With the term edtech growing in usage and currency to describe much of the education technology and the new innovations hitting the learning and education market, (MOOCs and more), and with mobile learning or Mlearning well understood – (having seen off “handheld learning”) we must wonder if there is a new set of terms coming to replace good old e-learning (with or without the dash, capital letter etc.).

Why is this important? Well we believe it is of great interest as more and more organisations, public and private sector seek to understand and procure some form of e-learning. Let’s be honest, e-learning is still only a small percentage of the overall corporate L&D market, with considerable unfulfilled potential, so common and shared understanding of what “it” is all about is incredibly important if the e-learning industry is to achieve its potential, and confusing buyers with ever more esoteric terms is not a good idea.

Terms for what this use of technology in learning, training etc…. must be succinct and easily understood.

Before edtech (with or without the capital E) completely takes over as the parlance of choice of the education sector we have/had Computer Enhanced Learning (CEL) and Computer Mediated Learning (CML). You may remember telematics and  informatics from which derived “tele-learning”. (Tele-medicine seems to have hung on though as a term! – works for me!).  Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) is another term that was out there in education. Learning Technologies is also very common parlance in education, (The Association of Learning Technologist’s (ALT) is a major player in that arena).

e-learning is an existing term that is also widely used to procure in the education sector as well as in the corporate sector, and is a sufficiently woolly term to embrace learning content and learning technologies.

Broadly the term e-learning works as it is sufficiently woolly and wide to allow a common and shared understanding by both the buyer and supplier to be brokered. The term is narrow enough to be defined – our favourite coming from Michael Allen, and loose enough to be interpreted to meet organisations needs……even though the term learning is used, training can be implied. E-training never really took off as a term….and we all remember what happened to CBT (Computer Based Training).

Edtech works as well….why? it  is sufficiently woolly for a common and shared understanding to be arrived at.

Online learning remains a widely used term as well, but seems in my view to offer a more self directed nuance, unlike e-learning which is definitely a more structured approach to learning. Many will still shudder when they recall CBT – Computer Based Training, a term largely forgotten in the industry but not in all learners.

Learning Technologies …..synonymous with the annual event is a good broad term that seems to have overtaken CBT and has a generally positive image. BETT a technology orientated event used the term Workplace Learning in 2013 to broaden its offer beyond education. They need to do better than that to excite delegates.


e-learning services became a recognised CPV about 5 years ago, and replaces specialist training services – certainly a very woolly term….specialist to what?

Training Software Development Services is another CPV as is Training Software Package, neither really hit the mark in the procurers mind in our view.

For the more education minded procurer there is of course “educational software package” – the EU procurement classifications – Common Procurement Vocabulary (CPV) still recognises this term, as is Education software development services another CPV.

A quick analysis of buying patterns across Europe sees Educational Software Packages as the most commonly used of CPV terms as we have discussed, followed by e-learning services. The other development orientated CPV’s are little used.

What can we infer from this is software package is clearly defined, and quite easily specified and understood, and we can easily ascertain the intended use of this software package.

e-learning services as a CPV, as opposed to the other software development services tends to include a wide range of requirements….It is much more likely to be used to procure an LMS, Mlearning, Social learning and more.

Duplications…..indeed many buyers use many differing terms in the procurement document, and a wide range of terms pepper the descriptions….online learning, virtual learning, NOT cyber learning….(only for the baddies) Networked learning, Social learning etc….

So while edtech appears to be the dominant term in the education space, overhauling Learning Technologies, and sitting next to e-learning – which is given a more content focused interpretation along with Educational software, it is still e-learning that is ahead in the corporate market as the catch all term for using some form of technology to support and improve employees performance.