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Talent Development Glossary Terms
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What Is E-Learning?

E-learning is a structured course or learning experience delivered electronically; it can also include performance support content. There are also many different elements that can make up an e-learning program, such as live or pre-recorded lecture content, video, quizzes, simulations, games, activities, and other interactive elements.

Keep in mind that you may also see the term e-learning more broadly as a catchall for any learning content delivered electronically. While ATD style uses a hyphen in the spelling, you may also see it spelled elearning or eLearning.

The popularity of e-learning continues to rise. According to ATD’s 2018 State of the Industry report, e-learning accounted for nearly 40 percent of formal learning hours used in 2017.

Broadly, e-learning falls into two main categories: asynchronous and synchronous.

Advantages of E-Learning

The below chart highlights some advantages of both asynchronous and synchronous e-learning over in-person, classroom training.


Benefit
Asynchronous E-Learning
Synchronous E-Learning
Taken anywhere

Taken anytime

Tracking capabilities

Can be less expensive

Highly scalable

Reduced time away

Train dispersed groups

Can be more personalized via branching or adaptive learning

Allows for global collaboration

Asynchronous E-Learning vs. Synchronous E-Learning

Asynchronous e-learning is self paced; the learners are taking the course on their own, usually on a laptop. Asynchronous e-learning programs may include pre-recorded lecture content and video, visuals, and/or text, knowledge quizzes, simulations, games, and other interactive elements.

Synchronous e-learning, more commonly referred to as live-online training, synchronous online training, or virtual classroom training, is instructor-led and taken at the same time as other learners – everyone just happens to be geographically dispersed. This training typically uses a web-conferencing or virtual classroom platform (such as Adobe Connect or GoToTraining) that offers features such as slide or screen sharing, as well as interaction tools such as chat, polling, and screen annotation.

Time to Develop One-Hour of E-Learning

As stated in the above table, e-learning can be less expensive than traditional classroom training. This depends on the number of people taking the course, as e-learning typically takes longer to produce. So how long does it take to produce an e-learning course? Unfortunately, there are too many variables to give a single answer. Still some guidance can be found in a 2017 survey. The below if from the ATD blog post “How Long Does It Take to Develop One Hour of Training: Updated for 2017” by Robyn A. Defelice.

Level 1 E-Learning is passive e-learning where the leaner acts simply as a receiver of information.
Level 2 E-learning is defined as limited interactivity, with the learner offering simple responses to instructional cues.
Level 3 E-Learning has complex interactions that requests the learner to make multiple and varied responses to cues.
Level 4 E-learning has real-time interactions create life-like sets of complex cues and responses.

E-Learning Skills in Demand

In the 2017 ATD research report Next-Generation E-Learning, 89% of those surveyed said that changes in e-learning require their staff to update or add new skills. The below figure, from that report, shows which skills those surveyed felt would be required.

Build Your E-Learning Skills

If you’re an experienced classroom trainer or used to designing classroom training, keep in mind that designing and delivering online courses requires some additional skillsets. Whether you’re new to e-learning, an experienced e-learning instructional designer or developer, or a manager, ATD has content, resources, workshops, and events to help you develop and grow.

ATD Learning Technologies Newsletter: Our monthly round up of the latest insights, articles, webcasts, and more focused on e-learning and all things learning tech.

ATD Learning Technologies Topic Page: Your home for all things e-learning and learning tech on the ATD website.

ATD TechKnowledge: ATD’s annual e-learning conference, focused on e-learning design and development as well as live-online training and emerging trends and technology.

E-Learning Instructional Design Certificate: This two-day workshop includes opportunities to practice designing effective e-learning, investigating and applying instructional methodologies that support learning, and incorporating best practices into your own projects.

ATD Master E-Learning Instructional Designer Program: This four-day program prepares you to design and align learning to meet business objectives and makes you a valued partner to stakeholders.

ATD Press Books: If you’re looking for practical guides to help you get started with e-learning or hone your design skills, ATD Press has a number of great titles, including E-Learning Fundamentals, E-Learning Department of One, Virtual Training Guidebook, Fully Compliant, The LMS Guidebook, and more!