E-Learning: Definition, advantages and tips
Marc Bachofner, April 1, 2022· Digital Learning
E-learning has become a buzzword in companies. In the context of courses or further training, one hears again and again about the advantages of online media. There are also many training courses that are based on e-learning. With this article, we want to offer you a definition of e-learning and provide in-depth insights into various aspects and benefits.
Definition: What is an E-Learning?
E-learning means electronic learning or online, electronic or computer-based learning. Instead of taking courses on site, e-learning allows us to learn and impart knowledge online using various media. E-learning is available in the form of interactive graphics, games or explainer, among other things.
At the latest with the Corona crisis, schools as well as companies have recognized the value of e-learning. The market is expected to reach $458 billion by 2026. It makes you wonder why e-learning is so popular. Here, we delve into the benefits and take a look at it all.
With e-learning, there are no more physical classrooms or meeting rooms. Course participants can conveniently access the content from anywhere. And as a company, you can reach your employees worldwide.
An e-learning will be found on the Internet or intranet. This means that users can access it at any time and do not have to follow course schedules. They can integrate learning flexibly into their everyday lives.
As mentioned, e-learning is location-independent. This means that neither the course instructor nor the course participants have to travel. This means less effort overall, which is reflected in the course costs. This makes courses and training more accessible to all. Another cost point concerns the creation itself. E-learnings have a one-time initial cost, after which only server costs and minimal maintenance are incurred.
In this day and age, there is often talk about self-reliance in the workplace. People are supposed to take on more responsibility and organize themselves. The same is true for e-learning. They give your users exactly this independence.
E-learning benefits from asynchronous communication. Everyone can browse the content at their own pace and according to their own interests.
You can translate an e-learning without any problems. In most cases, the content is not tied to the language and, with the exception of a few display errors, there are no mandatory adjustments.
With e-learning, you can react quickly. Do you need to add, edit or delete content? No problem. You can also try out different e-learning forms and find out what appeals more to your target group. And once you have a base, you can quickly create more courses.
E-learning is a digital medium. The great thing about it? The combination with other digital media. You can easily work with graphics, illustrations or videos to show the learning progress. This visualization helps not to lose track of the content. Plus, it can be motivating – especially if you tie successes to rewards.
E-learning is an instrument and like any instrument, the end result depends on the player. The following points are not reasons to avoid e-learning, they should simply be kept in mind.
No guarantee for success
No guarantee for success
Just because you use an e-learning, your content will not magically be better understood. Comprehension also depends on various factors in e-learning. The visual style, your chosen format and also your content define the quality and thus the learning effect.
E-learning is mostly asynchronous. Your course participants therefore decide for themselves when they learn. This has advantages, but it can also be a disadvantage. If there is a lack of self-discipline, then even the best e-learning will be of no use. Pay attention to your target group and ask yourself whether there is an intrinsic desire or not.
At many universities you know the online forums where students and lecturers can exchange information and clarify questions. The easiest online forum is email, so you always have your own version at hand. Asynchronous communication brings us a problem here, because questions and answers are given a time difference. This time difference can disrupt the flow of learning.
Since everything takes place online, a stable Internet connection is essential. Fortunately, however, many e-learning providers and e-learning agencies have already noticed that the bars are not always full. This can be a wireless hole, a disruption in the WLAN network, or purely intentional. The reason doesn’t matter here, because in the meantime you can find an offline mode in many offers or you can download the learning content right away.
What are the concepts of e-learning?
E-learning brings flexibility and self-determination to users’ everyday working lives. However, the sheer number of e-learning formats with modern technology can also be confusing. Here we go into the most common e-learning methods to give you an overview.
Web Based Training
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Web Based Training
Web Based Training (WBT), or Web Based Learning (WbL), is the generic term for learning programs that work with the Internet. Sounds rather cryptic. With Web Based Training, users have no data carriers with the learning content. All relevant information can be found on the Internet.
Classic for WBT are websites on the intranet or internet. The practical thing about this is that you have all the content in one place and can use the creative possibilities of web design.
In video training, you work with video tutorials and instructional videos. The question here is how you want to address your target group. You can hold an e-learning video completely digitally or work with real film. Very popular in this context: the combination of real film and digital elements. With the combination, you can present a real situation to pick up your audience and capture the most important content to facilitate later reference.
Another plus: video training is more motivating for your learners than text alone. This has to do with picking up auditory as well as visual learners.
When a presentation is started in a course, training or continuing education and you see “slide 1 of 85” in the top corner, your motivation immediately drops. This has nothing to do with the content, it’s the sheer volume.
Learning nuggets, also called snack content, are small, digestible portions of knowledge. Keep learners’ motivation high by having them complete a piece of learning content more frequently.
The demand for podcasts has risen sharply in recent years. Not surprisingly, the offering has adapted accordingly. Like video training, e-learning via podcast benefits from non-text-only motivation. Podcasts are an auditory medium. So listeners can listen comfortably while they’re out and about, eating lunch, or exercising.
Blended learning, also called integrated learning, is not a separate e-learning format. With this concept, you combine face-to-face instruction with e-learning. You can therefore use the advantages of both formats to achieve the greatest possible learning effect. A classic example is workshops or training sessions in which topics are discussed that were previously taught via e-learning. This combination brings more discussion to the face-to-face event and lets you, as the course instructor, address practical questions and problems.
We all know seminars. The digital version of this is the web seminar, or simply webinar. The big advantage over a seminar? The physical independence. If you hold a webinar, the participants can connect from anywhere. And the modern tools also allow the sometimes missed exchange between speaker and listener.
Not a format as such, but important to keep in mind: Mobile friendly. In general, we can also talk about Responsive Design. If you really want to make your e-learning practical for your employees or participants, then you need to think about the different devices. Desktop and smartphone are by far the most important, so your e-learning should be as clear and intuitive on a laptop screen as it is on a smartphone display.
The most elaborate but also most promising variant of e-learning. Participants/learners are in a virtual classroom and can interact with numbers, graphs, documents and other programs at any time. A real classroom in the digital world.
This format is not feasible in many places right now, the hardware and software requirements are enormous, and many people are skeptical of an all-digital environment. But with the rise of the Metaverse, people’s attitudes could change, and so could more interest.
MOOC refers to a Massive Open Online Course.
MOOCs are often courses for a very large number of people.
There are no or few access restrictions for MOOCs.
As written here: MOOCs are online courses.
MOOCs are mainly offered at universities and colleges. They classically consist of video material, problems and a forum for learning group exchange. But that shouldn’t stop you from applying this concept to e-learning for your company.
Virtual und Augmented Reality
Virtual and augmented reality, VR and AR, have so far been known mainly from the gaming industry. Virtual reality means that we enter a different, virtual reality. One example would be the virtual classroom. With augmented reality, we bring something virtual into our reality. Probably the most famous example of this is Pokémon Go. Not really an e-learning but a fitting representative of augmented reality.
Both of these approaches are becoming more and more prevalent in e-learning thanks to the technological advances of the last few years. The great advantage of VR and also AR is that relevant information can always be supported accordingly with auditory or visual elements.
What content is suitable for e-learning?
E-learning is suitable for all content. You can conduct courses, education or training, or an employee induction using e-learning. All content is a bit of an exaggeration, of course. In some cases, landing pages or websites are a better choice – or the right complement. Here we’re talking about the cases where you, as a course instructor, need something from your course participants. If you want to conduct an employee survey, choose a different medium. E-learning imparts knowledge. So as long as you want to impart knowledge, you can use e-learning.
What e-learning platforms are available?
Here we talk about e-learning platforms as a place where you can create your lessons and then present them to your target audience. If you want to know more about e-learning platforms as a provider of e-learning, you can read our blog article about it.
An e-learning platform, or Learning Management System, or LMS for short, gives you the opportunity to package your content in a way that is easy to understand. You can work with all kinds of media in the process, and depending on the provider, you can also find a custom-fit solution, since with today’s web technologies, there are almost no limits.
Here’s a list of a few e-learning platforms you can check out:
What makes a good e-learning?
An e-learning can be a big undertaking. If you are planning a course, training, workshop or even an internal consultation, you should first take time for project management. Only well-structured will your e-learning help you impart knowledge. Often, working with an e-learning agency makes sense.
Professional or not, there are some core elements to any e-learning. And if you follow them, you will have created a solid foundation.
When you make an e-learning, you have a selected target group. Maybe your employees, maybe a certain department, or maybe just your course participants. No matter how your audience is composed, there are always commonalities. You need to find them and adapt your topics and your digital media to them.
Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes and ask yourself why you should learn something about topic X. And ask yourself how the target group can benefit from this knowledge.
So you should make sure that the content and the applied forms of e-learning are exactly tailored to your audience.
Next, you need to figure out your message. Specifically, you need to break down your content. Complexity is your enemy. You need to be guided by the prior knowledge of your target audience. Once you have the content broken down, you can begin to formulate your message. It doesn’t have to be just one. Maybe your course has several sub-chapters, in which case several key messages are possible.
Storytelling is your friend. Storytelling helps you package your content in stories. Course participants, for example, will then literally experience your message and learn in a sustainable way.
Feel free to go wild and get creative when it comes to storytelling. Interactive storytelling and visual storytelling are two of our examples. A course or training with the right amount of storytelling will be better remembered – and that’s a fact.
An e-learning needs text in one form or another. This can be text for an infographic or speech text for an explainer video. Make sure your wording is understandable. No unnecessary adjectives, avoid long sentences and verbs instead of nouns are among the classics. Orientate yourself on the level of knowledge of your target audience, then you are on the right track.
For the implementation of an e-learning you have a great freedom. We have already discussed above the different forms you can all use. Here, let’s take a closer look at the end product.
If you have a course up online, then your audience can probably access it using smartphones, tablets, or desktop PCs. These are all different screens with different dimensions. If your course works on a laptop, that doesn’t mean it will work for mobile devices. You need to think about Responsive Design during implementation. With this, your content will work everywhere.
Another point is usability. This is especially true for e-learnings in web design. With the best storytelling and the most understandable content, you can’t achieve anything if your users can’t find their way around. Make your e-learning intuitive. It needs to look manageable and simple.
Now we have talked a lot about e-learning. We have talked about their advantages and looked at their forms. It’s time to show a concrete example.
Let’s assume the following situation: In your company, employees have an employee badge with which they can access the corporate network and thus the intranet. Also, each employee has a badge to operate the printer. And because you also want to offer your employees something, there is an internal canteen that offers all kinds of payment methods such as Cash, Twint, card, etc.
Even a simple skim through the system reveals that there is potential for optimization here. You decide to standardize everything and want to expand the tasks of the employee ID cards. The goal is to have everything run via the badge. The previous logging in, printing and paying in the canteen. We are making the simplified assumption here that this makes sense in terms of security and is technically feasible.
Now you need to communicate this change to your employees. The perfect situation for e-learning.
We assume that you have an intranet and share other messages about your company there. So the first question is answered: E-learning will be integrated into the intranet. This way, there are no interfaces to other sites and you retain full control.
A small parenthetical note: This is an example. E-learning does not necessarily have to be integrated into your intranet. You can use e-learning platforms, host a website yourself or externally, or develop a smartphone app. E-learnings adapt to circumstances and your e-learning agency will find the right solution for you.
Next, you need to ask yourself how to reach your employees. Our suggestion: an explainer video. How about a video that draws attention to the most important points so that their daily work routine is not disrupted? That way, you’ll keep things running smoothly. Then, with an explanatory text or perhaps an infographic, you can still go into details and edge events. And while you’re at it, you can also include a quiz at the end so employees can measure their learning.
An example of an e-learning video and e-learning in general is our project with Bad Zurzach. We were allowed to communicate the vision to the employees and decided to create an interactive landing page and an e-learning video. Read more about this project here.
The future of e-learning
With the increasing use of remote work, asynchronous communication will not only shape our everyday working lives. Employees should, as far as possible, decide for themselves when and where they learn. This does not mean that personal contact will be lost. In the end, e-learning only requires that we incorporate digital media into the classroom. The exact implementation, the appropriate forms, that’s all up to you.
An interesting development for e-learning is the Metaverse concept. Some companies are already reporting on it or even have working prototypes. But we are still too early to make clear statements.
In summary, e-learning will be part of our future.
E-Learning – Conclusion
E-learning provides you with a powerful tool for all kinds of education or training, courses or even workshops. Linking so many media, such as explainer videos, infographics or even entire webpages, gives you the opportunity to maximize the learning effect of your target audience.
If you want to know more about e-learning platforms, we recommend our blog article on just that.
However, having the tool alone is not enough – you also need to use it properly. Work with feedback from your audience to customize your e-learning, and if you need professional help, seek advice from an e-learning agency.