HR professionals are understandably bamboozled by everyday technical talk. Sue
Weekes takes the headaches away with a guide to some key terms
A programming technology which was developed by Microsoft that can be used
with a variety of programming languages and in an Internet programming
digital subscriber line (ADSL)
A high-speed, broadband data transfer system that runs across existing
copper telephone wires and which provides an “always on” connection to the
Internet. It operates at just over 500Kbps, around 10 times faster than an
A method of learning which takes place over elapsed rather than in real
time. Typically, a learner can go online at a time that is convenient to them
to download course material and complete it in their own time via discussion
with a tutor or a group across e-mail, voicemail and threaded discussions. It
is the most flexible method of learning because it allows learners to participate
when it is convenient for them.
The amount of data that can be transmitted over a connection in a fixed
amount of time. Bandwidth is usually expressed in bits per second (bps) or
bytes per second. The higher the bandwidth, the faster the operation which you
are carrying out across the connection will be.
If you have a low bandwidth connection (for example a 28kbps modem), you
may experience restrictions in the type of files you use – high-quality
graphics and multi-media files, for instance, will be slow to transmit or
A blend of online learning, virtual classroom learning and live,
traditional classroom training, which can be used in any combination to support
The method of storing and marking progress within a program and saving and
organising selected URLs or web addresses in Netscape Navigator. The Internet
Explorer equivalent is called Favourites.
The piece of software used to locate and display web pages. Most modern web
browsers can display graphics as well as text and multimedia information, such
as sound and video. The two most popular browsers are Internet Explorer and
The place where information is stored temporarily. Once a page is
downloaded from the Web, it is stored in the browser’s cache (caching). When
you next want to look at that page, the browser first looks to the cache area
to retrieve it, which is quicker than looking for the page on the Internet or
an intranet. The number of pages that can be stored in the cache area is set by
A method of training that is typically run directly on a PC (not through a
web browser) and accessed via CD-Rom or over a network. As CBTs take the human
interactivity entirely out of the learning process (unlike most WBT systems),
their success tends to be in very specific training areas.
A method of e-learning that is facilitated by an online tutor or
chatroom/discussion group (in real time or otherwise). The learner can benefit
from other users’ experience and questioning, while he or she continues to
learn at his or her own pace online. It allows interaction and discussion of
ideas between an expert and/or other “class” members.
These are used to assemble the structure of e-learning course content.
Typically, these tools are used with Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS)
to assemble diverse learning objects into a topic, module, course or syllabus.
management systems (CMS)
A system for the delivery and administration of online learning material
and the tracking of the online learner’s progress. A CMS can be a subset of
functionality within a Learning Management System. Broadly, there are two
categories: web content management (WCMS) and e-learning content management
systems (LCMS). WCMS products typically manage content that drives a website,
whereas LCMS typically have rich learning functionality, such as Learning
Object architecture and personalised learning paths.
relationship management (CRM)
A form of marketing that allows businesses to target and acquire new
customers. By using CRM, each customer is treated as an individual and allows
the tailoring of sales and marketing information to specific products and
services of interest. Organisations are therefore looking for ways to
personalise online experiences through CRM tools such as sales force
automation, help desk software, e-mail organisers and web applications.
A network connection that is established by dialling a telephone number.
Communication between computers using a dial-up connection takes place via a
These allow visitors to read and post messages on a website, making it more
interactive and inviting users to come back again. They can be useful in
e-learning for sharing knowledge on a common theme. They are also known as
Where part or all of the HR function in a company is carried out using some
form of technology. e-HR can range from a set of simple automated systems for
areas such as payroll and benefits to a full-blown electronic HR system where
all functions rely on technology in some way.
resource planning (ERP)
The coordination of a company’s different departments and their functions,
including finance, HR, planning and manufacturing, on to one computer system to
serve the needs of the entire organisation. As the ERP methodology has become
more popular, software app- lications have emerged to help business managers
A restricted network of computers, for example within a company or group of
companies over several sites. An extranet can be used to train internal
employees using e-learning in different geographic locations. Customers,
suppliers and dealers can also be given access to the learning extranet,
allowing the whole supply chain to be better educated. For instance, motor
company Ford has used an extensive extranet to train its dealerships).
A firewall is a set of programs that examines information being passed in
and out of a computer network to determine whether it complies with company
policy. If it doesn’t comply, the firewall will block its entry on to the
(file transfer protocol)
The high-level Internet standard protocol for transferring files from one
computer to another across the network.
user interface (GUI)
The “interface” between the computer and the user is what is displayed on
screen when the computer is switched on. A graphical user interface uses icons
and graphics to display a desktop that mimics the real world. It was pioneered
by Apple with the Macintosh computer. Microsoft Windows 3.1, Microsoft Windows
95 and onwards, Microsoft Windows NT all have graphical user interfaces.
Generic term to describe software that supports a collaborative working or
learning environment. It enables multiple users to share information and
knowledge through communication and workflow tools. In an e-learning context,
groupware can relate to collaborative tools such as discussion boards and
(hypertext mark-up language)
The coding language used to create hypertext documents for use on the World
Wide Web. HTML is marked up using tags surrounded by pointed brackets. The tags
describe exactly how the HTML page should be formatted and displayed. Nearly
everything you see on the Web will have at some time been formatted using HTML.
(hypertext transfer protocol)
The protocol for moving hypertext files across the Internet. It requires a
HTTP client program on one end and on the other end an HTTP server program. The
most important protocol used in the World Wide Web (WWW) is HTTP.
A hybrid approach to content includes splitting up material between
high-bandwidth and low-bandwidth content. For example, the text and graphics
might live on the server, but when playing a video, the web page looks for
content on the local computer (possibly CD-Rom) rather than streaming it or
management systems (IMS)
An e-learning project originally set up in 1997. Today the IMS consortium
is working towards a number of standards in areas such as learning resources
and learning systems. For a full rundown of its aims, go to www.imsproject.org
A worldwide connection of computers. By connecting your computer to the Web
of other computers, you can access millions of sources of information
(integrated services digital network)
A high-speed digital telephone service that increases the speed at which
you connect to the Internet. ISDN transfers data at 128 kilobits per second,
much faster than an early analogue modem, but slower than the more recent ADSL.
computer driving licence (ICDL)
A qualification demonstrating transferable computer skills, overseen by the
British Computer Society. It is recognised by employers across the world.
The most appropriate mix of a broad range of media – text, audio, animation
and video – used together to produce effective e-learning products and services.
The most widely used web browser, developed and supplied by Microsoft.
A private network, consisting of interlinked local area networks, contained
within a company. Its purpose is to share company information and resources
among employees. They provide an excellent medium for the delivery of
e-learning content, enhancing the aspect of just-enough and just-in-time
training which can be distributed to all employees.
A programming language designed by Sun Microsystems for the Internet. Java
is a relatively simple language to use and can be utilised to create complete
online applications or little applets for use within web pages.
A programming language used in the development of Internet applications.
easier to learn. It is used in website development to perform such tasks as
automatically changing a date on a web page; enabling a “linked-to” page to
appear in a pop-up window or causing text or graphic to change as you roll your
mouse over it.
The business of promoting, capturing and sharing expertise in an
organisation. It rests on the principle that in the Information Age a company’s
capital assets are the skills and knowhow of its employees rather than
buildings, plant and machinery.
delivery environment (LDE)
The environment in which the learning takes place and which integrates the
components such as content, collaboration, tutoring and assessment. Although
vital to the e-learning process, the environment should be transparent to the
user, who should seamlessly move from one activity to another.
management system (LMS)
A software platform that administers and tracks both online and
classroom-based learning events, as well as other training processes. The LMS
registers users, tracks courses and records data from learners; it also
provides appropriate reports to management. The database capabilities of the
LMS extend to additional functions, such as company management, online
assessments, personalisation and other resources. Learning management systems
are also sometimes referred to as training management systems.
At their simplest level, Learning Objects are reusable building blocks of
learning. The concept of learning objects is not to think of training material
in terms of monolithic courses, but rather as being constructed of a set of
smaller components or chunks of learning. Monolithic courses assume everyone
has the exact same needs in a course and learning objects recognises that it is
important to be able to tailor each course (perhaps even automatically), based
on individual needs.
A collection of learning services and related products within one portal
A discussion group which uses e-mail to communicate. When a mailing list
receives an e-mail from a member of the group, it is automatically sent to the
A megabyte is a unit of measurement for electronic data storage. One
megabyte (MB) is the same as 1024 kilobytes (KB), 1,048,576 bytes, or 8,388,608
bits. A byte is storage capable of holding a single character. A floppy disk
that can hold 1.44 megabytes, for example, is capable of storing about 1.4
million characters, or about 3,000 pages of information. Megabyte is frequently
abbreviated as M or MB. In e-learning terms, megabytes are important with
regards to how fast files and programmes can be downloaded to your computer. If
the files are too big or your computer has a small memory or processor, the
e-learning programme or course can take a long time to download and appear on
The second most widely used web browser after Internet Explorer.
A group of two or more computer systems linked together. There are many
types of computer networks but the main two are Local Area Networks (Lans) and
Wide Area Networks (Wans). Lans are where the computers are geographically
close together (that is, in the same building) and Wans are where the computers
are further apart and are connected by telephone lines or radio waves.
(transactions or messages of any kind) crossing a network is referred to as
news transfer protocol (NNTP)
The protocol for the distribution, inquiry, retrieval, and posting of news
articles that are stored in a centralised database.
An online club which shares a common interest and which posts and reads
messages on the subject. There are tens of thousands of newsgroups available on
the Internet on every subject imaginable and they are a good way to share and
obtain ideas on a particular subject.
Online people development services are a critical starting point for e-learning.
They improve a company’s accomplishment by optimising the efficiency and
performance of its people, therefore assisting in the growth of the
organisation. Employees can access a wide library of resources to improve their
skills, and online appraisal information. The focus is on the structured
development of knowledge, attitudes and motivation, building on incentives in
the working environment.
A piece of software required in order to run some files, such as Real
Player to listen to music, QuickTime to watch videos and Flash to view
animations. Often the plug-in will be attached to the files and will install
automatically when it is required or else take you to a website where you can
Protocols are sets of rules used by the end points in a telecommunication
connection when they send data back and forth. For a successful transmission,
the rules or protocols have to be met at both ends. In online communications,
common protocols are: FTP, HTTP, NNTP and TCP/IP.
A proxy server mediates an organisation’s external access to the Internet.
In this configuration, the only live access to the Internet is between the
proxy server and the outside world. For example, if a user is configured to
work through a proxy server, when they access a web page the request first goes
to the proxy server instead of directly to the site. The proxy server then
makes the request, returns the page to the proxy server, and then to the user.
A technology that allows users to remotely access information on the
company network or intranet. A person can connect from anywhere in the world,
receive security validation and then access company information such as
training courses or HR-related material.
A powerful computer dedicated to storing and sharing information for a
number of PCs, typically on a network. A server can be the heart of a Lan
(Local Area Network) or at the centre of part of the Internet.
A servlet is a small application, designed to run on a server – typically a
web server such as Microsoft Internet Information server. A common application
of a servlet would be to retrieve information from a database, based on user
input. Servlets can be written in Java to improve performance.
Enables a user to play audio or video materials online in a steady stream,
without waiting for all the data to be downloaded first. Streaming is fast and
effective because the degree of file compression is adapted to the available
bandwidth. Online courses using streaming media will require a special media
player or plug-in.
Learning which occurs online in real time, as opposed to asynchronous which
occurs over an elapsed period. A typical example would be a live online
interaction and learning between presenter and attendee, which takes place in a
virtual classroom. The benefits are that students get instant feedback and
A low-cost computer with no CD-Rom/DVD players, floppy disk drives or
expansion slots. Such computers, sitting on a network, tend to be clients and
not servers. They are called thin because they are stripped down in terms of
the client applications that they use. The increase in use of thin clients in
the workplace and educational establishments demonstrates the need for cheaper
computers that are dedicated to Internet usage. Thin clients are not
necessarily for Internet usage, though, and can be a low-cost machine that sits
on a network.
A method of training delivered through customised, interactive training
programmes, designed and delivered using multimedia. Training programmes can
incorporate a variety of media-rich features, such as audio, video, 2D/3D
graphics, animation and photographic stills.
This is the basic language or protocol of the Internet which allows
equipment from different vendors to communicate. IP (Internet protocol)
represents the scheme by which two devices communicate and TCP (transmission
control protocol) manages the flow of IP, thus ensuring that the IP packets
remain error-free and that they can reach their destination correctly.
resource locator (URL)
The name given to a web page’s unique Internet address.
A set of synchronous tools dedicated to live online presentation and
training and typically including voice conferencing, video conferencing and
A system which delivers learning content across intranets, extranets and
the Internet. They typically fall into two categories: learning management
systems, that focus on the administrative tasks of learning, and e-learning
content management systems (LCMS), that concentrate on leveraging the power of
web technology to speed up, personalise and enhance the learning process.
Effectively a broadcast, which is carried out from a website. Webcasts can
form one of the components of an e-learning programme.
A web server is a program that delivers web pages. Every web server has an
IP address and usually a domain name. When entering the URL
http://www.netg.com/index.html in your browser, for instance, a request is sent
to the server whose domain name is netg.com. The server then fetches the page
named index.html and sends it to your browser. The most popular web servers are
Microsoft’s Internet Information Server, Netscape FastTrack, Enterprise
servers, and Apache.
Wide Web (WWW)
The graphical user interface developed by Tim Berners-Lee to view
information on the Internet.
(extensible markup language)
XML is an infinitely customisable programming language. It is a variety of
metalanguages, used to describe other programming languages. XML allows users
to define their own values for commands to create a limitless number of
different document types.