eLearning, online learning, online training, training and development, online teaching, online facilitation.

These are all terms that in a roundabout way relate to the same thing, but there are (often subtle) differences. And misunderstandings. So it is no surprise that lately I have noticed an abundance of confusion as to what actually constitutes eLearning.

In the current worldwide state, many businesses and self-employed people have had to rush to get their services online, providing some kind of digital offering where it would normally be face-to-face. I have been spending a lot of time talking to people about their plans for this and in conversations online and with clients, I have picked up on many comments made such as ‘I am already doing eLearning but now need it to be a course’. When I delve further, it turns out that eLearning is not what is in place, but what I would call ‘online teaching’ or ‘online facilitation’.

What’s the difference?

Online facilitation or ‘online teaching’ is running a session much as you would face-to-face, but just doing it over conferencing software or in front of a camera.

It is still heavily instructor-led and little has been adapted. The learners still have to attend on a specific day and time. The lure here is that this was the quickest way to adapt to the pandemic and provide an online offering.

On the other hand, eLearning uses technology and devices much more thoroughly, and though it may involve elements of face-to-face teaching, it is likely to be based on asynchronous activities and modules which are to be completed in their own time. The emphasis is on the learner to steer themselves through the course, and there may not be any instructor at all. This method is more reliant on authoring tools, online platforms, learning management systems, and other technologies.

This isn’t to say one idea is better than the other (though obvs being an eLearning designer, I am biased), but to just increase awareness of the range of virtual learning out there.

Why does it matter?

In order to understand the potential of where you can take your online offering, it is important to know exactly where you are right now. It will help with your research, planning and in talking to people in the industry.

Also, depending on your approach it will also affect the technology you need, the structure of the learning, timings (for both learner completion and your own time), costs and many other factors.

There is no harm in a gradual approach either. Start where you are comfortable and confident and add to it gradually. Add a new method per cohort/per week/per month or whatever you feel you can try depending on how much support you have and the time you have to experiment.

The best approach for you will also depend on your strategy and the scope of it. If you are looking to implement the learning as a short term solution, then it is likely you will not want to spend the time and money on developing eLearning, whether you do it yourself or outsource it and so will take more of an online facilitation approach.

However, if you are thinking strategically for the long term, then it is certainly a topic worth pondering and how you can take more of an eLearning approach to help reduce the time demands on you, your costs and to leverage what technology can do for you.

If this is something you need to think about more it may also be worth reading my previous blog ‘Stay digital: why you shouldn’t rush back to face-to-face training‘ too.

Help is at hand

If you need some help mulling over your options and picking someone else’s brain there are two ways I can help:

You can book a PowerHour with me for £60 – this price last until Friday 13th November, when it will go up to £99.

You can sign up to the course ‘Take Your Training Online‘, at the intro price of £189.