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What is eLearning?

When asked if eLearning enhances a student's or trainee’s learning experience, the answer would probably be, from many educators, a reasonably confident 'yes'. However, if asked if eLearning enhances student achievement of learning outcomes, a lot of educators would either be neutral or undecided (Please see, for example, Terry Freedman's post "Does ICT improve learning" for a more detailed discussion about this subject, including definitions of 'ICT', learning contexts, use and application, roles, and beliefs about how people learn), for several reasons including the reasonably small amount of robust research in this area.

One definition is:

eLearning (or ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching - ICTELT) is a learning experience that is enhanced by technology - and this might be because of the ability to learn any time/any place, with multimedia, or to collaborate with peers and experts, wherever they are. The technology is usually networked in some way (Intranet, Internet etc) and often has shared collaborative spaces such as Google Docs or a Learning Management System (LMS). The key is that effective eLearning does not comprise a respository of content that is accessed and completed, but that it has aspect of learning that build in extra 'value' to sitting in a room by yourself reading a print out.

Conceptual design of eLearning enhanced learning experiences therefore, can build in the following (Source):

  • Spatial - learning across space (anywhere)
  • Temporal - learning across time (any time)
  • Cognitive - learning across domains (any topic)


The resources that follow outline some of the current thinking and practices in eLearning as well as providing practical examples - in a range of media.

  • JISC in the UK have a very useful guide, as well as another definition of eLearning you might like to have a browse through; the guide also has some examples of eLearning in use, but mainly in education.
  • The Australian Flexible Learning Framework have a couple of useful resources including this online eLearning for Industry Guide, which gives a good overview of eLearning and how it is relevant to industry/business-based learners. The second resource provides case-studies from eLearning on a shoestring, which considers examples of eLearning initiatives at colleges and education providers in Australia.
  • The ICTELT process model provides a step-by-step tool to take you through the eLearning planning process via a flow diagram
  • And this video (again education based) shows how eLearning can help learners transition from more traditional ways of learning, to a more social, collaborative model. (Has concrete examples, and results).
  • And this diagram summarises some of the key activities / tools that you might want to use in eLearning.


This diagram below has been designed to illustrate the links between 3 learning theories and how they could be linked to eLearning. The list of eLearning options is not supposed to be exhaustive. Also some of the tools could easily be designed by an educator, or used by a learner in a variety of ways, and therefore appear in more than one of the theory segments. For example, an interactive scenario, if it were an ill-defined contextualised problem, with no 'right' answer, and designed to be worked on by a group of learners, then it would shift from Cognitive to Situative. If you feel I have missed anything, or can think of ways that the diagram could be improved, please leave me comments below :) thank you.

Click here to see the diagram below full size.


PD session for VEMentoring by catspyjamasnz

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