What is the Definition of E-Learning?

Defining what is e-learning is not as easy as it might first appear.

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E-learning, also referred to as online learning or electronic learning, is the acquisition of knowledge which takes place through electronic technologies and media. In simple language, e-learning is defined as “learning that is enabled electronically”. Typically, e-learning is conducted on the Internet, where students can access their learning materials online at any place and time. E-Learning most often takes place in the form of online courses, online degrees, or online programs. There are many e-learning examples out there, and we’ve covered those in greater detail in our previous articles.

These are the topics covered in this post:

Defining E-Learning

What is the value of e-learning?

Online learning has numerous advantages over traditional learning methods. Some of these include the possibility for students to make use of self-paced learning and to choose their own learning environments. Additionally, e-learning is both cost-effective and cost-efficient, as it removes the geographical obstacles often associated with traditional classrooms and education.

Taking these benefits and many more into consideration, it becomes evident why the current trends in e-learning show remarkable growth for the industry. Worldwide e-learning revenue is expected to grow to $325 Billion by 2025, which is remarkable considering the fact that the number was three times smaller – $107 Billion, in 2015.

With that being said, it must be noted that e-learning is not perfect. Conducting any of the various types of e-learning through the Internet means sacrifices in one way or another. Increased risk of cheating during assessments, social isolation, and lack of communicational skill development in online students are just some of the challenges of e-learning which need to be addressed. Read our separate post on the disadvantages of e-learning in order to get a better overview of the drawbacks associated with e-learning.

To give you some visual stimulus, here’s a short video to demonstrate what is e-learning.

What is the definition of e-learning?

There are as many definitions of e-learning as there are educational scientists in the world. In order to get a better overview of the various academic definitions of e-learning, let’s take a look at some examples from different academic institutions and educational researchers.

Sarah Guri-Rosenbilt from the Open University of Israel explored the exact definition of e-learning in great detail in her 2005 research paper “’Distance Education’ and ‘E-Learning’: Not the Same Thing”. She defined e-learning as electronic media used for various learning purposes ranging from conventional classroom add-on functions to online substitution for face-to-face meetings with online encounters.

Clark and Mayer defined E-learning as instructions delivered through digital devices with the intent of supporting learning in their 2016 research paper “E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning.”

Arkorful and Abaidoo defined e-learning as using information and communication technologies to for enabling access to online teaching and learning resources in their 2015 research paper “The role of e-learning, advantages and disadvantages of its adoption in higher education.

Ruiz, Mintzer and Leipzig defined e-learning as using Internet technologies for enhancing performance and knowledge in their 2006 research paper “The Impact of E-Learning in Medical Education.

Moving onto Internet resources, eLearningNC.gov has defined e-learning as learning by utilizing electronic technologies for accessing educational curriculums outside of traditional classrooms.

As it appears, answering the question of what is the definition of e-learning is not as easy as it might first seem. The differences between e-learning and distance learning are subtle but important, and it’s important to make distinctions between the two.

What is e-learning used for in education?

E-Learning has a vast amount of uses across all sectors of society and the available examples of e-learning being used effectively are plentiful.

Adult E-Learning

For adults, online learning often manages to solve the numerous challenges adult learners face during studies. Online learning allows them to progress at their own pace, to submit assignments and take assessments at times best suited for them. This kind of flexibility is especially beneficial for adult learners because often they are forced to balance employment, family duties and online learning altogether.

Corporative E-Learning

Companies, on the other hand, use e-learning to boost the knowledge, skills, and overall productivity of their employees while cutting down on the costs normally associated with employee training. Successful companies who have utilized e-learning in the past include Toyota, Shell, PayPal, Lyft, among others.

On the other hand, for career seekers and unemployed people, e-learning has become an effective method of boosting their resumes and developing new skills in fields they are most interested in. Not only are there online learning courses available for virtually any career direction, but there are even “career track” type of online training programs which often come with a guaranteed job proposal for all graduates.

Online Colleges

For educational institutions, e-learning brings perhaps the most potential uses of all. Many accredited online colleges already offer online degree programs, and more of them will start to do so in the upcoming years. E-Learning degrees enable universities to accept considerably more students than they would have otherwise been able to due to space and working staff constraints. With e-learning, universities have the chance to become more international than ever before. With increased amounts of admitted students and reduced costs, educational institutions who are properly able to adapt to the standards of Internet learning will undoubtedly see increased profitability.

What is online learning going to look like in the future?

The future of online learning will continue to see exponential growth. As more educational institutions, corporations, and online learners worldwide start to recognize the importance of online learning, its role in education will only continue to rise. Online learning already has numerous uses in education, and its future roles in education are going to be immense. The agendas of the most successful educational institutions in the world have already recognized that online learning can transform people, knowledge, skills, and performance, and other educational institutions will likely follow suit sooner rather than later.

However, we must not get ahead of ourselves. While the world of online education is undoubtedly an exciting world to be in, many students who are uncomfortable with online learning still prefer the traditional live, in-person teaching methods which they are used to. All students have unique learning styles and online learning will likely never be a one-size-fits-all type of solution to education.

With that being said, there’s no doubt in the fact that we are in the beginning phase of a new era in education. What is e-learning right now, will pale in comparison to what is online learning in the years to come.