E-learning has become the new norm post-pandemic. In fact, it is expected to continue to grow for the foreseeable future.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what e-learning is and why it’s important. We’ll also cover different types of e-learning to help you decide which implementation is right for you.
What Is E-Learning?
E-learning (short for electronic learning) is all about using electronic devices – such as computers and tablets – connected to the internet to learn through digital materials and resources. It can be a very powerful tool in learning since it has the ability to circumvent many barriers to traditional learning, such as distance, weather conditions, and of course, global pandemics.
Typically, e-learning is categorized into two broad groups: synchronous and asynchronous learning.
Synchronous or Asynchronous
E-learning can be modeled in different ways depending on the learner’s requirements.
Synchronous learning models imitate the physical world learning models. A group of participants will join a class or course at a set time and have room to engage with each other as well as with the instructor. Synchronous learning allows the opportunity to get real-time feedback from the instructor and for the participants to collaborate.
Asynchronous learning models, on the other hand, allow for self-paced learning at hours of your own choosing without direct interaction with an instructor. As-Synchronous e-learning gives more flexibility in terms of time and also the pace at which a participant might want to move through the lesson or course.
6 Types of Synchronous E-Learning
Now that we’re familiar with what synchronous learning is and what its benefits are, let’s explore the different ways a synchronous learning model can be implemented to best suit your goals.
Live Podcast or Webcast
Podcasts have become a popular medium for disseminating information across the internet and it’s no different when it comes to e-learning. A live podcast or webcast works like radio does over the internet! It’s great for delivering a lecture and also answering questions that participants might have.
Live Virtual Classrooms
Live virtual classrooms provide the experience of a traditional classroom which you can join with a computer over the internet. Studies show that 98% of universities have shifted to online classes.
In this type of e-learning, the learning material (generally presentation slides or video) is prepared by the instructor in advance to share with the class, along with their own input. Several tools and software can help you set this up, such as Zoom, Skype, Airmeet, and others.
A web seminar (or webinar) follows its traditional counterpart quite closely. The focus is an expert or a panel of experts that informs or delivers a lecture on a particular topic to a live online audience.
Once the expert, or the panel, is done with their part, there is usually some sort of engagement in the form of a Q&A session that follows regarding the topic under discussion.
Check out our roundup of the top programs for webinars that work with WordPress.
Virtual coaching is the go-to form of synchronous e-learning when it comes to mastering certain skills or learning topics that might require more attention or a lot of practice.
The number of participants in a virtual coaching session will be significantly lower than in a webinar or virtual classroom. They are usually one-on-one sessions with a coach or at most, a few people per session.
In this model, the physical classroom serves as a place of discussion and application. The class time is replaced with recorded lectures that the participants go over at home. This can improve the workflow and efficiency of teaching as video lectures can be recorded in advance and in a time-efficient manner. The participants come to class to discuss the lectures that they studied at home.
Once again, combining physical and virtual classrooms, blended e-learning uses online meetings and other interactive tools to connect participants with an instructor. The physical classrooms can serve as venues for hands-on learning and practical application of what participants have learned.
12 Types of Asynchronous E-Learning
Asynchronous e-learning provides flexibility for the learner based on their schedule and can be implemented in a number of different ways depending on their goals.
Microlearning is a form of e-learning targeted toward learning specific skills by focusing on the task to be performed. For example, learning to do a specific thing in Excel, programming a particular function in a language, or implementing a specific functionality in a website.
This can be accomplished by creating short videos or animations on the topic that can be viewed by learners in a short time.
While microlearning is great for learning a specific function in Excel, if your goal is to learn how to use Excel in a wide variety of ways, then a self-paced course would be the way to go.
A self-paced course is better suited to cover a topic in a broader scope. It is a pre-built course that students can go through at their own pace. Students can proceed from one assignment to the next at their own pace and learn the topic at a time and schedule of their choice.
Email and Text ‘Drip’ Course
Email and text drip courses work by breaking down a broader topic into smaller, categorized modules of information. These modules can then be sent over email based on prerequisites.
These prerequisites can involve completing specific sections of the previous modules or they might be time-based (weekly, monthly, or quarterly).
It’s important that each module be concise and fit the flow of the complete course well. With each email, students can also be provided additional resources (reading material, videos, animations, and downloadables) relevant to the course module.
Webinars don’t always have to be live. Pre-recorded webinars can be used by students to learn from experts at a pace and schedule that is best suited to the student.
Recorded webinars provide the convenience of circumventing time zones and schedule limitations, but the trade-off is that students will miss out on the interactivity element of a live webinar.
An interactive video is a great asynchronous e-learning tool. Rather than just watching a video to learn its contents, an interactive video has the viewer make decisions and choices in the form of clicks or drags during the video and proceed based on the choices made by the viewer.
This method provides more interactivity which can enhance the learning process as a result of the increased engagement by the viewer.
You can incorporate simulations to increase engagement even further in asynchronous e-learning. A simulation is a digital imitation of a real-world scenario. It allows for in-depth study and experience.
Racing simulations are very common among automobile racing professionals. Flight simulation is another implementation of this method.
A pre-set course with non-changeable course content and a fixed learning schedule is called Fixed E-Learning. Many academic institutes incorporate or even exclusively offer massive open online courses (MOOCs).
A pre-set course can be made more personalized by creating an adaptive e-learning course. Adding this flexibility requires some good course design expertise to start but allows a lot more flexibility for the participants.
In adaptive e-learning, the performance of the participant is assessed based on assignments and quizzes, and the learning curriculum is updated based on their progress.
Just because a group of participants is located in different geographical areas and time zones don’t mean they can’t collaborate! Collaborative e-learning uses tools and software to allow participants to collaborate on a group class or course.
This creates a sense of synchronous learning in an asynchronous e-learning model and teaches participants essential communication and team-building skills.
Not to be confused with “gamification” (adding game mechanics like levels to make a task more rewarding), game-based e-learning is about using actual games that are sometimes specifically designed to learn a certain topic or skill.
Trading stocks, managing inventories, and even air traffic regulation are examples of things that can benefit from a game-based e-learning model.
Virtual reality has come a long way from its early stages. Not only is there a reasonable variety in the market when it comes to VR headsets at different price points, but there is also a huge number of developer hours being poured into VR. From virtual classrooms to learning the curves and bends of a real-life racing track in a VR simulation, the application of virtual reality e-learning is going to increase.
Podcasts don’t have to be live to be effective. Pre-recorded podcasts can cover many topics for students to consume at their convenience. Listening to your course, whether it is history, political sciences, or marketing principles, on your own schedule can be a powerful enabler for effective learning.
It would be hard to argue against the fact that e-learning is the future. Synchronous e-learning presents a more traditional classroom experience, whereas asynchronous e-learning methods facilitate those with busy schedules who prefer to learn at their own pace. The best method is what suits your needs best.
Do you have any questions about the different e-learning types and techniques? Let us know in the comments section below.