What is E-Learning?

You’ve often heard that term thrown around in conversation, but you’ve never understood what it is.  Until now, that is.  According to Wikipedia.org, “E-learning is the use of electronic education technology in learning and teaching.”  In a nutshell, what this means, is electronic classrooms and tutoring is quickly becoming the way of the future.

Under the umbrella…

The following terms refer to the use of modern tools that have different (even though slight) uses, functions or emphasis in their use, but all make use of a particular digitalized approach/delivery method, which makes them part of educational technology.

Computer Managed Instruction (CMI): this is instruction and assessment of learners by the computer. The instructor does not actually teach but provides (via the computer), objectives, resources and assessment.

Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL): describes how learning and teaching can be supported and higher quality learning experiences can be provided through technology.

Computer-Based Instruction (CBI): when students or employees interact directly with the computer in order to learn or gain information on something (can be safety precautions at work or course material at school).

Computer-Based Training (CBT): is any learning/instruction that is delivered primarily by computer, either through software or via the Web.

Web-Based Training (WBT) or Internet-based training: it is any instruction that is provided via the Internet or over a local intranet and can be used at anytime, anywhere.

Some other terms and tools are online education, online learning, flexible learning, and virtual education — all based on computers/ technological devices and most based on/through the Internet. This means that information, instruction and ultimately learning and education can be accessed by anyone, anywhere in the world.


Why “e”?  Surely there are better ways to describe virtual classrooms and online tutoring?  Many people have theorised what it stands for, such as “e for electronic, as in e-mail”, but no one knows, except for one man.  A pioneer in educational technology, Bernard Luskin had some ideas on what the “e” should stand for. He proposed that it means exciting, energetic, enthusiastic, emotional, excellent, extended, educational and electronic. This indicates that e-learning really holds great potential for the future and is filled with exciting and life-changing possibilities. 

Aspects of e-learning:

Aspects to consider when talking about e-learning include the various types of media that deliver text, audio, images, animations and video used for interaction and learning. Media types are all social platforms and networks, programs, virtual classrooms and information sites.

Another area to consider is the type of technology used in e-learning. This includes your audio recording devices (microphones, tape-recorders –although outdated-), video recording devices, the Internet, webcams, satellite TV, CD’s, DVD’s, cell-phones, tablets and computers.

We can describe e-learning by what it can be used for. Four basic categories fall under this heading:

  • It can be used in the theory and practice of educational approaches to learning.
  • It can be used as technological tools and media that assist in the communication of knowledge, its development and exchange.
  • E-learning can be used as learning management systems for student and curriculum management, as well as information management systems.
  • Finally, it can be used as a teachable subject such as “computer studies” or “information and communication technology”.

Anywhere, anytime?

E-learning, because of its nature, can occur in the classroom as a supplement to the teacher/lecturer (as when the teachers play a video clip for the class). When it is used in conjunction with face-to-face learning, it is called “blended learning.” Learning can also occur outside of the classroom (activities given as homework) and it can be used by students who do not attend face-to-face classes/meetings.

There are currently many websites that host e-learning, some of them require payment, and others are free. These sites host videos on various subjects from maths, to science and computing. They also have online tests and progress checks for the students to verify their learning progress.

E-learning can also aid in multi-pace channels: learners can either work according to their own pace, or activities can be instructor-led. This all depends on the learner’s needs.

The final word

E-learning is technology (increasingly Internet-based) used to facilitate learning for anyone, anywhere, anytime. It opens up a world of information so that education becomes easy and accessible for anyone, anywhere, anytime.



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