What is e-learning?

By 16/10/2017 November 10th, 2019 Education, Technology Enhanced Learning

To give a quick answer, E-Learning is a form of education that is delivered online using a range of platforms depending on what the user wants/owns to access the material. This can include computers, tablets and smartphones.

In some cases, e-learning can remove the need for a traditional learning model that would normally take place in a classroom setting. A good example of this is the increasing amount of compulsory training when first starting a new job that may include required training in health & safety or in specific policies that are specific to the company (for example: child protection for education establishments). Instead of traditional training in a classroom setting, it now takes place in a virtual Learning environment ready for you to complete within your first few months of employment.

In other cases, both E-Learning and traditional learning models work hand in hand by taking topics out of a course and creating them in a blended learning format that is accessible online for the learner to complete before the next facilitated session of their course.

A basic E-Learning course can be understood as containing a slide show based activity (like PowerPoint), that can take place in their own time, that is based online with a simple layout and a way to navigate through the resource. Assessment can occur through the use of online tests. These could include true/false and multiple choice questions for the learner to complete at the end of the section. However, as this is a basic understanding of e-learning, online courses can be much more engaging…

Elements that make an E-Learning course more engaging can include;

  1. Guiding the learner to navigate a guided tour around the software they may be using currently or some time in the near future.
  2. Branching out specific paths that may change with every decision the user makes; correct or wrong answers they make during the online session will affect the outcome.
  3. Incorporating multimedia based content such as PDF’s, relevant images, infographics, video, links to external websites and adding narration.
  4. Adding interactive elements that the user needs to complete in order to progress through the course; this can include drag and drops elements, fill in the blanks, clicking on objects to open new layers, using sliders to demonstrate the effect of a concept and incorporating gamification to make the learning process more immersive and rewarding for the learner.

What are the main factors of E-Learning?

  • Self-Paced Learning- learn when it suits the learner, regardless of location. All that is needed is an internet connection.
  • Media-Rich Environments- using a range of different types of media that relate to and enhance the topic.
  • Interactive Elements- instead of just reading text, arranging the text in a way that makes it interactive and involving the learner can enhance the learning experience and improve learning outcomes.
  • Cutting the Costs of Training – using a virtual learning environment can enable the content to be reused when it is needed. It also saves on traveling costs, if staff or students are traveling from other offices going to a facilitated session and free up those staff from delivering the same material unnecessarily.
  • Time saving – instead of taking staff away from their  daily responsibilities to facilitate or attend a session, the trainer will be able to continue their daily job uninterrupted and the learner can progress through the material at their own pace. For learners the material is available at any time and if class is missed, then catching up on missed learning is managed by the learner.
  • Reusable – if your staff or students need to refresh their memory at any stage during their time in a specific role, or being reminded of the company core values.
  • Eco-friendly – this can cut down on photocopying endless amounts of learning notes or worksheets and make learning material available instantly.
  • Empowerment of employees – letting learners grow into their roles and helping them to progress improves staff morale and improves the meeting of learning objectives.


Michael Johnston

About Michael Johnston

Michael Johnston is a Lecturer in Computing and the Foundation Degree Director in Computing for the Northern Regional College in Northern Ireland. Michael has research interests in the areas of technology enhanced learning, instructional learning design, blended learning and education. Michael currently specialises in the computing areas of web development technologies, cyber security, software development and IoT. Michael has worked in a range of different roles in IT-from teaching roles to running his own web design company, Michael is equally at home working with theory, as he is conducting research, or building a bespoke IT solution. Michael is currently studying a PhD in Cyberpsychology.

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