The learning and development terminology buster

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As with any industry, learning and development also has its own set of terminology, buzzwords and jargon. If you’re new to learning and development, you might not be clear on what some of these terms mean.

Well I’m here to give you the clarity you need on the words you hear and have no idea what they mean.

Let’s dive straight into the list of learning and development terminology…

Shortcut to the learning and development terminology you want to know below:

Action learning sets

Action learning sets are where you get a group of peers together to discuss a topic, one person will share their problem or challenge and the others will take it in turns to ask questions to help the individual. The sets will meet regularly, and all take the time to share learning.

Appraisal/performance review/performance development review (PDR)

This is the annual performance review process. It’s a meeting between an employee and their line manager to review the previous year’s performance and plan for coming year.

Asynchronous learning

Asynchronous learning refers to learning where the learner learns at their own pace and in their own time. It’s usually used within online learning, where learners can consume the content at a pace that works for them. You’ll also often hear it referred to as self-directed learning.

Blended learning

Blended learning describes an approach to designing learning. When you blend learning you use a mix of learning techniques. Such as job aids, e-learning, m-learning and face to face options.


Buddying is usually what happens if someone is new to an organisation. They’re assigned a ‘buddy’ who can help them settle in and learn the basic organisational processes and procedures.

Change management

Change management defines all approaches to prepare, support and help people, teams or the organisation to make changes. This could be small scale process improvement or organisation-wide restructures. Change management has close links to organisational development.


Coaching is a tool to improve someone’s performance on a 1:1 basis. Its mostly based around questioning and listening skills. 


A competency is a specific behaviour/characteristic that an organisation looks for or defines as necessary for organisational success. See also competency framework.

Competency framework/Behavioural framework

A competency framework is a series of skills/behaviours/competencies (words can be used sometimes interchangeably) that are outlined in a document and shared with employees, either in a specific job role or organisation-wide. Employees are then expected to commit to the competencies/behaviours included. It can also sometimes be referred to as a behavioural framework.


Delegate is another word for learner, attendee or participant. Everyone has their preferred word, but they all mean the same thing. The person who is completing learning.

Delegate list

A delegate list is another term for an attendance list. Attendance lists monitor and track attendance through signature at a learning event. The data is then uploaded into a Learning Management System or database to go onto their learning records.

Development plan

A development plan is simply a plan of development (both experiential and taught learning) that an individual needs to complete to achieve a certain goal. For example, I had a development plan when I was a trainee learning and development advisor, I had to achieve what was in my plan to no longer be a trainee.

Drip Feed Content

Drip feeding content is to slowly release content to individuals over a set period, typically this means they cannot access and consume all the content in one go it will be delivered to them incrementally.


Edtech simply stands for educational technology. It can encompass any of the online learning tools mentioned within this article.


E-learning is learning delivered electronically and away from the typical face to face classroom environment.

Experiential learning

Experiential learning takes place via experience, either real or simulated. Examples are simulation exercise, virtual reality, being observed and receiving feedback or actually learning on the job.


Gamification is a way to ‘gamify’ learning to increase engagement. It could be as simple as adding in games as learning exercises or as complex as having a fully immersive learning experience platform that provides ‘badges’ upon completion of tasks.

Happy sheet

A happy sheet is the term used for the quick evaluation questionnaire given to learners at the end of a training course to ask them how it went.

Instructional Design

Instructional design (ID) refers to the process of systematically designing, developing and delivering instructional learning experiences. This could be e-learning, job aids, checklists, courses etc. Instructional design can be its own career pathway within learning and development. Typically ID’s don’t deliver learning, their focus is on creating the content.

Job aids

Job aids are documents that aid the learning process. Types of job aids include checklists, standard operating procedures, guidance notes, frequently asked questions etc.


KPI stands for key performance indicators. KPI’s are any important measures you need to track within your organisation. I.e. sales, efficiency, turnover, customer service scores etc.

Learning evaluation

Learning evaluation is a process to evaluate post-learning intervention to measure impact. Measures include; improved performance, efficiency or reduced errors as a result of the learning. Want to learn more about learning evaluation? Check out my course Evaluate learning like a PRO

Learning needs analysis /Training needs analysis

A learning needs analysis is a data gathering exercise that takes place at the beginning of every learning cycle. It’s used to ensure effective learning provision and skills across the organisation. To keep the business agile and responsive to future changes. It’s a conversation with every identified key stakeholder in your organisation to assess historical learning data, to review any skills gaps and to discuss future learning requirements. They are sometimes referred to as a training needs analysis (TNA) too. To learn more, read my ultimate guide to learning needs analysis.

Learning records

Learning records are simply just a record of all the learning an individual has had whilst working within an organisation.


LMS stands for learning management system. A learning management system at its most basic level is used to:

  • book learning events
  • host learning (such as e-learning, webinars and job aids)
  • record details of learning that has taken place.
  • Some fancier learning management systems incorporate competency management and skills-gap analysis too, if you don’t know what these terms mean keep reading!


LXP is a fairly new learning term and it stands for learning experience platform. A learning experience platform focusses on putting the learning experience first. Think of it like those suggested YouTube videos that know what you like to watch. In LXP terms this might include targeted learning to their needs or offering intelligent learning recommendations.

Mandatory learning

Mandatory learning describes any learning that the organisation deems ‘essential’ for every employee/a group of employees to complete.


Mentoring is very similar to coaching. Except a mentor usually has experience in the area the individual wants to develop and can offer advice and guidance on how to get there.


Metrics are a quantitative measure to track performance. Learning metrics typically include time to competence, attendance at learning etc.  Get more learning metrics examples in training measures – outputs vs outcomes


A spin off from e-learning is m-learning, the M standing for mobile. Mobile learning is learning that can take place in your mobile. With the growth of smart phones and apps M-learning will continue to be a growth area but in workplace learning remains a mostly untapped area.


Onboarding is a process to onboard/induct a new employee once they join the organisation. Onboarding gives someone the essential information they need to get started. i.e. learning, processes, policies, strategy etc. Pre-boarding is any activity sent to the new starter before they join.

Organisational development

Organisational development is a term used within Human Resources to typically look into wider HR change-type projects. These could be wider transformational projects such as employee engagement, embedding the values of an organisation or reviewing organisational culture. Usually these tasks require a mix of both organisational redesign (i.e. restructures, redesigning the workforce etc.) and development in order to be achieved.

Performance management

Performance management is a term used to describe managing an employees performance at work, both positive and developmental. Often the phrase has negative connotations only but an annual appraisal is also performance management.

Personality profiling

Personality profiling has similarities to psychometric testing; however these tests only assess personality preference i.e. how an individual prefers to work based on their personality. Not their ability. They should not be used in recruitment for this very reason. Some if the personality tests you may have heard of include Insights Discovery, DISC, Clarity 4D, MBTI and Belbin to mention a few.


Psychometrics identify an individual’s skills, knowledge or personality preference. They’re often used in recruitment to identify who may be best placed for the job. When used in recruitment the hiring manager will ask questions in the interview about the profile to calibrate the results and assess if the candidate is a good fit. Typical psychometric tests you’ll see used in recruitment are; situational judgement tests, numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, error checking etc. Each test assesses the individual for different skills.


SCORM stands for ‘Sharable Content Object Reference Model’ but don’t worry you don’t need to know that. I just Googled it to add it into this blog post! Everyone refers to it as SCORM. It’s what makes e-learning content interactive and its how you save the content to upload into your learning management system so it can track completion and interaction.

Self-directed learning

Self-directed learning is also the same as asynchronous learning, it’s learning that takes place at your own pace without a instructor/facilitator present.

Skills-gap analysis

A skills-gap analysis identify the skills gaps of either an individual or team. It will typically include a skills audit to identify gaps and then will be followed up with a development plan to address any skills-gaps that exist.

Succession planning

Succession planning basically means identifying successors for roles i.e. someone who could step into their role should the current person leave. Through the succession planning process, they will identify individuals who could be successors and support their development so they are ready should a role become available.

Synchronous learning

Synchronous learning refers to learning where the learner and instructor are together at the same time. This can include face to face learning, webinars, webcasts, virtual instructor led training, and presentations.

Talent development

Talent development is another term for learning and development. Teams can sometimes have interchangeable names between people development, learning and development, talent and development, training and development etc. Some larger organisations have roles specific to talent development too, that will typically be focussed on early careers, i.e. apprentices, graduate roles or succession planning. 

Tin Can/xAPI/ Experience API

Like SCORM, Tin Can is another form of e-learning file. This file is how you save the e-learning content to upload it into your learning management system so it can track completion and interaction.

Training matrix

A training matrix is a spreadsheet/database/report that shows either the skills, competencies or completed essential training. The purpose of it is to track the skills, assess skills-gaps and also keep an eye on any refresher training that may be required.

VILT/virtual learning

VILT is Virtual Instructor led training. It’s another term for online learning. It could easily also be descried as a webinar.


A webinar or webcast is the term used for online, instructor led learning. These could be interactive or just presentation style where you watch the presenter talk through a topic.


Phew! You made it through the list of learning and development terminology. How was that for you? Hopefully it’s cleared up a lot of your learning and development terminology confusion. If there are terms you’ve heard that aren’t featured on the list I’d love to hear from you.  So I can continue to grow this article and keep it up to date what what’s new.

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