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eLearning: History, Types, Benefits & How to Create One

eLearning History Types Benefits & How to Create One

eLearning is one of the best things to have happened to mankind in recent times. It changed the way we teach and learn.

When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted conventional educational models, eLearning proved its value as a viable alternative to attending physical classrooms.

Continue reading to find out what eLearning is, a bit of its history, its types, advantages, how to create an eLearning program, and finally, what the future has in store for it.

What Is eLearning?

“One of the most important areas we can develop as professionals is competence in accessing and sharing knowledge.”

eLearning is the acquisition of knowledge through electronic technologies and media. It is also referred to as online learning. Essentially, eLearning involves the use of computers or other digital devices to deliver training and education online.

This can include various forms of content such as videos, courses, podcasts, interactive web programs, and more.

The convenience and accessibility of eLearning have made it increasingly popular, enabling individuals to learn anytime and anywhere with an internet connection.

The History of eLearning

After the eLearning definition, let’s look at the rich history of eLearning that has spanned several decades. The following is a brief timeline of its evolution:

  • 1924: The first electronic learning machine, the Automatic Teacher, was created by Ohio State University professor Sidney Pressey. The machine was intended to empower human teachers to give more time to students, and it was built using typewriter parts. It employed an intelligence test consisting of 30 questions.
    The History of eLearning
  • 1956: Behavioral psychologist, B.F. Skinner introduced the concept of programmed learning, and it served as the foundation for computer-based training that would develop later.
  • 1960s: Computer-based education emerged, and the first computer-based training (CBT) program was developed.
  • 1980s: The introduction of personal computers and CD-ROMs changed the landscape of eLearning and enabled students to learn with greater flexibility.
  • 1990s: The World Wide Web led to the development of web-based training (WBT) in the form of online learning and training. The term “eLearning” was first used in a 1999 lecture by CBT Systems.
  • 2000s: The term became widely recognized. The development of learning management systems (LMS) helped manage eLearning programs more efficiently and effectively.
  • 2010s: The expansion of mobile devices and high-speed internet made eLearning more accessible and convenient, as learners could access online courses from anywhere at any time.

Today, eLearning continues to evolve and is expected to be a major player in the future of education and training.

What Are the Types of eLearning?

There are various types of eLearning that are categorized based on the mode of delivery and the learning approach. The main ones are:

  1. Synchronous eLearning
  2. Asynchronous eLearning
  3. Blended learning
  4. Adaptive eLearning
  5. Collaborative eLearning
  6. Mobile learning (mLearning)
  7. Fixed eLearning
  8. Virtual Reality (VR) learning
  9. Video-based learning
  10. Microlearning
  11. Podcast-based learning
  12. Social learning
  13. Gamification
  1. Synchronous eLearning is online learning that takes place in real-time, with a facilitator or instructor present. This can include webinars, live video conferences, or virtual classrooms.
  2. Asynchronous eLearning refers to eLearning that takes place at any time. Learners can access the content and materials at their convenience with greater flexibility.
  3. Also known as hybrid learning, blended learning combines traditional face-to-face instruction with online learning components. This approach enables learners to engage in both in-person and virtual activities.
  4. Adaptive eLearning is where the content and learning experience are personalized to meet the needs and learning styles of each individual learner.
  5. Collaborative eLearning focuses on fostering collaboration among learners, enabling them to work together on projects, discussions, and activities, often through online forums or group assignments.
  6. Mobile learning or simply mLearning is specifically designed for mobile devices. Learners can access content and participate in learning activities on smartphones and tablets.
  7. Fixed eLearning refers to a structured and pre-planned approach to learning, where the content and materials are predetermined and fixed, usually in a linear format. Fixed eLearning typically follows a specific curriculum or syllabus and has a predetermined path that learners need to follow.
  8. Virtual Reality (VR) learning relies on VR technologies and immerses learners in a simulated environment. It enables them to interact with and experience learning content in a realistic way. This type of eLearning is especially effective for skill-based training and simulations.
  9. Video-based learning uses instructional videos to deliver educational content. This can include recorded lectures, demonstrations, tutorials, or interactive video modules.
  10. Microlearning breaks down learning content into small, bite-sized modules that can be consumed in short periods of time. It focuses on delivering specific learning objectives or addressing targeted topics, making it easily digestible and accessible for learners.
  11. Podcast-based learning utilizes audio resources that can be downloaded and listened to on various devices. Podcast-based learning lets learners access educational content on the go, making it a convenient option for continuous learning.
  12. Social learning emphasizes collaboration and interaction among learners. It involves techniques such as discussion forums, online communities, and peer-to-peer feedback to facilitate learning through shared experiences and knowledge exchange.
  13. Gamification integrates gaming elements into the learning process to enhance engagement and motivation. It involves the use of points, badges, leaderboards, and rewards to create a more immersive and enjoyable learning experience.

It’s worth noting that eLearning terminology and classification can vary across sources, and new types of eLearning may emerge as technology advances.

Pro tip: For best results, you may adapt and combine each type to create a customized eLearning experience based on your specific learning needs, preferences, and business objectives.

What Are the Benefits of eLearning?

“To unlock the true potential of eLearning to train successful employees, it needs to be people-centered.” — Simon Greany

eLearning provides several real benefits that make it a popular choice for individuals and organizations. Some of the commonly reported ones include:

  • Flexibility: In eLearning, learners can access educational content anytime and anywhere, providing unmatched flexibility in terms of when, where, and how they learn. This is especially beneficial for busy professionals or individuals with other commitments.
  • Self-paced learning: Learners can progress at their own pace. They can pause, rewind, or review content as needed. This ensures a personalized experience that suits individual needs and learning styles.
  • Cost-effectiveness: eLearning eliminates the need for travel, printed materials, and classroom rentals, resulting in cost savings for both learners and organizations.
  • Accessibility: eLearning helps overcome geographical barriers and brings education to individuals who may not have easy access to traditional in-person learning opportunities.
  • Analytics and tracking: Many eLearning platforms, such as an LMS, provide robust analytics and tracking features that enable educators and organizations to monitor learner progress, identify areas that need improvement, and tailor their learning interventions accordingly.
  • Time efficiency: eLearning often allows learners to complete courses more quickly compared to traditional classroom-based learning formats. Learners can focus solely on the content that is most relevant to them, avoiding unnecessary lessons or repetition.
  • Environment-friendliness: eLearning reduces the need for printed materials, resulting in lower paper consumption and a smaller carbon footprint.

Those were the advantages of e-Learning. Read the following real-life example of how eLearning can bring significant benefits to you and your learners.

Case Study: How Florida Auto Dealer School trained its customers remotely for automobile dealership licenses

Read the full story here.

How to Create an eLearning Program

Creating an eLearning program involves several essential steps. Here’s a step-by-step guide using ProProfs Training Maker as an example tool:

    1. Define your learning objectives: Start by identifying the goals and objectives of your eLearning program. Clarify what you want your learners to achieve at the end of the course.
  1. Choose a robust eLearning platform: ProProfs Training Maker is an excellent example tool to use for creating eLearning programs. It offers a user-friendly interface, drag-and-drop content creation, and various customization options.
  2. Create content: Create, organize, and structure your content. Break it down into modules or lessons to ensure a logical flow. Include text, images, videos, audio, and quizzes to engage and assess learners.

To get started, sign up for a ProProfs Training Maker account and log in. Click on “Create a Course” and give your course a name. Use the intuitive course builder to add modules, lessons, and content to your eLearning program.

  1. Customize your course design: Enhance the visual appeal of your course by customizing the design. ProProfs Training Maker offers pre-designed themes, or you can create a custom theme that aligns with your branding.
  2. Add multimedia elements: Embed videos, images, and audio files within your course to make it more engaging. ProProfs Training Maker allows you to upload files or link to external resources.
  3. Assess learners: Create quizzes, assessments, and surveys to evaluate learners’ understanding. You’ll find a range of question types in the LMS and you can also customize grading criteria.
  4. Publish and share your course: Once you’ve finished creating your eLearning program, publish it using ProProfs Training Maker. You can share the course with learners through a unique URL or embed it on your website.
  5. Track learner progress: Monitor learners’ progress, course completion rates, and quiz scores using analytics tools. Gain insights to improve the effectiveness of your eLearning program.
  6. Continuously improve: Collect feedback from learners and use it to improve your eLearning program. Update content, add new resources, and incorporate learner suggestions to ensure ongoing engagement and success.

Remember that creating an eLearning program is an iterative process. Continuously evaluate, update, and refine your program to meet the evolving needs of your learners. ProProfs Training Maker simplifies this process by providing a comprehensive platform to create, manage, deliver, track, and analyze eLearning programs.

The Future of eLearning

“The future of eLearning is interactive and engaging, making learning fun and inspiring a passion for knowledge.”

Based on current trends, the future of eLearning looks promising.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption and acceptance of online education and training worldwide.

According to market findings, the eLearning market is expected to surpass $375 billion by 2026.

Factors contributing to this growth include increasing smartphone usage, the popularity of virtual and augmented reality tools for learning, and the rising number of collaborations between eLearning platforms and businesses.

Moreover, with the advent of artificial intelligence, adaptive learning, and microlearning, eLearning is becoming more personalized, flexible, and efficient.

Learners can access customized course content, receive instant feedback, and interact with their peers and teachers/instructors through online forums, video calls, and messaging tools.

In conclusion, the future of eLearning is bright, and it will likely continue to evolve to meet the diverse learning needs of students and professionals worldwide.

For more on eLearning trends, read this post: Top 6 Trends Driving eLearning in 2024

Leverage eLearning for a New Learning Experience

eLearning has come a long way since its inception, evolving into various types and providing numerous benefits for learners.

With the ability to create custom education and training programs, individuals and organizations can use eLearning to enhance learners’ experiences.

As technology continues to advance, the future of eLearning holds infinite possibilities, bridging gaps in education and enabling lifelong learning for all.

Enable your students or employees to embrace eLearning and open doors to a world of knowledge at their fingertips.

Let them stay curious, stay engaged, and embrace the limitless potential of eLearning.

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About the author

Michael Laithangbam is the senior writer & editor at ProProfs with 12 years of experience in enterprise software and eLearning. Michael's expertise encompasses online training, web-based learning, quizzes & assessments, LMS, and more. Michael’s work has been published in G2, Software Advice, Capterra, and eLearning Industry. You can connect with him via LinkedIn.