8 eLearning Buzzwords You Need To Stop Using Right Now

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Like. Oh my gawd. What are you even saying right now? Like, no one even says that anymore. It’s totally grody.

If I spent the whole article writing like that, you’d lose your mind, wouldn’t you?

That is if you didn’t click away first.


Using stilted, outdated terminology is a quick way to date yourself and your writing and to alienate people who might otherwise have a lot to gain from what you have to say.

eLearning terms come and go, and in an ever-changing market, it’s important that you keep on top of what to say and what not to say. Otherwise you might end up sounding… well… clueless.


Like, totally

Here are some eLearning buzzwords we’ve all been seeing too much of. It’s time to let them go so we can all proceed into a brighter, less clichéd future.

1. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

This is one of those terms that doesn’t need to be its own thing. In our fully digitized world, employees (especially younger ones) expect everything to be accessible from everywhere. It’s not special for learning to be accessible on your own device anymore. You don’t need a term to describe something that feels mundane.

Worse than its mundanity, however, is that it feels inappropriate for an educational setting. Even if you’re working with a business and everyone is an adult (and we all know that people drink, it’s not exactly a secret) it still rings like a weird attribution. Like you’re conflating learning with a party. I don’t know about you, but it sounds pretty unprofessional to me.

2. Brain-based learning

The theory goes that brain-based learning is any learning that keeps on top of the most cutting edge psychological and neuroscience updates and will help you wring every little drop of goodness out of your learners’ brains to ensure they learn in the most effective and complete way scientifically possible.

That’s not exactly what happens, though.

At best, “brain-based” learning methods are interesting, but nothing new. You just have a neurological reason for already well-accepted behavioral information. It’s not going to change anything just because you now have a confirmation bias. And at worse brain-based learning creates a ton of false attributions where people jump to conclusions based on flimsy, still developing scientific discoveries.

This video explains the inherent issues very well. And I will add: In the 1950s we were pretty darn sure that electroshock therapy was the solution to all kinds of problems, in the Victorian era, docs were hardcore convinced that washing their hands had nothing to do with the health of their surgical patients, the ancient Greeks knew for a fact that things fell to the ground because they were made of earth and therefore wanted to return to their own element.

This was all cutting edge science of the day and it was all wrong. I’m not saying you’re using shock treatments on your eLearners, but you just don’t know what’s going to be discovered tomorrow. Better to wait until the experiments get replicated a few times before incorporating it into your lessons.

3. Learning styles

And speaking of debunked theories!

Learning styles aren’t a thing.

These days, pretty much every respected group of experts agree that people might have a mild preference, but it isn’t enough to change their ability to learn on a basic level.

So why on earth are people still using this? There are tons of people I’ve come across on eLearning blogs and online discussions who keep touting this as a serious element of their eLearning approach and all it does is make you look bad.

4. Tin Can API

In 1877 a dinosaur skeleton was discovered and dubbed apatosaurus. In 1879 another skeleton was found and dubbed brontosaurus. In 1903, further studies discovered that these were actually skeletons of the same creature.

Meaning the names were synonyms. And so (even though apatosaurus was the older name and was still used in technical writing) most people said “Ok fine” and started calling it the brontosaurus to make everyone’s life easier.

Yes I’m using this as an excuse to talk about dinosaurs.

What I’m trying to say is that Tin Can API and Experience API are the same thing. Tin Can was the work-in-progress name and Experience is the proper name of the finished product.

Sure some people referring to the prototypical version might still want to say Tin Can, and that’s fine. But Experience is much jazzier and it will confuse people so much less if everyone just settled on it.

I know, I know, I’m guilty of this, too. Let’s all agree to work on it together.

5. Game-based and Gamified

I love gamified learning. So why am I here whining about this term? Because for some reason people keep getting them mixed up. It’s understandable, since the terms sound so similar and refer to similar things. Like stalactites and stalagmites.


Stalactites hold tight to the ceiling, stalagmites are on the ground with the mites. There you go, you learned something.

I’m going to break this down into very simple terms.

Gamified means you took something not inherently a game and made it into a game.

Game-based means that the learning is built into a game. If you took away the game, you would have nothing usable left.

We have a great video that breaks it down all the better.

Pop quiz!

Question: If Sally is a sales rep and her company tracks sales by using merit badges and a leader board, is Sally’s workplace gamified or game-based?

Answer: Gamified. Sales isn’t inherently a game, but it now has elements (merit badges, the leader board) of a game.

So easy, seriously.

6. Millearnials

I’ve ranted about my distaste for the term millennials before. My issue isn’t that the term exists, it’s a lot more about how it’s used, not to mention way, way overused. It’s gotten to the point where I see it so much that I just kind of groan internally and keep scrolling.

But this?


Because a generation difference means that, somehow, people cannot learn in the same way? I’m all for keeping teaching fresh and updating methods to keep pace with technology (nobody wants to be watching public education’s 1950s nuclear defense videos in 2016… other than for the hilarity). But if each generation really learned that differently, the entire educational system would be totally non-functioning. It’s like the debunked idea of learning styles: if it mattered that much, wouldn’t it break the system?

By all means, keep up with the tech and trends. Just don’t act like it needs to be its own new category.

7. E-Learning and M-Learning

And now I shall nitpick. Again, the problem is not the words themselves, but the dashes. When was the last time you saw someone write E-mail rather than email?


It’s become its own word. eLearning is doing much better about this, but I’m still running into the dash on mLearning. Leave it out. Save yourself the milliseconds of hunting and pecking for the extra character.

8. T-Learning

While I’m on the subject though, I’d like to encourage that we hasten the death of this offender. T-Learning (which, if we were to encourage it, should really be tLearning: see above) means tablet learning.

I have a question for you. Can you carry your tablet with you? Is it faster to start up than your laptop, more comparable with, say, a smartphone?

Then I have shocking news for you. It’s a mobile device. I know, you don’t want it to be true. You want an intermediate between laptops and phones. But a tablet is mLearning. Just accept it.

mLearning rolls off the tongue so much better anyway.

What else?

C’mon. Don’t sit here and tell me you haven’t got one or two eLearning buzzwords that drive you up the wall. Feel free to rant with me in the comments below.

Used an LMS you like recently? How about one you hated more than buzzwords? Review it here so we all know how you really feel.

Looking for Learning Management System software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Learning Management System software solutions.

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About the Author


Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.



BYOD is a huge differentiator for I.T. It’s the only term worth using for describing a boundary not all organizations cross.

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