What is E-learning?


E-learning is to classroom learning as cell phones are to a pay phone at the
bus station.

Well, at least it is in some ways. For instance, e-learning allows you to learn
anywhere and usually at any time, as long as you have a properly configured
. Cell
allow you to communicate any time and usually anywhere, as long as
you have a properly configured phone.

E-learning can be
, Network-based, Intranet-based or Internet-based. It can
include text, video, audio, animation and virtual environments. It can be a very
rich learning experience that can even surpass the level of training you might
experience in a crowded classroom. It is self-paced, hands-on learning.

The quality of the electronic-based training, as in every form of training, is
in its content and its delivery. E-learning can suffer from many of the same
pitfalls as classroom training, such as boring slides, monotonous speech, and
little opportunity for interaction. The beauty of e-learning, however, is that
new software allows the creation of very effective learning environments that
can engulf you in the material. We'll use software from
as an example to show you how the process works.

Levels of e-learning

E-learning falls into four categories, from the very basic to the very advanced.
The categories are:

  • Knowledge databases -- While not necessarily seen as actual training,
    these databases are the most basic form of e-learning. You've probably seen
    knowledge databases on software sites offering indexed explanations and guidance
    for software questions, along with step-by-step instructions for performing
    specific tasks. These are usually moderately interactive, meaning that
    you can either type in a key word or phrase to search the database, or make a
    selection from an alphabetical list.

  • Online support - Online support is also a form of e-learning and
    functions in a similar manner to knowledge databases. Online support comes in
    the form of forums,
    chat rooms, online bulletin boards,
    , or live
    support. Slightly more interactive than knowledge
    databases, online support offers the opportunity for more specific questions and
    answers, as well as more immediate answers.

  • Asynchronous training - This is e-learning in the more traditional
    sense of the word. It involves self-paced learning, either CD-ROM-based,
    Network-based, Intranet-based or Internet-based. It may include access to
    instructors through online bulletin boards, online discussion groups and e-mail.
    Or, it may be totally self-contained with links to reference materials in place
    of a live instructor.

  • Synchronous training - Synchronous training is done in real-time with
    a live instructor facilitating the training. Everyone logs in at a set time and
    can communicate directly with the instructor and with each other. You can raise
    your cyber hand and even view the cyber whiteboard. It lasts for a set amount of
    time -- from a single session to several weeks, months or even years. This type
    of training usually takes place via Internet Web sites, audio- or
    Internet telephony
    , or even two-way live broadcasts to students in a

Let's move on to how learning works.