'Elearning', 'digital learning', 'multi-device learning', and 'online learning' are terms all used interchangeably to mean the same kinds of thing. But what?
What is elearning?
It can all seem a bit mystifying. So to cut to the chase, we're talking about using technology to enable people to learn. This could be to learn new skills, support someone's performance at work, or help change behaviours.
What does it look like?
Typically, elearning or digital learning content is self-paced and can be used anytime, anywhere, and nowadays, on any device.
In terms of what it might be, well, it could be any type or combination of media such as: animation, videos and interactive video, interactive scenarios and simulations, learning games, visual or interactive storytelling, case studies, diagnostic tools, reflective questions, test, task-based assessments, micro-learning, and much more.
It's about what's right for the audience, the message, and the goal in hand.
What are my options?
For elearning, you have two main choices:
If you go for bespoke, a company like us designs a solution specifically for you and your learners, with your content and branding. Depending on your needs, this could be an interactive video solution, a game or a series of animated case studies with reflective questions. The options here are endless, and of course - you should be considering going multi-device.
Alternatively, you can opt for an off-the-shelf solution, which are ready-made to meet specific needs, such as 'performance management' or 'coaching' skills. These can be deployed quickly across an organisation.
See our Essentials Plus range for an example of what we have to offer. We often customise these for clients, so they look and feel part of their learning suite.
Other forms of online learning
Elearning is not just about self-paced and solo learning experiences. Social and collaborative learning can also be acheived through the use of technology, and so often also fall under the umbrella of online or digital learning.
- Virtual classrooms, where an online tutor can interact in real time with learners, give presentations, ask questions, run polls, and facilitate group activities
- Audio conferencing
- Chat rooms
- Discussion forums
- Instant messaging
…and the list goes on.
Putting together two or more of these forms of learning is called blended learning. So a typical blend might be some preparatory elearning online, then a workshop, followed up with a virtual classroom session, some online self study and then an assessment, over several weeks.
Learning Management Systems (LMSs)
An LMS is effectively an online site which houses your learning and helps you schedule and promote face-to-face and other learning events. An LMS can also be called a learning portal or a performance portal and can look like a typical intranet or website, with many (like Totara Social) featuring social features such as discussion forums, chat rooms, and the ability to rate, download and upload content. Many provide personalised learning journeys or personalised lists that target individuals with content that's relevant to them and their role.
Why go digital?
Why do organisations opt for elearning? It's not just about cost savings. With the digital and smartphone revolution that's boomed over the last ten years, bringing about changes in the ways we communicate and work together, modern-day learners want and expect learning content that's available on any device, anywhere, and at any time. They also want support at a point of need - not somewhere else, like a classroom far away.
A 2016 report from Towards Maturity on the divide between what corporate L&D teams provide and what learners want, found that:
- 77% rate working in collaboration with others as essential or very useful
- 70% think online learning has had a positive impact on job performance
- 70% use their own smartphone, 52% their own tablet for learning.
Digital solutions that support self-paced and social/collaborative learning are in-sync with how modern-day learners operate, and help deliver learning at a point of need - supporting performance improvements there and then. Other benefits include:
- Freedom to go wrong, privately
- Simulative environments build competence, safely
- Higher consistency of messaging, across global organisations
- Increased learner control
- Ability to tailor and personalise learning, which is more likely to stick
- Social and collaborative tools bring global or diverse communities together, virtually
- Easy to update, stay reactive to needs, and deploy quickly
Sounds good...now what?
If you’re looking at doing elearning for the first time, we’d be happy to help you. We can help you select the right first project, explain the options available to you, and of course design and develop a great first elearning course for you. Get in touch with us.
You can also find all sorts of free advice and guidance on elearning in our resources area.
Take a look at some case studies of how we've helped clients address their learning challenge with elearning, LMS and blended solutions.