The short answer to the question ‘what is e-learning?’ is this:
E-learning is short for ‘electronic learning.’ E-learning is any form of learning which takes place online. To deliver education or training via e-learning, your students just need an internet connection and an internet-ready device, such as a computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet.
But identifying what e-learning is is just the start of the answer to the question ‘what is e-learning?’
E-learning has been around for a few decades now and its growth has only been accelerated due, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The e-learning industry is predicted to be worth a whopping $457.8 Billion USD by 2026.
Here are some other facts about the e-learning industry, taken from TechJury.net:
In 2017, approximately 77% of US corporations used online learning, but 98% planned to incorporate it into their programmes by 2020.
E-learning increases staff retention rates by 25% to 60%.
E-learning has led to an increase in income for 42% of US organizations.
A survey of 2,500 companies found that those with “comprehensive training programs” have 218% higher revenue per employee and 24% higher profit margins.
IBM saved approximately $200 million after switching to e-learning.TechJury.net
Findstack also had some interesting statistics about the e-learning industry:
Since 2011, around 80% of employers used online learning which has been the more popular form of education.
About 40% of all Fortune 500 companies are using online learning for training.
Online learning is reported to reduce energy consumption by 90%
The U.S. alone accounts for over 31% of mobile learning expenditures in the global market.
The US government spent over $2.6 billion on eLearning products for its staff.
Video web activity accounts for over 80% of all online activity, with the majority being educational or training clips.
Top-earning teachers on the platform Skillshare earned on average about $40,000 a year.Findstack.com
Basically, the e-learning industry is big business.
And it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
The Different Forms of E-Learning
There are many different forms of e-learning. A lot of them overlap each other, but it’s important to understand the different forms in their own right.
The two most common terms used when talking about e-learning are electronic learning and online learning.
Both of these phrases essentially mean the same thing; that e-learning involves an internet-ready device and an internet connection.
The learning can be instructional videos on YouTube or an entire college course taught via an LMS (Learning Management System).
Essentially, almost anything you learn on your laptop, computer, or smart device can be categorized as e-learning.
Within the big umbrella of e-learning, sit various other terms. These include online learning, blended learning, distance learning, virtual tutoring, digital downloads, and self-paced e-learning.
Online learning is learning which takes place online. Essentially, all that a student needs to learn online is an internet connection and an internet-ready device.
Of course, there is a bit more to it than that, and digital poverty plays a big part in a lot of people not being able to access online learning.
However, online learning gives people the freedom to learn what they want, when they want, and use a course within their scope, interest, and budget.
Blended learning is a style of learning which combines both online learning and face-to-face learning.
Blended learning can also be called ‘hybrid learning.’ A lot of people like this approach because it reduces the need for face-to-face training. Students have more responsibility for engaging with the online activities and resources to progress their learning. But, they still have a human connection with others during face-to-face sessions. Such an approach is useful for building up collaboration between students and offering support through trickier teaching courses.
Unlike online learning, distance learning usually does not involve any interaction or communication between your students and you as the teacher.
A lot of self-paced courses are delivered via distance learning. This is because once the student receives their course material, they are able to complete the course and their learning without any further input from a teacher.
Virtual tutoring can be delivered either by a person or by an AI machine. Either way, virtual tutoring takes place online and follows a format or curriculum to help tutor a student to understand or complete the desired outcome or outcomes.
Digital downloads are a great way of sharing information and make up a big percentage of the e-learning market.
Digital downloads can be sold to earn passive income, as well as being used as lead magnets and given away for free in return for a student signing up to a newsletter, for example.
A lot of people don’t view digital downloads as e-learning. And whilst digital downloads might not be presented in a traditional course format, the majority of the time, the downloads are offering information and some sort of tutoring for the person who is downloading the product.
Self-paced e-learning courses are a fast-growing market. Often used by bloggers, self-paced courses mean that you need to have very little input into your student’s learning.
Once you have set up the course, students can enrol and learn whenever is convenient to them.
If you set up lifetime access to a course, students can dip in and out of the training course and learn the lesson which is relevant to them at that point in time.
Who delivers e-learning?
E-learning is now provided by a whole host of people and organisations, including:
- Training organizations
- Youth groups
There’s no one group of people to whom delivering e-learning is exclusive too. And that’s the really exciting thing about it. Essentially, anyone can have a go at teaching online and offering their expertise to others via e-learning.
E-learning can be provided in a range of places, but most commonly, e-learning is hosted and delivered using an LMS. Many LMSs will offer additional bonuses which enhance the e-learning experience which you give your students. Some of these additional bonuses and features may include membership areas, webinar facilities, quizzes, video lectures, downloadable, awarding certificates, and assessments.
Some recommended LMSs include LearnWorlds, Thinkific, and Podia.
Create your first online school and sell courses.
Sell courses, downloads and memberships.
Create and sell online courses.
The great thing about any good LMS is that they are designed so that anyone can deliver e-learning.
Gone are the days when you needed to be a qualified teacher in order to teach online (although a lot of qualified teachers do!).
Now, as long as you have skills and expertise in a hobby or something that others want to learn, there is a platform from which you can teach this skill or expertise to others via e-learning.
Advantages of E-Learning
Learning online has so many advantages that it can be hard to list all of them. However, some of the top advantages of e-learning are:
The flexible nature of e-learning means that your students can study and learn anywhere and at a time suitable for them. This is because they don’t need to attend a class at a fixed time.
Students to your e-learning course can therefore fit their training and learning around working full-time, childcare, college courses, and anything else that they have going on in their lives.
Ease of access
Learning online is much easier than learning in a classroom from the point of view that your students can learn in the comfort of their own homes.
There is no need to drive or work out public transport options to a venue to attend a physical classroom.
Many universities and colleges offer their courses, or shorter versions of their courses, online. This means that students who might have previously been restricted in learning due to their location are slowly having these barriers lifted thanks to e-learning.
There is no doubt that a lot of the time e-learning is more cost-effective than face-to-face courses taking place in traditional classroom settings.
These cost savings are largely due to the e-learning teachers having fewer overhead costs. Namely, there is no rent on a physical building to pay.
E-learning also has big cost-saving benefits for businesses who implement it to train their employees. Most e-learning courses are shorter than face-to-face training. For a business, this can mean less time is spent by employees away from their work, meaning fewer manpower hours lost. Also, e-learning can reduce training overheads for businesses, not just because staff are taking less time out of their paid hours to attend training, but also because e-learning is cheaper and more cost-effective than hiring trainers.
E-learning is therefore a popular option for many people, not just because of its ease of access, but also because of its cost-effectiveness.
Disadvantages of E-Learning
Like anything, e-learning has disadvantages as well as advantages.
Some of the main disadvantages of e-learning are:
- Digital poverty can affect the way in which your students access learning online.
- Teachers and students need to learn new software.
- Dealing with software and technology issues.
- The cost of setting up e-learning and ongoing runnings costs.
- E-learning requires a lot of motivation and time management.
- You can’t gain instant feedback from learners.
- The quality of online teachers’ credentials, the course content, and the authenticity of the learning materials can be questionable.
- Not everything can be taught online. Consider something where a skill needs to be assessed. This might not be able to be carried out online. For example, someone learning to insert a cannula to draw blood will need to be assessed in person and not over the internet.
- E-learning does not suit all learning styles.
How Is It Used?
E-learning is a great way for employees to be trained without having to sit through boring, monotonous classes. Instead, individuals can access learning tools from almost anywhere and at any time of day—the only requirement is an internet connection. Because of its flexibility, e-learning is highly popular with employers, who are looking for more cost-effective ways to train their workforce.
Ways of delivering e-learning
Delivering e-learning can come in many forms, including:
- Online courses
- Digital downloads
- Online tutoring
- Social media platforms
- Online videos
- Online coaching/mentoring
At its core, e-learning has two major attributes: It’s not face-to-face learning, and it utilizes technology for some part of its delivery.
All of these forms of e-learning can be delivered for free or sold for a fee. Some e-learning is private. For example, for companies to provide e-learning just to their employees, or a college providing e-learning just to a group of students enrolled on a particular cohort.
Other e-learning is available for anyone to access at any time.
What e-learning is good and useful for students?
As with any type of training or education, good e-learning puts your students at the heart of their learning.
Good e-learning should be engaging and encourage your students to learn. Encouraging engagement online can be challenging, but one of the main ways you can engage your students is by showing up and being authentic.
What I mean by this is that before you make your e-learning available to your students, you understand what their pain points are and ensure that your e-learning serves the purpose of meeting these pain points.
You basically need to understand what your students want to learn and fulfil that training need. It’s important to do this rather than just teaching anything about a topic so that students gain real value from your e-learning.
Remember that your students have engaged with your e-learning because they want to learn about the e-learning topic from you. They want your perspective, expertise, and insight into the topic.
Because of this, don’t shy away from this and try and be someone you’re not when creating your e-learning.
In this post, we’ve identified what e-learning is, as well as its pros and cons.
E-learning is big business, and the market is only going to continue to grow exponentially in the coming years.
It’s a potentially lucrative market that anyone can jump into at any time. Whether you’re looking to use e-learning to train your employees, to provide a passive income stream, or just to share your knowledge with others, there’s an entry point for everyone in the e-learning market.
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