Common Online Learning Terms and Definitions

Every industry has unique terminology, and eLearning is no different. If you’re just dipping your toes into the eLearning sea and looking to create a training course or program, it’s important that you learn the eLearning ‘language’. Once you understand what each term means you’ll be better prepared to take on the monumental task of creating an engaging, motivating, and effective learning module.

Following is a list of online learning terms that will get you started.

Common Online Learning Terminology

360-Degree Video

The name is self-explanatory: a type of video that allows the observer to see a 360-degree view of what they are looking at. It is an immersive experience as the viewer is completely transported to this new environment.

Active Learning

Active learning usually takes place in small groups. Learners read, debate, and problem-solve together. The purpose of this learning strategy is to actively get participants to contribute to their own learning experience.


ADDIE stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. This framework is used by instructional designers to assure the learning program they create is effective.


Assessments are quizzes or tests you can give learners before, during and after training. They help the learner and trainer evaluate the beginning, ongoing, and end skills and knowledge acquired by the trainee.

Asynchronous Learning

With asynchronous learning, trainers provide resources and communication tools so students can learn at any time, in any place.  Students will learn at their own pace and post comments, questions, or send messages to clarify any uncertainties.

Augmented Reality

Learning by way of augmented reality has to do with incorporating training material overlaid on real-life objects. For example, a person wanting to learn how to work on a certain machine can use the AR application to train, without having to actually use the machine until they know how it works.

Authoring Tool

An authoring tool is software that instructional/content designers use to develop online training courses.

Blended Learning

This method of training combines traditional classroom-based modules with self-paced, online-based portions of the course. It helps the learner gain a more in-depth understanding of the subject and allows for shorter classroom sessions.


When a training course is BYOD (bring your own device) it means that the learning software can be run on your own, preferred device. This way the learner has the opportunity to learn in their own time and at their own pace.


This term is borrowed from video games. It means that the learner is given a few choices that will lead their learning experience down a different path.

Computer-Based Learning

CBT is an umbrella term used to describe all training courses that take place on a computer. This can be in CD/DVD format, on the learner’s hard-drive, or over the internet.


Bite-sized information is easier for learners to digest. By chunking information in key concepts, the online training course becomes easier to work through.


Any training delivered through the digital format is considered eLearning. Learners can use a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone to access information over the internet anytime, anywhere.

Game-Based Learning

GBL refers to games developed with specific learning outcomes in mind. They mix fun and learning in a balanced way, immersing the learner in an engaging learning experience.


Gamification is different than GBL because you build a gamified training program based on an eLearning course. Adding badges, rewards, and feedback capabilities to an online training course, in essence, gamifies it.

Just-in-Time Learning

JIT learning mostly applies to learners looking to access specific information that would immediately help them in their job tasks. It usually comes in a mobile learning format.


Microlearning is a method of delivering content to learners in bite-sized chunks. This module-based training approach usually presents one key concept per learning segment.


mLearning or Mobile learning refers to learning applications that can be run on a mobile device. This type of learning is conducive to on-the-job learning, JIT learning, and self-paced learning.

Serious Game

A serious game is an online learning tool designed with a purpose other than pure entertainment. It helps learners deepen their knowledge, skill, and understanding by teaching them core concepts in a fun and engaging way.

Synchronous Learning

Unlike asynchronous learning, synchronous learning requires the trainer and learner be online at the same time in order for learning to take place. Chatting and video conferences are common for this style of online training.

Training Simulation

A training simulation is an experience in which the learner encounters life-like situations for which he must provide solutions. Simulations can be used to teach soft skills, as well as technical skills, and are highly effective due to their immersive qualities.

Virtual Reality

VR is an immersive learning experience in which the learner can see, hear, and sometimes even taste and feel a computer-generated environment. Due to their enveloping nature, VR applications are highly engaging and more companies are adopting them into their corporate training programs.


Understanding these terms can make a huge difference in creating a successful online training course or one that might easily fail. Keeping up to date with the latest developments in online learning is also a good idea. And, if you’re looking for some expert help with your custom online training, don’t hesitate to contact Designing Digitally!