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Posted by on Jun 9, 2015 in All Disciplines, General | 3 comments

Unpacking the Terminology used in Learning within an Internet Environment

Unpacking the Terminology used in Learning within an Internet Environment


After reading a couple of texts online, I became a bit confused with some of the jargon being used. In some texts I would find that the words e-learning, computer assisted learning, mobile learning and many others are being used instead of online learning. I sought to demystify this jargon by trying to distinguish the differences (if any) between the various terms. Below is a list of defined terms commonly used when referring to learning on the internet on learning using computer devices:

Educational Technology: Is the use of any technological resources and processes in teaching and learning that is aimed at enhancing and developing student learning.

Computer Assisted Learning (CAL): This is a process or method aimed at enhancing student learning through the use of computer software packages. CAL systems are developed in such a way that they do not rely on an internet connection, thus allowing them to perform complex functions without the drawbacks that arise from poor internet connections.

Distance Learning:  Is a learning process or system in which the learning facilitator is situated in a significantly distant geographical area than that of the learners. The geographical distance is enabled through the aid print and/or electronic learning processes and resources

E-learning: stands for electronic learning. In essence it is a type of learning in which electronic devices are used to deliver learning resources or content.

Online Learning: Is the learning process that occurs within an internet or networked environment.

Mobile learning: Is an enhanced learning process that uses mobile electronic devices (usually handheld) which allow access to and delivery of learning resources whilst the learner travels through different geographical locations.

Learning Management System (LMS): Is a controlled network based platform that enables individuals or organizations to manage, design and monitor student teaching and learning activities.

I partially touched on these few terms since some of these are often used synonymously. It is vital that I highlight that the terms above have been defined in various ways by authors and institutions.  I left some of the definitions above purposefully vague, so that the consumer can add more breadth to them depending on their target audience. I would be glad to hear how others can refine or define the terms above. Furthermore, there are a lot more terms that are also used in addition to the above terms of which would add value to the understanding of online learning. Please share any that you might have in mind.



  1. Interesting read. I would like to applaud everyone that was involved in making me the LD I am today. Their collective great effort did not go to waste, I make use of the above-mentioned terms daily and to my surprise I am able to explain each one of them and use them appropriately.

    Just to start an interesting debate in future, a colleague of ours informed me that one writer/ researcher involved in this field has mentioned dropped the (e-) to give e-learning a different implication. I will research on this and get back to you for a further discussion.

  2. I am glad you are happy in your job, because many are in jobs just for the money. With reference to dropping the “e”, I think this would lead to a lot of confusion (jargonwise) and I suggest we keep the current spelling “e-learning”. I think we can drop it in an abstract way in order to ensure that “learning” remains the main focus.

  3. I walk in your shoes. I think we covered it adequately in the brief discussion we had. Just to remind you, we agreed that since there are so many different types of learning the (e-) should remain. I wish someone challenges us just to see how far we can get with this.

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