At Relish, we often find ourselves speaking to people who are new to e-learning. At the beginning of my career, I didn’t know much about it either. So I’ve written a series of blogs which cover the basics. This is the first: What is e-learning?
E-learning is short for electronic learning. Based on that definition, any learning content delivered via any electronic format could be classed as e-learning. A game like Valiant Hearts, a website like Code Academy or a podcast series like The Allusionist could all be called electronic learning. But when most people talk about e-learning, they mean something which looks like the screenshot below.
For the purposes of this blog, we’ll define e-learning as something like that screenshot. To create e-learning, you need two things:
- Something to build the e-learning with
- Somewhere to put the e-learning you’ve built
Something to build it with
If you have programming skills, e-learning can be built from scratch using HTML and other programming languages. There are a few advantages and disadvantages to this approach.
Build it yourself
|You’ll create something which is bespoke to you and your organisation’s needs.||You’ll be responsible for testing the e-learning you’ve created to make sure it works on different browsers and devices.|
|If you already have programming skills yourself or in-house, building from scratch might be less expensive than other options.||You’ll need to make sure your e-learning continues to be compatible with new web browsers and devices.|
|You or your organisation will own the code which dictates how the e-learning you’ve created will function.||You need programming skills.|
Alternatively, you could use a rapid development tool like Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline instead. There are lots of tools out there. They are aimed at people who want to create e-learning but don’t have any programming skills. I’ll go into these in more depth another time. For now, here’s a brief list of advantages and disadvantages.
Rapid development tools
|You don’t need to be a developer to create e-learning with these tools.||Can be expensive to buy licenses for.|
|Rapid development tools are designed to talk to systems which track access and completion of e-learning.||The high license costs can tie you into using the same tool for everything.|
|You don’t have to test it on different browsers and devices.||Each tool has its own quirks, advantages and disadvantages which aren’t always obvious until you’ve bought them.|
|Most have active online communities full of helpful forums and videos for when you get stuck.|
Somewhere to put it
For most organisations, the place to put e-learning is their learning management system (LMS). It can also be called a virtual learning environment (VLE) or a course management system (CMS).
An LMS allows people to log in and access their organisation’s e-learning modules. The organisation is able to use the LMS to track and record how many people have accessed the e-learning, how many have completed it and what each person scored if it included an assessment. There are lots of LMSs out there, all with different features and levels of sophistication.
E-learning versus face-to-face training
I went with this heading because I like the idea of e-learning and face-to-face training battling it out, Street Fighter style. In reality, both have special moves which work in different situations. Here’s a little look at when you might choose e-learning.
- You have lots of people to train
An e-learning module will cost the same whether you have five people to train or 500. For this reason, it’s an approach which works well when you need to scale up your training.
- Your learners fear mistakes
Making mistakes is a really effective way to learn. But making mistakes in front of your colleagues can be tough, even in a supportive training environment. E-learning is completed individually rather than in a group. This can create an environment where it feels safer to get it wrong and learn from your mistakes.
- Your learners live all over the world
If the people you want to train live in different places all over the world, getting them all in one place can be expensive. They don’t need to be in the same place to complete an e-learning module.
- You have a high staff turnover
Perhaps you employ seasonal workers or you work with volunteers. Several years ago, I worked for a holiday company. Before being drafted out to the campsite where I’d work over the summer, I completed a three-day induction in The Netherlands. The same induction needed to be repeated, factory style, for each group of new starters to get everyone ready for the holiday season. Some of this induction could have been delivered electronically.
That leads nicely into situations where e-learning isn’t the best option. One of my tasks during that three-day induction was to learn how to put up a tent. This is the sort of practical task which can’t be learned electronically. Here are some other reasons why you might decide e-learning isn’t right.
- You have a small number of people to train
Good quality e-learning takes time and specialist skills to create. If your organisation is small, the economies of scale aren’t there. The cost of e-learning per person will be high and perhaps not worth the investment.
- Access to technology is limited
This could be due to affordability, internet connection and bandwidth, or learners who lack digital experience and confidence.
So now you’ve learned the most basic of basics. Our next blog is about the different people involved in creating e-learning. We’ll be tweeting about it when it’s out.
If you’ve read this and thought, “I would like some e-learning for my organisation”, I know a nice little company who can design and make it for you. *Coughs* Relish Learning *coughs again for emphasis*