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A subset of the population.

Sample Size

The specific size of the subset of the population being studied. Generally, the larger the sample size, the more reliable the results, and the more likely it is that the results can be applied to the whole population.

Sensory Register

The part of the brain that screens input from all senses depending on current focus. It passes relevant information to short-term memory.

Scenario-Based Question (SBQ)

A type of multiple-choice question based on situations the learner will face back on the job. The SBQ first describes a situation, usually in the form of dialog between two or more people. The situation is followed by one or multiple choice questions. SBQs let learners apply new skill and knowledge to workplace situations, thereby helping the transfer to the job.


A specific number resulting from the assessment of an individual test-taker.

SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model)

A collection of standards and specifications for Internet-based e-learning content. It defines how the individual instruction elements are combined on a technical level and sets conditions for the software needed for using the content. SCORM is a specification of the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative from the Office of the United States Secretary of Defense.

Search Engine

Software that enables users to search the Internet using keywords. It has made all the information on the Internet instantly searchable by anyone with computer access. Google is a commonly used search engine.

Self-Directed e-Learning

A method of self-study in which learners in an online lesson are presented with content, asked a question, make a response, and receive immediate feedback while proceeding at their own pace. The computer program judges the learners’ responses and provides specific, evaluative and corrective feedback; it can also be programmed to adapt the content and questions to meet the needs of individual learners. Since learners log into the program independently and at a time of their choosing, this is considered an ‘asynchronous’ e-learning activity.

Self-Directed Learning (SDL)

A method of self-study in which learners are presented a paper-based lesson with content, questions to answer, and sample solutions against which to check their own work. Learners proceed at their own pace. SDL presented online is called Self-Directed e-Learning (SDeL).

Self Instruction

A method of instruction in which learning resources and materials are identified and learners are responsible for meeting the performance objective. Considered informal instruction.

Self-Oriented Behavior

One of three types of behaviors exhibited in groups. Self-oriented behaviors do not advance either the task or human component. These are negative behaviors that include: blocking, dominating, verbal attacks, playing, withdrawing, self-seeking and pleading. See also Task-Oriented Behavior and Maintenance Behavior.
Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University

Sensory Register

The ultra-short-term memory that takes in sensory information through the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch) and holds it for no more than a few seconds.

Serious Games

Online games used to persuade or educate. They may be simulations which look like games but are used to teach things like health care, business processes or military operations. Serious games are highly motivating and engaging and depending on their sophistication can provide a total immersion experience for players/learners.


Determining the order in which course content will be covered. The natural job order is the preferred order.

Short Answer

A type of production or completion question. The response is usually a few words, phrases or sentences.

Short-Term Memory

Information retained in the brain and retrievable from it over a brief span of time, generally thought to be in the order of seconds. A commonly cited capacity is 7 ± 2 elements. In contrast, long-term memory can hold an indefinite amount of information.


A computer program that imitates a physical process or object by responding to the data input by users and changing conditions as though it were the process or object itself. It lets learners practice in a realistic situation without risks or excessive costs involved in using real equipment, e.g., a flight simulator.


In FKA’s Instructional Systems Design Methodology, a skill is the smallest action required to perform an ability.

Skill and Knowledge

One of eight performance factors; insufficient skill and knowledge can result in poor performance. If this is the factor causing the poor performance, learning is the solution for improving it.

Skill and Knowledge Item

In FKA’s Instructional Systems Design Methodology, a skill and knowledge item is the lowest level of detail in the Model of Performance (MoP).

Small Group Exercise

A presentation or application method where the learners are divided into groups, typically 3-5. Each group has a limited amount of time and specific objectives to meet within the exercise. Specific guidelines and structure are built into the exercise to make it as meaningful as possible to each learner.

Solution Report

The deliverable at the end of the Identify Needs sub-phase of FKA’s Needs Identification phase. This document identifies the business needs and performance goals (what should be), describes the current performance problems (what is), identifies the performance factor(s) causing poor performance and recommends the best solution(s). Learning is only one possible solution.


See Kinesthetic Space.

Spaced Learning

Alternates three short, intensely focused periods of learning with two 10-minute breaks during which distractor activities such as physical activities are performed by the learners. The breaks give the brain time to process information, and repetition of material in multiple learning sessions aids in creating a permanent memory. It is attributed to the work of R. Douglas Fields in Scientific American in 2005 and Paul Kelley in Making Minds in 2008.

Spacing Effect

Learning new content is spread out over time, as opposed to studying the same amount of content in a single event. Clark Quinn showed graphically that the learning phase takes longer, but the forgetting curve that follows the learning program is much less steep. In other words, retention is greatly improved.

Stages of Learning

In 1982 William Howell described the four stages of competence:
• Unconscious Incompetence – “I don’t know that I don’t know something.”
• Conscious Incompetence – “I know that I don’t know something.”
• Conscious Competence – “I have learned something, but I have to think about it as I do it.”
• Unconscious Competence – “I know something so well that I don’t have to think about it.”

Stand Alone Job Aid

A job aid that replaces the need for a formal learning program for an ability or component. This instructional strategy is usually selected when the ability is performed infrequently, is straightforward and there are no health or safety risks.


(1) The level of proficiency or requirements (quantity or quality) that must be met during performance.
(2) One of five parameters used to describe an ability; they are identified in the Model of Performance.
(3) One of eight performance factors; if standards are missing or unknown, the level of performance may vary across the population.

Statistical Significance

In statistics, a result is called “significant” if it is unlikely to have occurred by chance alone. “A statistically significant difference” simply means there is statistical evidence of the difference; it does NOT mean that the difference is necessarily large, important or significant in the usual sense of the word.

Popular levels of significance are 5%, 1% and 0.1%. If a test of significance gives a p-value lower than the required level of significance it is informally referred to as “statistically significant”. For example, if someone argues that “there’s only one chance in a thousand this could have happened by coincidence” they are implying a 0.1% level of statistical significance. The lower the significance level, the stronger the evidence.


The initial question or statement in a multiple-choice item. It may be text only or include a figure, chart, graph or other image.


In FKA’s Instructional Systems Design Methodology, a step is the second level of breakdown of an ability. This level is only used if it is helpful to group skill and knowledge items into meaningful clusters.


A cue, event, signal or situation to which a response must be made.


This is the second stage in Bruce Tuckman’s model of group development: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning. During Storming, the members of the group jockey for control and influence and establish their roles. See also Forming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning.


The detailed plan or blueprint for each screen/page in an online course. It includes:
• All navigation and menu instructions
• The onscreen text
• The onscreen images (static or streaming)
• The audio script
• All questions to be asked along with the right answers, scoring instructions and feedback statements
• Any optional content
• Any links to be included
• Detailed instructions for the programmer

Structured Interview

An interview driven by a list of questions determined beforehand. The interviewer must not deviate from or alter the questions in any way.

Sub-Criterion Test

In FKA’s Instructional Systems Design Methodology, the sub-criterion test is the test at the end of a lesson. It should be designed to assess whether or not the lesson objective has been achieved.

Subject Matter Expert (SME)

Individuals selected for their expertise in an area. They can be used throughout the entire instructional design cycle to provide content, develop content, validate deliverables and deliver the learning program.

Summative Evaluation (or Assessment)

The goal of summative assessment (or evaluation) is to evaluate learning at the end of an instructional unit and to determine if the learning objectives have been met. The resulting data provides valuable information about learners’ preparedness to perform after the training. See also Formative Assessment.

Summative Evaluation (of programs)

Evaluates the results or outcomes of a program. It is concerned with a program’s overall effectiveness, not assigning marks/grades/scores to individual learners.


One of FKA’s performance parameters. Support identifies any human support accessible during the performance of the ability or component.


An evaluation form used to gather data.

Synchronous Communication

A method of communicating where those taking part are connected in real time. Examples in the workplace are virtual meetings and video conferencing. In e-learning, it is an event in which all of the participants are online at the same time and communicating with one another, i.e., facilitated e-learning.

Syndicate Presentation

A presentation method in which a small group of learners makes a cooperative presentation to the rest of the group.

Systematic Learning Process

Model which breaks a unit of content into: the Presentation of information to the learners,
an Application for the learners to practice, and the Feedback given to the learner. Also referred to as PAF.


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