Coining the term eLearning was the beginning of a problem that is the root of the issue in Tony’s post, where he looks for better terms to describe different interventions, suggesting ePerformance.
And the answer is that there is not a well known term to describe kinds of eLearning solutions that are not typical courseware. I talked about definitions of eLearning a while ago and the basic conclusion I came to is that when you say the term, while it could mean a wide variety of possible solutions – most people think of formal training delivered electronically (virtual classroom, courseware).
The term elearning has been co-opted, especially by software vendors, to only mean courses online, when it could mean much more. However, if one wants to really question our terms and definitions, there is an inherent flaw in using the word “learning” anyway. More accurate descriptors of our various endeavours would be instruction, training, education or performance improvement. I don’t see any great value in creating new terms for interventions that don’t help with our understanding.
For education and training via the Internet we have courses online, and can further describe these as synchronous, asynchronous, instructor-led, facilitated, collaborative, etc.
Barry Raybould’s 1991 definition of performance support as “a computer-based system that improves worker productivity by providing on-the-job access to integrated information, advice, and learning experiences“, only needs to be updated to include network-based systems.
I’ve used the above diagram before to show how I describe the difference between instructional and non-instructional interventions, with the course being a prime example of an instructional intervention while an information job aid is a good example of a non-instructional intervention. Allison Rossett, in Job Aids and Performance Support, provides this definition:
A helper in life and work, performance support is a repository for information, processes, and perspectives that inform and guide planning and action.
Rossett’s definition could easily describe communities of practice or personal knowledge management as performance support. I believe that the main reason behind any confusion in our terms is because we used learning and elearning to describe what is really instruction. There is a clear difference between instruction (whether it be in the form of training or education) and performance support. We don’t really need a new term, we need to get rid of the old one – learning – which is an internal process and cannot be something that is done to us externally. And yes, I am also guilty of using the term learning inappropriately.