One of the most overwhelming aspects of starting out in this crazy world of instructional design is understanding the secret code of strange terms and acronyms. While this is just a small taste of the vast libraries of terms instructional designers like to throw around, these are the ones you need to know in order to make it out alive.

10. Synchronous/Asynchronous Learning

Synchronous learning is a type of eLearning that requires both the teacher and the student to be online at the same time. Learning happens live. Asynchronous learning is obviously the very opposite. This is more of a self-paced learning approach, where the student can complete the course on their own time.

9. Learning Management System (LMS)

This acronymn stands for Learning Management System. This is most commonly used in the academic world and is the software used to create, host, and deliver multimedia elearning content to students. This can be anything from video lectures, to online quizzes and discussion boards. The most popular LMS are Canvas, Blackboard, and Desire2Learn. I will probably do an in-depth blog post about each of these at a later time.

8. eLearning Authoring Tool

Any software that allows for the creation of elearning content is considered to be an eLearning authoring tool. Some of the most popular ones are Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate. There is also an free and open-source authoring tool called Adapt, which I would highly recommend for those of us on a budget!.

7. Gamification

This involves taking video game elements such as badges, achievements, points and other reward systems and applying them to eLearning courses. This is one way to keep students engaged and motivated to continue on in the learning process.

6. Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Universal Design for Learning (UDL), is the practice of making your eLearning course accessible for everyone. Are captioned scripts for your video available for those that are deaf? Can your images be read using a screen reader for people with sight impairment? There are many instructional designers that specialize in UDL, but it’s something every Instructional Designer should keep in mind when developing a course.

5. Learning Path

A learning path involves the step-by-step process students need to take to go from the beginning to the end of a course. I would definitely recommend story boarding each transition of your project to make sure your course is presented in the clearest way possible.

4. Subject Matter Expert (SME)

Unfortunately, we can’t know everything. But fortunately, most employers will know you don’t know everything and will provide you with Subject Matter Experts, or SME. These people will be your go-to resource in understanding the overall goals and content of your course.

3. eLearning ROI

For those of you in business, you can probably already guess what this is. You can make the best course ever, but if student’s aren’t learning the material, what’s the point? That’s where the eLearning Return On Investment comes in. While designing your course, be thinking about how you can measure students’ success. Most likely whoever you work for will want to make sure that the money they’ve put into training and development has a profitable result.


Trust me, after researching Instructional design and elearing development for minutes, you will haunted by these acronyms. ADDIE and SAM are two of the main methods instructional designers use to create, develop, and evaluate your courses. This process is a cycle so that you can constantly improve their courses. You can check out a breakdown between these two methodologies here.

1. Personal Learning Network (PLN)

You know the phrase “it’s often who you know, not always what you know?” A PLN, or Personal Learning Network, is one of the greatest tools anyone future employee can have. This is your network of people, tools, and resources where you can gain bounce off new ideas, keep up on the latest trends, and even find potential job leads further down the line.

Bonus Terms:


Arguably one of the most important parts of the instructional design process, storyboarding involves planning and drawing out your course to make sure you’re presenting your learning objectives at the right times and in the right order. Think of your course like scenes in a movie.. what will make the most sense in terms of sequences and transitions? What multimedia content will you use and where? It’s better to go into your design with a plan, rather than just winging it.


SCORM is basically the technical standard that makes it so that the underlying code in your elearning content will play nice with various different elearning systems. It’s nothing you really need to worry about from an instructional designer standpoint, but it’s always good to understand how things work at the base level. You can read more about it on SCORMS’s website.

And with that, I would like to thank you all for reading! Were there any popular terms you’ve seen that I missed? Let me know in the comments down below!

I hope to see you next time!


Shout out to @JayChun_EdD on Twitter for recommending storyboarding and SCORM for this article.


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