HTML that will allow Website designers to program their own markup commands. These commands can then be used throughout the Website as if they were standard HTML commands. 

Learning Circuits welcomes your feedback
on this article.
SOURCES: Barry Willis and the University of Idaho; Illinois Online Network, University of Illinois; Teach Wisconsin; The Indiana College Network (ICN); click2learn.com, inc.; Znetwork; EdWeb; WR Hambrecht + Co.


American Society for Training & Development (ASTD)
© Copyright 2000 | Disclaimer | Privacy Statement
1640 King Street, Box 1443
Alexandria, Virginia, 22313-2043, USA
Phone: 703.683.8100 - 800.628.2783 - Fax: 703.683.1523