What is elearning?

Simply put, elearning is training provided via a computer or other digital device, allowing technology to facilitate learning anytime, anywhere.

Elearning lends itself to every industry (from retail to financial to healthcare) and every type of training (from compliance to technical to manufacturing to systems), especially with the application of technology (gamification, simulations, personalization, social elements).

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Why do organizations use elearning?

To scale, save money, and save learners’ time. Without the cost of classroom logistics, and by allowing learners to self-guide through the course, organizations are spending less, and learners are learning more. In fact, research claims “e-Learning saves businesses at least 50% when they replace traditional instructor-based training with e-Learning [and it] cuts down instruction time by up to 60%.” It lends itself to global delivery, capitalizes on the rich media available with today’s technology, and applies adult learning principles to target an audience used to having real-time information from the smartphone in their hands.

What kinds of approaches qualify as elearning?

There are dozens of modalities in the elearning category. Your content will help determine what type of elearning you want to use, as some will work better for your content than others. The following are some of the modalities that are considered elearning:

  • Module or course
  • Videos and motion graphics
  • Gamification
  • Virtual instructor-led training (VILT), such as WebExs or webinars
  • MOOCs
  • Social forums
  • Podcasts
  • Real-time polling

How do you use elearning?

Business Goals

There are both off-the-shelf and customized elearning options, but regardless of what you choose, it must align with the business goals. You must ask yourself,

  • What changes am I trying to make?
  • What behaviors do my learners need to change?
  • Does the elearning modality align with those needs?
  • What would my audience most appreciate?

Learner Experience

Next, it’s all about learner experience. You have to evaluate what your learners will expect and experience from the moment they encounter your learning program. You must think about your audience and analyze:

  • How will they be accessing it?
  • What metrics would you like to track?
  • What would be the best use of their time?
  • How would they learn best (not what are they used to)?
  • How can it be most relevant to their day-to-day work?

According to Bersin, next-generation “e-learning can take on a much more interactive and social-oriented format that is embedded in the context of the learner’s work”

In the Classroom

A blended solution is one that employs both classroom and on-the-job materials and some elearning elements. You can target the types of content that would translate into elearning the best, and create a pathway of learning with both in-person and web-based assets. According to the US Department of Education, “students in online learning conditions performed […] better than those receiving face-to-face instruction,” with blended results coming in as most successful (Means et al., 2010).

Some examples of successful classroom uses include:

  • Flipped classroom model
  • Rich media for classroom materials
  • Modular curriculum
  • Social element during classroom session
  • Real-time polling and interaction
  • Gamification and simulations
  • Toolkit of web-based assets to use after the classroom session is complete

How does technology play into eLearning?

Technology is the foundation, backbone, and catalyst of elearning all in one. Technology provides endless opportunities for learning through apps, smartphones, videos, search engines, and other real-time information sources. However, in order to get the most out of your elearning experience, you need up-to-date browsers and an LMS engine or hosting solution to track success.

Some of the best uses of technology for elearning are found in new code, with things such as the following:

  • HTML5
  • Responsive design
  • Videos
  • Social integration
  • Personalization
  • Just-in-time support

The Best and Worst List of Elearning

Best Practices:

  • Analyze your audience
  • Target a behavior
  • Keep it modular
  • Make it personalized (if possible)
  • Analyze and include relevant activity sets
  • Include a pathway approach
  • Optimize learner experience
  • Keep it actionable
  • Keep it media-rich
  • Provide the need-to-know information
  • Apply microlearning
  • Apply new technology and industry trends
  • Address all levels of audience
  • Put in place a marketing and communication plan for course launch
  • Ensure it encourages problem-solving

Worst Practices:

  • Rely on death-by-PowerPoint
  • Pretend a recorded webcast is online training
  • Settle for low interaction
  • Include too-long videos
  • Ignore marketing or a launch plan
  • Treat it as a one-time event
  • Design irrelevant gamification


Need help deciding if elearning is right for you? Contact our consultants today.

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