Published On: May 11, 2015By
LMS Acronyms - A glossary of key elearning terms by independent learning tech analyst John Leh of Talented Learning

I am an independent learning technology selection consultant and I help my clients select the right learning management system (LMS) for them based on their business needs.  In a recent article about conducting better LMS demonstrations, I advised learning tech vendors to drop LMS acronyms and jargon from their vocabulary when speaking with potential clients.  If LMS buyers can’t understand you, it’s tough to win.

I was far from amazed that my advice went unheeded while sitting through 10 LMS client presentations over the last couple of weeks. During this 25-hour demo decathlon, I observed that not only were vendors still copiously using LMS acronyms but also generously pairing them with broader technology acronyms that have specific definitions when used in conjunction with LMS speak.

I concluded that it will take too long to teach 700+ LMS vendors the new anti-acronym trick and the easiest path would be to create a living, one-sentence, non-techie dictionary of LMS acronyms for learning systems buyers.

It was a much bigger task than I anticipated.  I visited the top LMS vendor websites and without trying identified 110 acronyms.  I had to call it quits for now unless I was willing to change my last name to Webster, forego all paying jobs and quite possibly never publish this post.

If you are buying an LMS, be prepared to hear some or all of the following terms.  How many do you know?


  • AD (Active Directory) Microsoft technology that maintains a listing of all employees, usernames and passwords to be shared by multiple software systems including LMS.
  • AI (Artificial Intelligence) Using smartphone or tablet photo or video recognition to drive performance support, help or social networking content contained in the LMS.
  • BPA (Blanket Purchase Agreement) Simplified acquisition method that government agencies use to fill anticipated repetitive needs for supplies or services that resemble “charge accounts.”
  • AICC (Aviation Industry Computer Based Training Committee) A standard that allows eLearning content located anywhere to launch and track from your LMS.
  • AMS (Association Management System) Software associations use to manage members, membership status and all member activity.
  • API (Application Program Interface) A set of protocols or code that techies use to tie an LMS with other systems such as ecommerce, CRM, HRIS or ERP to share data.
  • App (Application) Downloadable program on mobile devices that will offer certain LMS features like taking a course offline and finding just-in-time performance support.
  • AVI (Audio Video Interleave) Microsoft’s antiquated video format that should be avoided because it does not work on all browsers, operating systems and mobile devices.
  • B2B (Business to Business) LMS ecommerce capability that facilitates the sale of eLearning content to organizations and their employees.
  • B2C (Business to Consumer) LMS ecommerce capability that facilitates the sale of eLearning content or continuing education to individuals.
  • C&A (Certification and Accreditation) US mandate that federal software systems including LMS follow a measurable procedure of evaluation, documentation and testing before going live.
  • CAC (Common Access Card) Smart ID card for US federal employees that can be used to access buildings, computers and the LMS.
  • CBT (Computer Based Training) The old term for self-paced eLearning.
  • CE (Continuing Education) Any post formal school education also called adult education.
  • CEU (Continuing Education Unit) Credit awarded to professionals for successfully completing continuing education courses.
  • CDN (Content Distribution Network) A technical solution that allows high-bandwidth content to be served up from the closest global location to the LMS user.
  • CFR, CFR Part 11, 21 CFR Part 11   (Law Title) US Federal Drug Administration regulations on electronic documents, signatures, audit trails and password rules for pharmaceutical and biomedical industry LMS (or any software) solutions.
  • CME (Continuing Medical Education) Unit of continuing education required and earned by professionals in the medical field.
  • CMI-5 (Computer Managed Instruction) The future replacement of the SCORM and AICC communication standard for content to track progress and completion data in an LMS.
  • CLE (Continuing Legal Education) Annual professional education for attorneys after they become attorneys.
  • CMS (Content Management System) Online software that allows to create, publish and edit content and can be integrated with an LMS to share content or user data.
  • CNE (Continuing Nursing Education) Continuing education required and consumed by medical nursing professionals.
  • CPD (Continuing Professional Development) Synonym for Continuing Education (CE) where professionals in many fields are required to take courses on a regular basis to maintain a license.
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Software to manage an organizations prospects and customers like that can share data with an LMS to trigger workflow.
  • DRM (Digital Rights Management) The ability to protect your documents from downloading, screenshots or other sharing that violates copyrights.
  • DSA (Digital Signature Algorithm) US federal standard on using and processing digital signatures.
  • EE (Extended Enterprise) LMS that is targeted to non-employees of partners, customers, members and the public and is focused on making money vs. saving money like employee LMSs.
  • EHRI (Enterprise Human Resources Integration) US federal government’s human resource system that is integrated with any federally deployed LMS.
  • ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) Software systems that run companies including HR, Finance, Operations and more.
  • FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program) US government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services.
  • FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) US legislation to protect government information in software systems including LMS.
  • H.264 (Moving Pictures Expert Group Layer 10) The best, most modern, audio compression format that works perfectly cross-browser and platform and successor to MP3.
  • HCM (Human Capital Management) An antiquated term for talent management.
  • HR (Human Resources) The department that typically buys an LMS for employee use.
  • HRIS (Human Resource Information System) A software system that manages all the human resource functions like hiring, payroll, time and attendance in an organization.
  • HTML5 (Hypertext Markup Language v5) A web programming language that works on any device or operating system.
  • HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) Normal unsecured beginning of a web address to your LMS.
  • HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol –Secure) The beginning of your web address that shows it is secure for ecommerce purchase.
  • iCal (Apple iPhone Calendar) Developed by Apple but used universally, it is an attachment sent with LMS email notifications that allow a live or virtual event to be booked on your calendar.
  • IP (Intellectual Property) An organization’s proprietary learning content.
  • IP (Internet Protocol) In LMS this typically refers to the ability to restrict certain internet addresses from accessing or not accessing the LMS.
  • ILT (Instructor Led Training) Schedule, register and track traditional teacher-led course content live or virtual live.
  • iOS (iPhone Operating System) Mobile operating system created and developed by Apple.
  • L&D (Learning & Development) Department in an organization that commonly owns the employee LMS.
  • LCMS (Learning Content Management System) Software that allows multiple geographically diverse eLearning content authors, subject matter experts, instructional designers, project managers to create eLearning content collaboratively.
  • LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) A single sign on technology that allows organizations to have users log into the network and then automatically log into other systems like an LMS.
  • LMS (Learning Management System) Software that manages all training content, learners and the relationship between the two in an organization.
  • LRS (Learning Record Store) A database that stores learning activities that happen outside the LMS via the Experience API (xAPI or Tin Can).
  • M/C (Multiple Choice) Question type available in eLearning content where learner selects correct answer from list.
  • MOC (Maintenance of Certification) In many professions it is the annual training you must take to keep an active practicing license.
  • MOOC  (Massive Online Open Courses)  Free eLearning courses provided to the public first by universities and now by corporations.
  • MP4  (Moving Pictures Expert Group Layer 4) Modern format of video that streams cross-browser and mobile devices without downloads or plugins.
  • MP3 (Moving Pictures Expert Group Layer 3) Digital audio format that compresses and streams on the internet and used commonly for music or podcasts.
  • MS (Microsoft) Ability to upload any Microsoft Office document to the LMS as a reference document or part of a training plan.
  • NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy) Association dedicated to serving the 55 state boards of accountancy that regulate the accountancy profession in the US.
  • NexGen (Next Generation) A marketing term that means modern and cutting-edge LMS software.
  • NGO (Non-Governmental Agency) Public agencies like the Red Cross or World Health Organization using an LMS to deploy learning or facilitate social interaction among volunteer or general public learners.
  • OJT (On-Job-Training) In LMS, the ability to create checklists that managers/trainers can quickly find and to verify and track student ability to perform skills in live setting.
  • OLSA (SkillSoft’s Open Learning Services Architecture) LMS ability to sync SkillSoft’s thousands of courses and descriptions into the LMS automatically.
  • OS (Operating System) What type of devices will the LMS run on without issues –Mac, iOS, Android, Windows?
  • PARS (Program and Activity Reporting Systems) Online tool provided by American Council of Continuing Medical Education to collect program and activity data from accredited continuing medical education (CME) providers.
  • PCI (The Payment Card Industry Data Standard) Set of requirements that ensure the LMS is extremely secure if storing or processing credit card data.
  • PENS (Package Exchange Notification Standard) A standard to tie your authoring tool or LCMS to your LMS so that you can publish content automatically without manually uploading to LMS.
  • PDF (Adobe Acrobat File) The ability to link to, catalog, embed an Acrobat file in a course, learning path or as a reference document in an LMS.
  • PM (Performance Management) Managing skills, competencies performance appraisals in your LMS.
  • REST API (Representational State Transfer Application Program Interface) a modern type of API that facilitates LMS integration with other enterprise software systems.
  • RFI (Request for Information)  A waste of vendor time in which an LMS shopper formally asks a million questions of a dozen vendors just to see what is out in the marketplace and for how much.
  • RFP (Request for Proposal) A formal document provided to LMS vendors that outlines the project, scope and requirements so they can prepare a proposal/bid accurately.
  • RSS (Really Simple Syndication) The ability to subscribe to frequently updated web content like blogs, podcasts or social forums in an LMS.
  • ROI (Return on Investment) If I spend $200,000 on an LMS over the next 3 years, what are the measurable benefits I will see that will make that investment worth it.
  • SAML or SAML 2.0 (Security Assertion Markup Language) Most modern and popular federated single sign-on protocol that organizations use and integrate with LMS.
  • SaaS (Software as a Service) LMS that only exists in the cloud and you pay an all-inclusive monthly or annual fee for license use, hosting and support.
  • SAS 70 (Statement on Auditing Standards #70) An auditing standard awarded to organizations that have superior professional services procedures and controls.
  • SCORM 1.2 (Sharable Content Reference Model) eLearning content standard that allows communication with LMS.
  • SCORM 2004 (Sharable Content Reference Mod) Updated version of SCORM 1.2 that is rarely used.
  • SLA (Service Level Agreement) Contract between LMS vendor and customer that outlines vendor commitments regarding LMS uptime and penalties for not achieving.
  • SMB (Small and Medium Business) In LMS speak, these are vendors that target companies with less than 500 or 1000 employees.
  • SME (Subject Matter Expert) Professionals that aid in the creation of online content but are not content designers or instructional designers.
  • SMS (Short Message Service) Text messages sent via the LMS to learners’ mobile devices.
  • SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) LMS designed to share information with other systems like ecommerce or customer relationship management.
  • SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) A technical coding language used to share LMS data with other systems via web services.
  • SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a server and LMS user especially when dealing with fiscal or personal data.
  • SQL (Structured Query Language) A language used to communicate with a database –most commonly refers to an LMS that is deployed on a Microsoft database.
  • SSO (Single Sign-On) When logged into your company’s computer network an employee can access their account in the LMS without manually logging in.  See AD, LDAP, SSSO or SAML.
  • SSSO (Social Single Sign-On)  Using your social media accounts like Facebook or Google+ to create and account in an LMS and log in.
  • T/F (True – False) Question type available in most LMS testing engines.
  • TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) A 3 or 5-year cost of everything needed to support a LMS solution including license, hosting, support and internal costs.
  • T&D (Training and Development) Department in an organization that commonly owns the employee LMS.
  • Tin Can – Marketing name of the xAPI which is a new communication standard allowing for the tracking of formal, informal, experiential and social learning occurring outside the LMS.
  • TMA (Too many acronyms) Seriously over a hundred without trying?
  • TM (Talent Management) All-encompassing term incorporating recruiting, succession planning, payroll, performance management and learning.
  • URL (Uniform Resource Locator) A web address like
  • UX (User Experience) Evolving focus of LMSs trying to not look like LMSs but rather popular websites that are easy to use and attractive.
  • Wiki (What I Know Is) A LMS user area that allows for collaborative modification, extension, or deletion of its content and structure –asked for often but rarely used in LMS.
  • PO (Purchase Order) LMS business to business workflow supporting traditional corporate purchase orders that are issued external to an LMS.
  • VAT (Value Added Tax) Tax added to sale of training, services and products outside of the US causing significant complications in global EE LMSs.
  • vILT (Virtual Instructor Led Training) Using virtual classrooms, flipped classrooms or distance learning with a live teacher vs. self-paced.
  • QA (Quality Assurance) Process of testing the LMS, content, integrations or customizations to ensure they are performing to design specs.
  • SF-182 — The SF-182 is a federal training form used to document instances of completed civilian employee training in the Department of Defense that can be automated in LMS.
  • WBT (Web Based Training) eLearning accessed on the internet via an LMS.
  • Web 2.0 –Term that describes LMS solutions that support user-generated content of blogs, wikis, forums, chat and peer collaboration.
  • WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) Refers to the ability to word process (bold, italicize, underline, font, size, color, etc.) LMS course descriptions, email notification and other text items.
  • xAPI (Experience Application Program Interface –also called Tin Can) New communication standards allowing for the tracking of formal, informal, experiential and social learning occurring outside the LMS.
  • XML (Extensible Markup Language) Common data format that can be used to get data in and out of an LMS and share with a multitude of other software solutions.
  • 24/7/365 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year) Refers to LMS uptime or the hours of available administrative or customer support.
  • 70:20:10 An education theory that proposes 70% of learning is experiential, 20% is social and only 10% is formal.
  • 90 (Ninety) Skill and competency assessment built entirely on a learner’s self-ratings.
  • 180 (One-Eighty) Skill and competency assessment built on a learner’s self-ratings and their supervisor ratings
  • 360 (360-degrees) A skill and competency assessment delivered via an LMS that includes a blend of self, manager, peer and subordinate input.
  • 508c (US Federal Law #) US mandate that any federal system eliminates barriers to access and use by people with disabilities of all kinds

Whew!  That was tough work.  If you have additional acronyms that should be on this list, please share them with me and I’ll update the post periodically.

Thanks for reading!

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Download Our Free Learning Technology Acronym and Jargon Guide

After writing this post, we published a separate Learning Technology Acronym and Jargon Guide — expanding this list to over 250 terms. For your free copy, just submit the form below:

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About the Author: John Leh

John Leh is Founder, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

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