Are you an educator looking to make another touchpoint with students? Or maybe you’re an HR executive hoping to dazzle your employees with a fancy new training?
Whatever the case, you’re probably wondering how you can deliver this new education solution in an easy to use way. Scheduling an in-person seminar or training can be a logistical nightmare between finding a room that’s big enough and picking a time that works for everyone.
eLearning provides the solution to these problems and more.
What is eLearning?
eLearning is an edtech solution that uses online tools and software to deliver educational materials to students outside of the classroom.
This does not mean that the entire education process is done virtually; rather there is the option of a virtual component. Educators can choose to use eLearning in an entirely virtual setting or as a supplement to in-person interactions.
eLearning is a tool that provides another touchpoint for educators looking to reach their students.
The importance of eLearning
There are many reasons eLearning is the future of education. As our world becomes smaller and students become more connected through the internet, it’s important to provide them with an education that mirrors the world they live in.
Allowing students the chance to access coursework and study materials from anywhere in the world provides better opportunities for students to learn and understand the material.
It also opens the door for students who need additional help or time outside a traditional classroom setting. eLearning should be seen as an opportunity to reach students where they are, by providing them with the tools they need to succeed.
Who uses eLearning?
While eLearning is a popular solution among teachers, it has many use cases beyond the classroom.
The rise of remote work and distributed teams have paved the way for eLearning to become a must-have tool for employee training and education. Whether you’re using eLearning for your classroom or the boardroom, here are some practical applications for eLearning solutions.
eLearning was designed with instructors in mind. These solutions are perfect for reaching students away from the classroom.
Whether snowdays close down your campus or you’re just looking for an extra touchpoint with your students, eLearning provides all the tools you need. All of these things aim to provide a better overall educational experience for your students.
Distributed teams are becoming more commonplace as the global economy opens up the opportunity for remote work.
eLearning tools are perfect for HR departments that need to onboard or train large numbers of employees away from the office. These tools allow you to ensure all of your employees, regardless of their location, get the same information and training opportunities.
Believe it or not, eLearning can be an advantageous tool for sales.
Customer training is another application of eLearning that gives you the chance to train and onboard new clients after closing a huge deal. It can allow you the chance to get your new clients up to speed on your products and offerings, all while providing value to the decision makers.
As a remote employee, it can be hard to feel connected to your team at times. eLearning platforms give you the chance to have access to the same training and information as your in-office colleagues.
They also provide you the chance to grow your skills and knowledge with career development opportunities. eLearning is a great tool for keeping yourself engaged with your team.
How to decide if eLearning is right for you
Understanding the use cases for eLearning is the first piece of the puzzle. eLearning is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Depending on what problem you’re trying to solve, there’s a chance that eLearning isn’t the solution you’re looking for.
This section will cover some eLearning alternatives to help you decide if eLearning is the right fit for your needs.
What is the difference between eLearning and distance learning?
Though they may sound like synonyms, eLearning and distance learning are two different practices entirely. Understanding the difference between these two strategies will help you decide which you need to utilize in your business.
There are three main differences between eLearning and distance learning:
When it comes to eLearning, lessons do not have to be fully remote or digital. They can be used as a supplement for in-person learning and interactions. Educators can use eLearning tools in the classroom to enhance the educational experience, or they can use them as fully remote learning options.
With distance learning, online resources are the only option because there is no in-person classroom. Instructors assign work and check in on students' progress digitally.
Because eLearning is primarily used as part of a blended learning technique, the interaction you’re expected to have with students is higher. eLearning encourages educators to check in with students regularly in person if possible.
Distance learning does not have the in-person interaction component that eLearning does because there is no in-person classroom. You can remedy this pretty easily with the help of messaging apps, video conferencing software, online discussion boards, and more.
As we’ve mentioned, the key difference between eLearning and distance learning is the delivery. An eLearning strategy is often used in addition to face-to-face interaction, while distance learning is the only available option to connect with distributed students.
Key Takeaways: If you’re planning to create a class that is 100% online and remote, distance learning is the right option. For blended learning strategies that include in-person meetings, eLearning is the way to go.
What’s the difference between eLearning and virtual training?
On the corporate side of things, understanding the differences between eLearning and virtual training present a unique challenge. While both can be beneficial for your business, it’s important to know when to use each of these techniques.
There are three main differences between eLearning and virtual training:
The end goal of your educational training will tell you a lot about which method is right for your business. eLearning is best suited for companies that are trying to teach their employees a new skill or piece of information.
With eLearning, not every employee needs to learn the same skills as their colleagues. You wouldn’t train your sales team on how to use an email marketing platform, so eLearning would be the best method to ensure only those who need to learn the new skill have access to the coursework.
Virtual training is about getting your employees on the same page about a new process or change to company policy. This method is best used for things like company-wide sexual harassment training, compliance training, or IT and data security training. The coursework doesn’t change from employee to employee, and everyone is required to complete the same training.
The biggest difference between eLearning and virtual training is that eLearning has required coursework that users must complete before finishing the course. This can include anything from progress quizzes, exams, projects, and more. Virtual training merely requires an employee to sit through the course material and absorb the information.
An example of this would be if your employee takes a course on learning Adobe Photoshop, they will likely be required to complete projects and assignments to show they’ve learned the material. This is an example of eLearning.
If you send a compliance training to your employees that simply requires them to watch a series of videos and take a quick quiz at the end to show they retained the information, that’s an example of virtual training.
eLearning is done at the student’s own pace. They work on their own to complete sections of the curriculum and complete the course on their own. While all of your employees might be taking the same course with the same information, they will not complete it on the same timeline.
Virtual training is different. It requires employees to complete the necessary modules on a timeline, or sometimes, even at the same time. Oftentimes, HR departments will schedule timeblocks by which employees must finish their training. They also might set aside time for everyone to take the training at the same time despite being in different locations.
Key Takeaways: If you’re planning to train all of your employees on the same subject, virtual training is the right option. For individual training or education designed for specific employees, eLearning is the way to go.
Benefits of eLearning
As with any tool or strategy, there are benefits and drawbacks. eLearning is no different.
Even if you’ve never created a virtual classroom or course before, there are plenty of benefits to eLearning you should consider. eLearning is a tool designed to enhance the learning experience by giving students flexibility and structure, all while saving you time and money.
Classrooms. Supplies. Transportation. All of these things cost money. When you incorporate an eLearning platform into your curriculum, you save money by moving part of your coursework online where anyone can access it.
Being able to access their education online saves your students time and money, too. Even a hybrid education strategy where part of the coursework is in person and part is online can save you and your students money over time.
eLearning courses offer both students and instructors the opportunity to work at their own pace for the duration of the course.
This allows students who understand the material quickly to work ahead and absorb the information while giving students who need more time the chance to ask questions when needed. This flexibility means that more of your students are likely to learn and fully retain the information in your course.
Many eLearning platforms offer options to enhance the educational experience through gamification.
Gamification is the process of taking interactive elements often seen in video games and applying them to mundane, day-to-day activities. These elements can be anything from scoring points, virtual study games, and more.
Duolingo is a perfect example of gamification in education. It's designed to move new language learners through the program by giving them daily challenges, allowing them to score points for practicing every day, and encourages you to be competitive with your friends learning a new language.
Allowing students the chance to score points or reach milestones while learning gives them a sense of accomplishment. Gamification gives students the sense that they are progressing in their education and offers them motivation to work harder.
Challenges of eLearning
Along with the benefits of eLearning come the challenges. Any strategy you create that relies heavily on technology has the potential to go wrong.
Whether it’s an issue with the actual software or your team’s tech knowledge, you’ll need to pay close attention to these potential pitfalls.
Technology is both the biggest gift and biggest hurdle when it comes to eLearning. There are a number of things that can go wrong when you rely on technology. If you decide to employ eLearning in your education strategy, you’ll need to be flexible when your students have technological issues. It’s not a matter of if they have a problem, it’s when.
You’ll also likely have to deal with the learning curve for non-tech savvy students. Assuming all of your students will automatically understand how to use your eLearning program is a mistake. Be sure to carefully explain to everyone how to use the software, and consider setting office hours to help those who might need it.
One of the greatest benefits of meeting with your students in person is the ability to communicate face-to-face. When you utilize eLearning platforms, the normal rapport you build in person is missing.
This doesn’t mean communication is impossible when using eLearning, it just means you’ll have to make a conscious effort to bridge that gap.
This can be done in a number of ways. Weekly emails to your class, utilizing video conferencing software for students who prefer face-to-face interaction, or even a group messaging app your students can use to communicate. There are plenty of ways to stay connected when you’re away from the classroom.
Difference in learning styles
As an educator, you’re probably aware that different students have different learning styles. The unfortunate truth is that eLearning is better suited for some learning styles as opposed to others.
This means you will have students who struggle with eLearning because they prefer to learn in a classroom setting where they can have face-to-face interaction.
What are the seven different learning styles?
Understanding the different learning styles can help you create an eLearning strategy to best fit your team. Figure out each of your employees learning styles and then craft your eLearning curriculum to best suit their style.
Here’s a quick look at the seven different styles of learning:
This doesn't mean you can’t utilize eLearning because some students might struggle with it. Like any of the other challenges we’ve mentioned, you’ll just have to get creative.
Offer your students more than one way to interact with the lesson, be flexible with students who struggle with online learning, and always lead with patience. By varying your approach to communication and projects, you’ll reach more students.
Best solutions for implementing eLearning
The final step in understanding eLearning is knowing your options. There are plenty of different approaches to eLearning that you can choose from. Let’s take a look at the two main solutions and get a sense of when to use each one.
Learning management system (LMS)
A learning management system (LMS) is a software platform designed to be a single place for educators to manage and organize educational courses online and all course material for their students. If you’re looking for a fully remote eLearning solution, an LMS platform is your best option.
Learning management systems provide educators with a single platform to deliver their online course content to students, schedule and track student progress and grades, and the ability to integrate with other eLearning software solutions.
If you’re looking to build an eLearning strategy from the ground up, you’ll need an LMS to do it.
Classroom management systems (CMS)
A classroom management system (CMS) is a software designed to enhance the educational experience. It’s best used for situations where you have some face-to-face interaction with students on a regular basis. Classroom management systems are designed to be a supplemental resource for your students.
CMS solutions offer a variety of tools, such as feedback features for students' work, access for parents to review and monitor student progress, and more. CMS solutions are designed to work alongside your learning management system (LMS) and student information system (SIS), providing you another touchpoint with students when they’re away from the classroom.
Time to hit the books
eLearning is not a replacement for the work you do as an educator. It’s a tool you can use to forge connections with students to improve their learning experience.
Be sure to take into consideration what your students need when choosing your eLearning strategy. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but there’s undoubtedly an eLearning solution that will work for your needs.
Are you new to eLearning? Maybe you don’t know which educational software solutions your business needs. If you need to learn how to make the business case for purchasing educational software, we've got you covered!
Lauren Pope is a Content Marketing Manager at Oracle and a former content marketer at G2. You can find her work featured on CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, the G2 Learning Hub, and other sites. In her free time, Lauren enjoys watching true crime shows and singing karaoke. (she/her/hers)