Does Learning Technology terminology turn you off?

Does Learning Technology terminology turn you off?

It appears to be modern way of working life that everything now must fit in a TWA – Three word acronym, and that is the case more and more in the arena of e-learning.

Only last week I was having a conversation with an exhibitor at Learning Technologies about their LMS. The response was ‘Do you mean a Learning Management System or a Learner Management System?’ – immediately I realised how people could get blinded by science and the interpretation of those acronyms!

So, here is my take on the commonly used phrases and what they mean to us:

LMS – Learning Management System – this is the online environment where e-learning is generally hosted with an organisation.  Depending on complexity, an LMS can do a variety of clever things above and beyond e-learning, but that’s a conversation with your LMS provider if you have one.

VLE – Virtual Learning Environment – this is often confused because when people refer to a VLE they actually mean the same thing as an LMS. The learning environment is the place where the digital learning is accessed. The use of the word ‘virtual’ often conjures up an image of a virtual world, but a VLE is seldom as exotic as that.

SCORM – Shareable Content Object Reference Model (you don’t need to remember that) – SCORM is the authoring standards that ensure that content will work on an LMS if you have one. The most commonly used versions of SCORM are SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004. If you are authoring or buying e-learning content then you just need to ensure you pick the right one so it works on your LMS.

Webinar – a webinar is generally a live online session that people can tap into. This is tutor-led and participants can view slides and hear the tutor via their computers or devices. There are several good webinar tools available – Webex and GotoTraining being just 2 examples.

MOOC – Massive Open Online Course – another relatively new phenomenon. People are invited to attend online sessions run like webinars with large numbers of participants. These are instructor-led and do generally have the ability for interaction, but with the numbers of people and time constraints, it is often difficult for discussion to take place with the tutor as part of the session.

LRS – Learning Record Store – whereas an LMS both hosts and records progress of e-learning within an organisation, an LRS is a tool designed to just store progress of participants of online learning from a number of sources.

Tin Can API – the people who maintain SCORM are aware that technology is evolving more quickly than the standards that are in place. With this in mind, Tin Can API is the latest solution which allows e-learning developers to create learning in any way they wish, but the learner’s progression is monitored and reported back to an LRS. This enables the learner to undertake e-learning in a number of places and for the tracking to be maintained in a central location. The supplier’s e-learning solution talks to the organisation’s LRS to automatically update learning history.

SCORM Cloud – sounds a bit sinister, but isn’t. A SCORM Cloud allows a content provider the opportunity to distribute e-learning to client’s LMS, but also monitor and control access. This allows for quick updating of content and also for pricing to be on a per-usage basis rather than a licence, which was a problem in the past.

These are just a few of the terms that you’re likely to hear when discussing e-learning, there will be plenty more and you’ll need to clarify exactly what people mean when they use some of these terms just to make sure that you get things right. I’ve worked in e-learning for almost 15 years and it still surprises me how people use terminology to cause confusion.

If you need any help then please feel free to ask – maybe we should create an e-learning module on it??

Andy Stopps

Director of E-learning

Maguire Training

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  • This article has been extermely helfpul and could not have come at a better time.  I have recently started a new role and have been become involved in some meetings to discuss e-learning.  Acronyms such as LMS/SCORM and the Cloud had been mentioned and after reading this article it all makes sense. 

    This will be extermely useful for future reference and understanding.

  • Thanks Andy this is really helpful - it can sometimes be hard to ask what feels obvious to others i.e. what does that stand for? Your article highlights that there can be more than one understanding of the same acronym or perhaps people haven't come across something before. Of course then there is the whole aspect of intonation which you demonstrated beautifully during the LDP workshop 4 using the sentence 'I didn't steal grandma's cake'! 

    A great article which has certainly developed my understanding of some of the acronyms used and I'll know where to come if I get stuck in the future!

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