Say What You Mean: Defining Learning Lingo for Your Organization.

June 6, 2017 10:00 by Dana Peters

We’ve all heard (and regularly use) terms like e-learning, webinar, web-based training, virtual training, digital learning, and distance learning.  However, ask ten people what e-learning means and you’re likely to get ten different answers.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with all sorts of clients, large and small, with varying degrees of sophistication within their learning and development departments. Working with different clients means learning their learning culture’s unique language. Even the simplest of terms may mean something different to the client than it does to me and the Mondo Learning Solutions team members on the project. To make things more confusing, terms are often used interchangeably, even though technically, they do have different meanings.

If you are in a situation where an outside professional is assisting you with the development and delivery of learning programs, establishing definitions is important.

If that weren’t enough, let’s consider the other internal folks outside of our profession. While the learning terms used may be clear to everyone on your learning and development team, it may not be clear to your learners or stakeholders.

Taking from my personal experience, I think of this issue a little bit like the different terms or words for items used all over the country. The same terms to name certain items in Wisconsin, where I’m based, might be called something completely different in a different part of the country.  A few examples: bubbler and drinking fountain, shopping cart and buggy, or even pop and soda. Not having moved here until I was 24, imagine my surprise when someone asked me where the bubbler was.

When defining terms related to learning delivery methods, you want to make sure everyone is on the same page. Let’s take a quick look at the Association for Talent Development’s (ATD) official definitions for the following terms:

  • Web-based Training (WBT): Delivery of educational content via a Web browser over the public Internet, a private intranet, or an extranet. Web-based training often provides links to other learning resources such as references, email, bulletin boards, and discussion groups. WBT also may include a facilitator who can provide course guidelines, manage discussion boards, deliver lectures, and so forth. When used with a facilitator, WBT offers some advantages of instructor-led training while also retaining the advantages of computer-based training.
  • E-learning: 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, CD-ROM, and more.
  • Webinar: A small synchronous online learning event in which a presenter and audience members communicate via text chat or audio about concepts often illustrated via online slides and/or an electronic whiteboard. Webinars are often archived as well for asynchronous, on-demand access.
  • ILT (instructor-led training): Usually refers to traditional classroom training, in which an instructor teaches a course to a room of learners. The term is used synonymously with on-site training and classroom training (c-learning).
  • Asynchronous Learning: Learning in which interaction between instructors and students occurs intermittently with a time delay. Examples are self-paced courses taken via the Internet or CD-ROM, Q&A mentoring, online discussion groups, and email.
  • 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 this virtual classroom setting, the instructor maintains control of the class, with the ability to "call on" participants. In most platforms, students and teachers can use a whiteboard to see work in progress and share knowledge. Interaction may also occur via audio or video conferencing, Internet telephony, or two-way live broadcasts.

While these may be the official definitions for the profession, organizations across the country have their own “dialect”.  This is where it can be challenging.

As you can see, virtual instructor-led training (vILT) is not defined independently by ATD, but that is the term, we here at Mondo Learning Solutions, use to define what others might call synchronous learning, a webinar, or even e-learning.

I agree that official definitions are helpful, but what is more important is that everyone is on the same page. Existing company vocabulary and semantics might mean your company refers to a web-based training as a webinar, or a vILT class as e-learning, and that’s ok. As long as everyone is aware of those semantics and what is actually being defined.

What about you? Has definition differences of common training terms caused any problems within your organization? We’d love to hear your stories.

 

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