Whenever I meet someone new, there is the inevitable “So what do you do?” question. I start off by saying I design and develop e-learning content. It’s great when the person I’m talking to knows what e-learning is. However, in many cases, people do not know what e-learning is and what it stands for. So in this post, I’ll provide a definition of e-learning.
First, let’s take at the word itself “elearning”. It can be written:
- With a hyphen (e-learning)
- Without a hyphen (elearning)
- With uppercase “L” eLearning)
All are acceptable.
The “e” stands for “electronic”. Like it does in the following words:
You can also write these words with and without hyphens.
It’s a challenge trying to write a definition of elearning because technology is changing all the time and elearning has so many uses.
Wikipedia’s definition of e-learning
Having trawled through various sources, I found Wikipedia’s definition of e-learning.
“E-learning comprises all forms of electronically supported learning and teaching, which are procedural in character and aim to effect the construction of knowledge with reference to individual experience, practice and knowledge of the learner.”
Phew! That’s quite a mouthful and quite hard to understand if you don’t know anything about e-learning. So how can this definition be simplified?
Brief historical journey of ‘e-learning’
Well first, let’s take a super quick historical journey of ‘e-learning’. Early forms of e-learning were referred to as computer based training (CBT). To reduce training costs and avoid the safety issue in on-site training, the aviation industry used CBT for many years to train pilots. Later in the 1990s text heavy instructional manuals were designed for CBT.
The Internet arrives
With the arrival of the Internet, e-learning was given a new birth. Universities and colleges started to provide media rich content allowing 24/7, anytime, anywhere learning to take place. Big corporate organisations soon followed, choosing to use e-learning to train their employees.
Now there is information and technology everywhere, every second of the day. How many devices do you own? Got a laptop, iPhone, iPad, Internet enabled TV? How much time do you spend online every day? And when you are online how many applications and sites do you visit which teach you something new or allow you to interact to share knowledge? Facebook? Twitter? Blogs? Articles? YouTube? Podcasts? The list is ever growing.
Plain English definition of elearning
So taking all this on board and going back to the original question of “what is e-learning?” my plain English definition of e-learning is:
E-learning is studying content through technology to learn new skills and knowledge.
Now that’s easier to understand isn’t it? What do you think about this more simplified definition of e-learning?
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