30 Training and Development Terms Every L&D Professional Needs to Know | Paradigm Learning

30 Training and Development Terms Every L&D Professional Needs to Know

Posted by Paradigm Learning on October 17, 2018

Every industry has its jargon and we wanted to help demystify ours a bit. We’ve put together a list of training terms, definitions, acronyms, and buzzwords from a variety of sources. We guarantee you’ll find value in these whether you’re new to the learning and development space or not. Even if you’ve been in the game a long time, we’re willing to bet there are some words or definitions you don’t know or could use a refresher on.


Discovery Learning:

a method of inquiry-based instruction, discovery learning is the concept that it is best for learners to discover facts and relationships for themselves (Source). Discovery learning is where learners learn; not where teachers teach.

Experiential Learning:

an umbrella term that covers learning that happens through action learning, on the job, and using simulations and serious games (Source). Participants learn through experience.

Learning Management System (LMS):

empowers professionals to deliver education courses or training programs (learning) and organize these courses (management) using this software (system) (Source). Primarily e-learning programs are housed within an LMS, however, there are ways to integrate in-person programs for tracking purposes (primarily through xAPI or tin can API).

Experience API (xAPI):

a relatively new specification for learning technology that makes it possible to collect data about the wide range of experiences a person has, both online and offline (Source).

Continuous Learning:

at the individual level, continuous learning is about expanding the ability to learn by regularly upgrading skills and increasing knowledge. Continuous learning in the workplace involves viewing all experiences as potential learning and re-examining assumptions, values, methods, policies, and practices (Source).


Succession Planning:

the strategy for passing on leadership roles to an employee or group of employees. Succession planning ensures that business continues to run smoothly after a company's most important people move on to new opportunities or retire (Source). Training is an integral part of succession planning because the employees being promoted into management may not already possess all the skills needed for those roles. Good succession planning means a decreased need to hire outside talent.

High Potential (HiPo):

employees who have been identified as having the potential, ability, and aspiration to hold leadership positions within the company (Source). Many organizations focus development efforts here to fill skill and knowledge gaps and prepare for succession.

Individual Contributor:

put simply, these are members of the organization that do not manage others. When our clients are focusing training on individual contributors, they have typically been identified as HiPo’s.

Front Line Leaders:

the first or second level managers (line managers, office managers, supervisors) directly responsible for the production of goods and services, and supervision of clerical staff and shop floor employees (Source). Developing this group is imperative because this is the talent pool for mid-level manager succession.

Leadership Development Program (LDP):

leadership development programs contain activities that improve the skills, abilities, and confidence of leaders (Source). Participants can be from almost any level of the organization, from individual contributor to VP. The length, delivery methods, and topics vary widely as well.

Professional Development:

individuals learning to earn or maintain professional credentials. This can include degrees and formal coursework, attendance at conferences, and participation in informal learning opportunities (Source). Continuing education credits are part of professional development.


Competency Model:

a framework for defining the skill and knowledge requirements of a job. Competency models are widely used for defining and assessing competencies within organizations in both hard and soft skills. They represent a key component of recruitment and hiring, as well as talent and performance management activities of HR departments (Source). Examples include business acumen, communication, leadership accountability, and teamwork.

Needs Assessment:

a training needs assessment identifies individuals' current level of competency, skill, or knowledge in one or more areas and compares that competency level to the required competency standard established for their positions or other positions within the organization (Source).

Skill Gap:

a gap between what employers want or need their employees to be able to do and what those employees can actually do when they walk into work (Source). A needs assessment would identify skill gaps.

Needs Analysis:

a training needs analysis process is a series of activities conducted to identify problems or other issues in the workplace and to determine whether training is an appropriate response (Source).

Return on Investment (ROI):

a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment. ROI measures the amount of return on an investment relative to the investment’s cost. To calculate ROI, the benefit (or return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment (Source). Measuring ROI is one of the biggest challenges training professionals face. Often, the best way to show a return on a training investment is anecdotal rather than numerical.


Learning Objectives:

statements that define the expected goal(s) of an activity (Source). These are typically told to the learners in advance of training or at the beginning of the session, so they know what to expect.

Learning Outcomes:

a written statement that reflects what the learner will be able to do as a result of participating in the activity (Source). Think of these as the evidence that the learning objectives were achieved.

Instructor-Led Training (ILT):

usually refers to traditional classroom training, in which an instructor teaches a course to a room of learners (Source).


a method that uses small moments of learning to drive job performance and employee development (Source). The idea behind microlearning is that it is easily incorporated into everyday on-the-job tasks. It can be used to convey simple or narrow topics.

Blended & Hybrid Learning:

the practice of using several training delivery mediums in one curriculum. It typically refers to the combination of classroom instruction and any type of training that includes the self-directed use of online resources (Source).

Soft Skills:

interpersonal skills that contribute to a person's relationships with other people. In the workplace, soft skills are considered a complement to hard skills, which refer to a person's knowledge and technical and occupational skills (Source). Don’t let the word “soft” devalue the importance of these skills. Examples include communication, listening, negotiation, etc.

Instructional Designer:

this person applies a systematic methodology (rooted in instructional theories and models) to design and develop content, experiences, and other solutions to support the acquisition of new knowledge or skills (Source). Our custom programs are created by a team of people, one of which is an instructional designer.

Subject Matter Expert (SME):

a person who has special skills or knowledge on a particular job or topic. Instructional designers often partner with SME’s so they can extract intelligence when developing learning programs. SME’s are also often called upon to serve as guest lecturers or instructors for training (Source). We always tap into the SME knowledge base when developing custom content. Sometimes, these professionals are certified to deliver our training programs.


the process of adding games or gamelike elements to something so as to encourage participation (Source). Examples of gaming elements would be point scoring and competition. The term gamification indicates that content existed and then was injected with gaming elements to augment the experience.

Business Simulation:

an activity or game that is designed to replicate the key actions and levers of playing a role within an organization. These simulations are often designed to focus on the challenges associated with the decision-making process. The ability to condense long periods of time into a few hours of activities provides a unique perspective into the long-term effects of business decisions.

Asynchronous Learning:

when learners participate in an online learning course at different times. Asynchronous learning allows learners to go through a course at their own pace and on their own schedule (Source). E-learning is often asynchronous.

Synchronous Learning:

when learners participate in a learning course at the same time but in different locations. Synchronous learning allows learners to interact with the instructor and other participants. This is done through software that creates a virtual classroom (Source).

Virtual Classroom:

a learning environment where participants can interact, communicate, view and discuss presentations, and engage with learning resources while working in groups, all in an online setting. The medium is often through a video conferencing application that allows multiple users to be connected at the same time through the Internet, which allows users from virtually anywhere to participate (Source). See also synchronous training, which is conducted virtually.

Lunch and Learn:

a 30-45 minute training or presentation session facilitated by an organization to employees during a lunch hour (Source). The idea is to provide lunch in exchange for using “free time” productively. Lunch and learns are best for vendor product demonstrations and discussions, rather than in-depth training.

See how we apply many of these terms in our unique training methodology by visiting our events page - HERE

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