After several years working in the field of e-learning, I have come to the conclusion that talking about e-learning and defining it to other people, may seem easy at first but it can also get quite complicated and people can be confused by the stream of definitions we can give in one minute.
I won’t blame you, though, if the first thing that comes to your mind when someone mentions “e-learning”, is an interactive module (whether it is boring or not) with a bunch of click and reveal activities that will teach you about certain topic. Don’t take me wrong, as the intent of this article is not to criticize that form of knowledge delivery. The real motivation of this post is to add a little bit more to the definition of e-learning and help you think of it in a different, more understandable way.
I couldn’t agree more with Bernard Luskin in his article “Think ‘Exciting’: E-Learning and the Big ‘E’” when he says that the “e” of e-learning means more than just “electronic”, and it actually means “exciting, empirical, empathetic, extra, emerging, energetic, exceptional, early, eloquent, everywhere, ephemeral, extended, effortless, epic, evangelistic, eclectic, engaging, extended learning”. But in addition to that, I would include “experience” to the definition of that “e”.
Think of it this way: when you go to the movies, you don’t just go to watch the movie, but also to enjoy some snacks, a good chat with your companion(s) after the movie, dinner, and even fun interactivities in the previous moments of the movie. The movie itself is just a part of the whole experience that we call “going to the movies”.
The same could be applied, in my opinion, to e-learning. The clicking-through-slides modules are just a part of the e-learning experience and are far from being discontinued, but I think they can be complemented by using other types of systems, like apps on mobile devices, videos on YouTube, webinars, games, etc. In this era of advanced technology, the options for delivering content are numerous, and let’s face it, in the grown up world it’s very difficult to be tied to a chair and go through 100 pages of a module while others are out there enjoying other activities. You want your knowledge and you want it now.
It is our responsibility, as training experts, information architects and developers, to design and deploy different delivery alternatives to knowledge and make them available to you. Why not have a module, and a whiteboard animation, and a mobile app with little games on it? All of it at the same time? This will not only take your e-learning experience to a whole new level, but will also reinforce what you have learned. And best of all, it is accessible to you through different channels (or devices).
I encourage you to seize the chances that technology gives us and transform that “e” for “electronic” to “e” for “experience”, and while you are at it, I invite you to enjoy this whiteboard animation as an appetizer of what can be achieved in terms of delivery options, simple, elegant, and mostly, easy to understand: