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Published on:
January 20, 2021

eLearning: Modern Online Learning Explained

What is eLearning?

eLearning short for electronic learning. It simply means any form of learning that can be accessed via an electronic device, mostly a computer, smartphone, or tablet. The advantage of eLearning is that you can access information anytime anywhere as long as there is an internet connection.

eLearning is a formalized mode of learning that takes place with the help of electronic resources. It is also termed as a network-enabled transfer of skills and knowledge. Learning content is delivered to a large number of learners, located in different global locations, at the same or different times.

eLearning is a powerful tool for content delivery. In the corporate world, multinational corporations (MNCs) can deliver training material to their employees located in different parts of the globe. Similarly, schools have embraced this mode of learning. In fact, educational institutions that embrace elearning are steps ahead of those using traditional methods.

Nonetheless, it is important to use non-electronic modes of learning. In fact, a blended approach to learning ensures that learners get the best out of electronic and non-electronic modes of training. However, the importance and effectiveness of elearning should not be overlooked.

eLearning is one of the most common elearning topics. For information on other popular elearning topics, visit this page.

Science has proven that the human brain is capable of remembering and relating to what is seen and heard via images and videos. Visuals, especially, hold the attention of a learner and can be retained by the brain for longer periods.

The popularity of elearning has increased over the years. Employers and heads of educational institutions alike find it an affordable and time-efficient way to train their learners. Consequently, employees enhance their knowledge and skills while students gain skill sets that prepare them for the job market.

Organizations also use elearning to train their partners and customers. This helps to increase adoption and brand loyalty. In turn, these organizations generate more revenue.

eLearning is here to stay. In fact, by 2022, the industry is expected to be worth $275 billion. With such figures, it is clear that the concept has been widely adopted and is a powerful tool for training.

Gradually, books are being replaced by electronic materials such as ebooks, digital libraries, optical discs, and pen drives. Importantly, these electronic resources can be shared 24/7 anywhere, at any time via the internet.

History of eLearning

The term elearning was coined by Elliott Maisie in 1999. During this period other terminologies popped up all trying to define the same thing. They include ‘online learning’ and ‘virtual learning.’

Interestingly, the principles that are characteristic of elearning have been documented as early as the 19th century. It is only during recent decades that this form of learning has been refined and widely embraced.

Long before the introduction of the internet, long-distance courses were being offered. For instance, in the 1840s, Isaac Pitman (the father of shorthand writing) used to send notes to his students via correspondence.

In 1924, a testing machine was invented that allowed students to test themselves. In 1960, PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations), a computer-based training (CBT) was launched. It was originally designed for the University of Illinois but was later adopted by other learning institutions.

PLATO allowed educational institutions to deliver programmed learning instructions to students. This system was the first computer-based system that shaped the model of elearning as we know it today.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that online learning started to take shape. For instance, during this period, the Open University in Britain used email to send learning material to students. Previously, the institution used correspondence via mail to deliver learning content.

Initially, elearning was not fully accepted since it was argued that it lacked the human characteristic required in learning. However, developments in technology and learning systems have led to massive adoption.

The personal computer was the first device that helped to accelerate elearning. Recently, the introduction of smartphones has led to the embracing of elearning since they allow mobile learning.

In the 20th Century, developments in computer and internet technology helped to advance elearning. The first MAC computers allowed users to learn different skills at home. Virtual learning environments then began to thrive during the next decade.

In the 1990s, schools started delivering online courses. Students in different geographical locations who had constraints accessing educational institutions could now access learning.

In the 2000s, corporations started using elearning to train their employees. The introduction of employee online training was hinged on the success of elearning in schools. Workers could now further their knowledge and hone their skills with the help of online courses.

Today, the elearning industry has gained so much popularity. It is growing year by year. With the development of learning technologies such as learning management systems (LMS), the future looks brighter.

Factors Contributing to the Growth of eLearning

Over the years, elearning has grown gradually. Below are some of the factors that have contributed to its development:

  1. Advancements in multimedia: As elearning was developing, the ability to incorporate images, audio, videos, and other media helped to create learning content that was engaging for the learners.
  2. Affordable devices: Advancements in digital technology have led to the introduction of affordable home computers and smartphones. These devices, especially, mobile devices are popular with learners leading to mass adoption of elearning programs.
  3. The Internet: Without a doubt, the rise of the internet helped organizations to abandon traditional methods of learning. Manuals printed on paper and CD-ROMS soon became less-preferred options for delivering learning content.
  4. Modern LMS platforms: Learning management systems helped to move away from locally-installed learning systems to cloud-based solutions. The latter offer flexibility to learners allowing them to access learning material from any location. 

Also, LMSs come with advanced tracking and reporting features that give detailed information on a learner’s progress. They also come loaded with features that enhance the overall learning experience.

How to Deliver eLearning

There are different ways of delivering elearning to your students, employees, partners, and customers.


A learning management system is a software used in the delivery and tracking of online training. LMSs come with features meant to make the learning experience fun and fulfilling. They help both the instructors and learners to meet their objectives.

There are different types of LMS platforms. They include cloud-based, stand-alone, open-source, and commercial. Today, cloud-based LMSs are the most common since they allow for flexibility, easier creation of courses, and come with advanced tracking and reporting features.

LMS platforms are the most dominant elearning systems in use. Ensure you list down your requirements for an LMS before you choose one for your organization.


SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) is the default learning standard in use today. It defines how learning content that can be shared across multiple systems is developed and launched. It also dictates how to create SCOs (Sharable Content Objects) that can be used over and over across different learning contexts and systems.

SCORM is a set of technical specifications that aims to provide a common approach to how online learning content is developed and delivered. Most SCORM courses use a similar structure since they are developed using popular course authoring tools.

This standard helps to share learning content between different interoperable systems.


Experience API (xAPI) is a newer standard of learning that is meant to replace SCORM. It has advanced tracking and learning experience and permits learning outside an LMS environment. It also allows offline learning and tracks learning activity taking place through software such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems.

xAPI enhances the SCORM standard and eliminates restrictions associated with older specifications. Indeed, this standard offers flexibility for today’s on-the-go learners.

Despite its advanced features, xAPI does not improve the UI (User Interface) or UX (User Experience) of a course. Such elements are taken care of by course authoring tools. xAPI only defines how learning content is tracked and stored.

Types of eLearning

There are five types of elearning. They are dependent on the purpose that the training is meant to achieve.

Student Training

Most educational institutions use elearning for various reasons. These include enrolling, delivery of training content, assessment, and performance tracking. Learning management systems help to centralize all these functions and to improve the overall learning experience.

The advanced features of learning management systems such as responsive design and gamification introduce elements that make learning flexible and fun.

Employee Training

Organizations use elearning for a variety of reasons. These include onboarding new employees and updating employee performance. An LMS is the main tool of learning in this case since it is efficient and centralizes the delivery and tracking of employee learning.

eLearning for employee training improves professional development by encouraging a learning culture. Your LMS will help you to create assessments and evaluate employee performance thereby improving training performance.

Partner Training

It is also referred to as partner training. It gives your partners all the tools and resources they need to be members of your network. Training in this category includes product information training, support training, and sales training.

To become a partner, certified training is required. Partner training reduces support costs, engages your partners, protects your brand, and scales your growth.

Customer Training

Customer training aims to educate customers about an organization’s products or services. It is mostly common with software products and service providers.

Customer training benefits both the customer and the organization. The organization gains more engagement with a product or service while the customer gets an improved product/service experience. The result is customer retention, brand loyalty, and massive adoption.

Compliance Training

Compliance is necessary for most organizations. It aims to inform your workers about the laws and regulations applicable to your industry. Compliance training covers areas such as health, safety, and workplace dignity. Diversity training and anti-harassment training are a few examples.

Compliance training helps to reduce the risk of non-compliance thereby protecting an organization’s reputation. Also, your employees benefit by working in a safer and more productive environment.

Similar to other types of training, compliance training is best delivered using a reliable and modern LMS platform

Benefits of eLearning


Traditional training is expensive to maintain. eLearning provides a cheaper model that eliminates expenses such as printing costs, venue overheads, and instructor fees. Whenever courses need to be updated, the instructor does not have to do it from scratch. Instead, they just handle such updates from within an LMS.

Saves Time

eLearning saves time for all types of training. Indeed, it takes time to create traditional courses. From the preparation of printed manuals to the manual delivery of such learning content, traditional training consumes so much time both for the instructors and the learners.

To add, any necessary changes and updates are performed within an LMS. Consequently, content creators and instructors can create more learning material and deliver even more training. Learners will also enroll for more courses due to their availability.

Enhances Performance and Productivity

eLearning allows learners to easily and quickly complete their training. This results in greater performance and productivity. Since they can participate in training at their own convenience, learners appreciate elearning. In turn, their performance and productivity are improved.

Environmentally Friendly

The reduction of carbon emissions is at the heart of every organization’s corporate responsibility. If your organization intends to use strategies that are friendly to the environment, elearning is one of the tools to consider.

Indeed, elearning promotes a paperless workplace that is less-crowded and comfortable to work in.

Get a Reliable eLearning Solution Today!

Elearning has come a long way since its infancy days. Over the decades, it has proven to be a powerful training tool for most organizations. Without a doubt, it makes the training process much easier and saves costs among other benefits.

Currently, learning management systems are taking center stage in elearning. They offer centralized ways of creating, delivering, and tracking learner performance. Ensure that you choose a modern cloud-based LMS platform that is guaranteed to make the training experience hustle-free for you, and the learning experience even much-better for your learners.

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