Jessica Johnston is a CMS admin at Cellebrite, a digital intelligence and forensics company. She has an extensive background in technical writing and editing and has designed and implemented Flare projects in the areas of legal technology, public safety, and financial services. She is passionate about building innovative solutions to complex problems in the learning and development space. When she's not creating and managing content, Johnston enjoys relaxing at the beach with a good book. 

What is eLearning? 

So, what, exactly, is eLearning? Simply put, it is learning that occurs by way of electronic media. It is sometimes referred to as online learning or distance learning. eLearning pushes past the limitations of traditional classroom learning opportunities to expose students to methods of engagement that are not always easily managed in an in-person setting. eLearning, also known as virtual learning, encompasses much more than in-person training converted to a format deliverable via the web. It is not simply a replacement for traditional training. It is an enhancement. A well-developed eLearning program results in scalable, repeatable, standardized content for the student and cost savings for both the training organization and the learner.  

An instructional design analysis can help organizations determine the correct approach to developing and maintaining their eLearning material. ELearning opportunities could supplement classroom learning as pre- or post-course work. An eLearning solution can complement live online offerings in a blended-learning approach. And it can also exist as most of a self-paced on-demand course, accessible anytime, anywhere. eLearning can consist of micro courses (short, focused bits of content) or a course in its entire full length. Distance learning is a vehicle for delivering content to students in a way that meets them where they are in their learning journey. Students who engage in an eLearning platform can expect to benefit from increased engagement opportunities, decreased time to competency, and, should they choose, a customized learning experience. Training organizations and learners alike can be glad to know that engaging in eLearning and online education also does a little good for the environment. 

Understanding the Benefits of eLearning 

1. Reduced Costs Over Time  

For most training development teams, the major benefits of eLearning solutions are immediately obvious. One of the most notable advantages is the cost savings associated with delivering content and course material virtually. Travel expenses—hotel stays, per diem costs, transportation, venue fees—can be significant for in-person, instructor-led training, both on the training side and the student side. It is often challenging for organizations to support physically sending learners to in-person training because of both travel expenses and the impact to business operations when a core player is out of the business for an extended period. For training development teams, prioritizing the virtual delivery of training material allows for the freeing up of resources to focus on other areas of development, which results in further benefits to both training organizations and students.  

2.  Standardization of Training Materials 

One of the most essential benefits of eLearning is that it allows for the standardization of training materials. eLearning removes variables like instructor experience and engagement, which can impact the students' classroom encounters and result in a different learning experience for different learners. An online course or employee training allows for maintaining consistency across learning events, resulting in a repeatable experience across all audiences. The content is the same, and though learners may have options to engage with the content in different ways, there is no third party to impact their learning process and experience. 

book open blending into a laptop

3. Scalability of Content 

Though the initial cost to produce quality eLearning material can be significant, as the time to publish is not rapid, and the resources required are not few, there is value in its scalability. The ability to easily modify virtual content and learning material to make it fit increased needs without impact to performance is key. In the traditional in-person classroom, instructors are a finite resource. They cannot be cloned to exponentially expand the number of available teaching events, year after year. eLearning, though, can reach audiences far and wide with unlimited growth potential. The ability to expand an offering quickly and seamlessly through these online platforms is a clear return on the initial investment in development.  

4. Increased Learning Engagement Opportunities 

One of the more exciting benefits of eLearning is the learning engagement opportunities that can be included in the eLearning experience. In the physical classroom, students are often limited to person-to-person engagement, whether with instructors or other students. In an eLearning platform, students can experience multi-media resources and gamification of instruction. They can connect with personas designed to deliver learning in a way that is relatable and recognizable to the learner. Instead of passively participating by attending a lecture or watching a presentation, students can put their minds and hands to work immediately. They do not have to wait until they return to their desks to apply what they have learned. The ability to immediately engage in the learning content results in increased learner satisfaction and, ultimately, knowledge retention. eLearning course modules and online training programs are champions in this self-paced learning where the audience can absorb information at their own speed. 

5. Speed to Competency 

We have already recognized that eLearning can take place just about anywhere. This means that when physical travel is not required, the learner can commence their learning path right away. Probably the most appealing benefit for most students is that eLearning offerings allow learners to move through online course content at their own pace. Typically, students can complete on-demand trainings much faster than they would be able to complete an equivalent in-person offering. During in-person offerings, students must progress through the material at the same pace. If a student has not met prerequisite requirements or falls behind, other students may suffer when the instructor must stop teaching to resolve an issue or provide further instruction. During this time, other students are dependent on what is available to them in the classroom, and, traditionally, that is not likely to be much. Alternatively, suppose a learner struggles to understand new information in an eLearning setting. In that case, they can spend as much time with the content as necessary without effectively inhibiting the progress of their peers.  

6. Options for Content and Delivery Customization 

eLearning allows for the customization of the manner in which content is delivered and received. For instance, developers can produce material so that students who prefer reading over listening can turn off narration. Students familiar with a particular topic might choose to increase the speed of narration for that topic, then slow narration for a topic they are less familiar with. Students struggling with a particularly challenging topic might choose to repeat the lesson before progressing to the next. Options to revisit learning checks and navigate scenario-based learning are additional possibilities. In addition to customizing the delivery of the eLearning experience, micro-courses allow students to build their own learning experiences. They can essentially build their own eLearning based on their individual goals and preferences. 

laptop open to MadCap shorties learning

7. Reduced Carbon Footprint

In addition to the monetary benefits, eLearning is also an avenue for helping organizations to reduce their carbon footprints. Of course, traveling has a clear impact on eco-friendliness, but so does printing course materials. Transitioning from physically printed student guides to materials accessible primarily through the web directly reduces the number of resources used to publish course content. 


For employers, there is obvious appeal in investing in training that requires less time away from the business, overall reduced costs, and an increase in engagement opportunities, resulting in higher competency levels. eLearning can lead to greater proficiencies in a faster time frame than traditional in-person, instructor-led courses. 

For training organizations, a desire to keep costs low, standardize content, and create course materials that effectively make eLearning a recognizable value add. When instructors spend less time in the physical classroom, they have more time to engage with students in meaningful ways. A shift to eLearning means that instructors are freed up to essentially create a virtual classroom where learning opportunities are continuous rather than predetermined and tied to a physical space.