Distance Learning Jargon Buster


Artificial intelligence is the ability of computers to mimic cognitive functions such as learning and problem-solving.


App is short for application.  Apps can be used on both computers and smart devices and can be used to deliver online learning solutions.


Augmented Reality is a technology used by pointing a smart device at a real-world object or scene.  The smart device with then label the real world objects.  This can be used for language learning, labelling everyday objects with their translation or can be used in astronomy to label the night sky. 


An Avatar is a computer generated graphical representation of a computer user.  Originally 2d objects to identify a user, they are increasingly 3d and interactive.  Recent examples can be found in the medicine where avatars are being used to asses doctors with avatars reacting to questions as a patient would in order to see if the doctor comes up with the correct diagnosis

Blended Learning

Blended learning is a teaching method using a combination of both online learning and traditional classroom methods such as face to face tuition.


A chatbot is a computer program that is able to converse with humans. Often used in customer service, they are increasingly becoming used in online learning most notably for language learning, allowing students to converse without the requirement of a native speaker.


Elearning relates to any course of study that is delivered purely by digital methods.  This can audio, video, text-based materials as well as interactive contact such as quizzes and gamification (See below)  

Flipped classroom

A flipped classroom is a type of blended learning where online content is delivered to the student for consumption before a classroom session which is then aimed at providing discussion and exercise to put the knowledge to use.


Gamification is the use of game design elements or game principles into a non-gaming platform.  In the case of distance learning, it can be as simple as completing all the lessons in a module to reach 100% on a progress bar or as complex as an app, developed to incorporate mini games where the learner will complete the game using knowledge or understanding of the subject.

Hybrid Learning 

See blended learning


LMS stands for “Learning Management System” and is the software used to create and deliver learning courses. Examples include Moodle and Adobe Captivate


Microlearning is the delivery and consumption of learning materials in very small bursts.

Microlearning is growing rapidly due to the smartphone, as people can take short lessons on a bus journey or during a coffee break at work.


MOOC stands for “Massive Open Online Course”. It is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the internet.

It usually comprises filmed lectures, readings and forums for the students to support community between students and teachers.


Pedagogy the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept.

Social Learning

Social learning aims to bring distance learning students together and reduce the amount of time working solo.  It promotes tasks that involve teamwork and collaboration.


VR stands for Virtual Reality.  Users wear a headset which projects a realistic images and sounds that simulates a user’s physical presence in a virtual environment.

This is being increasing used in distance learning to allow learners to participate in scenarios that would otherwise not be possible.

360 Degree video

360 video is the precursor to a full virtual reality experience.  If a lecture was filmed live in 360 degree video, a student could put on a headset and experience the lecture as if they were there.  They could see the lecturer but also turn their head to see the reactions of other students present.  Unlike VR they could not interact in any way.

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