Workplaces (and schools) the world over have been forced to transition towards remote learning in current circumstances, and as a result, a lot of terminology related to remote learning has been thrown around interchangeably. This can easily be a source of confusion for users and authors alike. In this blog post, we help clear this up and identify the different forms of online learning.
Web-based Learning and Online Learning
These ones are probably the most confusing as they act more as umbrella terms rather than having a specific meaning. These names can refer to any type of learning that occurs via the Internet, whether in a browser or an app. They can apply to the following:
Virtual Learning refers to instruction that takes place remotely on the Internet, but in real-time. In most cases, courses are taught with the trainer or instructor leading the class on a virtual conference or video chat platform. It can be more self-paced in other cases but always includes some form of direct learner/trainer communication. It’s sometimes referred to as Distance Learning.
Blended Learning is the middle point. It’s a mix of online and more traditional in-person learning. Often, the computer-mediated activities take place in a classroom environment as well. It’s a highly contextual term and has therefore been difficult to define accurately.
- Face-to-Face: Traditional trainer-led classes supplemented with technology.
- Rotation: Learners shift between a selection of learning activities either in a trainer-directed session or online by themselves.
- Flipped: Learners practice and experiment with the material before attending an in-person lesson on the topic.
- Self-Blend: Learners are offered the opportunity (on their own time) to delve into supplemental content beyond the general, mandatory coursework.
You can learn more about Blended Learning in a previous blog post.
The way eLearning has been carried out has changed over the years, but the easiest way to categorize it is to define it as self-paced learning. Courses are typically made up of web-based activities, video modules, simulations, etc. Flexibility is a key factor, as the main advantage of eLearning for most is the ability to cater to their own personal schedule.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, all of these terms are still nebulous. The definitions are being written and rewritten as more and more people transition into remote work and education.
But… What’s Better?
This comes down to personal choice and your organization’s constraints. Some learners are happy to dig into material on their own time, while others appreciate having a more direct line of communication to a trainer and other learners. Some prefer longer-form learning and others microlearning. eLearning can be a great opportunity for those seeking extra knowledge on top of a previously established skillset, but on the other hand, some learners struggle with self-motivation and will be much more productive in a classroom-like setting, whether virtual or face to face.
You have to make choices based on the size, structure, and nature of your organization, as well as the type of content that needs to be conveyed to learners. You don’t have to do this alone, though; any reputable Learning and Development-focused company should be able to help guide you.
Ultimately, the differences between each of these types of online learning are small but hugely important, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with each mode as we move into an increasingly more digital phase of our careers and our world.