The Differences Between E-Learning And Websites

The Differences Between E-Learning And Websites

Most people who know me know that I like to keep things simple. At least, I try to. So, when asked how e-learning differs from a regular website, my initial response was that e-learning takes an in-depth look into one specific subject while a website is just general information. It’s a simple answer, but not really complete. There are websites wholly devoted to one subject, but it doesn’t make it necessarily e-learning. If you think of all the components that make up a learning environment, a website doesn’t usually contain all of them. So, what does e-learning look like? What does it comprise?

E-learning is a way of educating people electronically. The essential elements of learning remain the same no matter what the method of education. Elearning, just like it’s traditional classroom counterpart, is a means of guiding a student from the basics through to more advanced concepts in a particular subject. It is a step-by-step guide through a course, if you will. In a traditional setting, it is up to the teacher to lead students through the material. Unfortunately, having a class being led through, the course can only go as fast as its slowest member. While e-learning is also a guided tour through a subject, it is primarily student-driven, rather than instructor led. The advantage of that is the course will go at each individual student’s pace, thereby facilitating more actual learning.

If we look at a specific topic, such as Microsoft Word, the difference between the website on Word and an e-learning course would be that the website would do little more than state what Word is and what it can do. They could even have an in-depth manual on all the buttons and functionality. It is possible to read through the website and glean some useful information from it, though cumbersome, whereas an e-learning course on Word would start at the very basics, giving us the building blocks we would need for more advanced functions before progressing to the more difficult maneuvers. Instead of having to search for information from the website, the e-learning course would just present it to us in a logical, easy-to-search manner to be consumed at our individual speed.

There is always instruction involved in learning and e-learning is no exception. While there is no instruction involved in a regular website, we all know there are teachers in a traditional classroom, but there are also teachers in an e-learning course. No, you won’t see mean old Mrs. Wallace’s beehive head pop up to remind you to pay attention when you aren’t clicking fast enough. The instruction in e-learning is more implied than physical. What I mean is that the “teacher” is more in the way the course is designed and presented.

Instructional Design (ID) is a key to a good elearning course. The purpose of ID is to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of a course. This is accomplished by analyzing the student base as well as the goal of the course and then throwing all that information into the development of the actual training material. As the course is being developed, all the objects that are put into it, whether they are animations, avatars, pictures or other interactive methods, have all been decided by the ID department so that every aspect of the course is geared toward the benefit of the learner.

If assessments are required, the ID guys are the ones who decide not only how they should be presented, but in what way they would best benefit the student. So, this non-physical “teacher” in the e-learning course is actually a room full of people all working toward bringing the student a course that is not only engaging, but will help each learner maximize their retention levels.

Websites are useful, don’t get me wrong. They can even help a person learn something. I use websites for research all the time, as I’m sure many people do. However, if I wanted to learn how to do something in particular, like learning to speak Russian, I would take an e-learning course over wading through heaps of Russian websites, which would be a nightmare if you didn’t understand their alphabet first. You see, those basic building blocks are coming into play already!

In the final analysis, a website in Russian or on the Russian language would help with some information on the topic, but that’s about it. An e-learning course would help you navigate through the subject, starting with basic words and the alphabet for instance, use various stimuli to keep your brain on topic, reinforce the knowledge being given through assessments and, by the time you’ve finished, you’ll actually be able to speak and read Russian!

What’s also nice about that e-learning course is that after it’s been completed, it doesn’t end there. It then becomes a handy reference tool that you can go back to, if you get stuck. Since a course has an outline or syllabus, it’s easy to navigate and find what you need quickly, rather than having to wade through web page after web page in the hope of finding the answer.

So, I wish you all a good day and happy learning!

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Written By

Donna Niemi Barrett

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10 comments on “The Differences Between E-Learning And Websites
  1. Peggy Muller says:

    As an ID who is University based, but with e-learning experience for business and government I enjoyed the article. It doesn’t go far enough in stressing the importance of the role the instructor/mentor/facilators play in e-learning. (They are often crucial to student retention and sucess in the longer training and university modules); but it does explain the basic difference quite nicely between web-sites and e-learning.

  2. Jay A. Allen says:

    Donna,
    At first blush, I see a categorical failure in how your question is presented. As an example, I see your question as similar to asking, “What does the color blue smell like?”

    As discussed in the linked blog post, e-learning is (should be) designed with an instructional need or performance improvement goal in mind whereas websites are, by and large, more broad in their intent in “simply” presenting information to be consumed. Where e-learning scaffolds a learner through a series of objectives and related tasks, most websites do not offer a clear path of navigating the information contained therein and the visitor is more often left on their own to pick and choose what aspects of the website appeal most to them.

    I do believe the question does raise a good point of intersection – that of end-user usability or interface design. In both categorical cases, poor design only serves to frustrate the intended audience.

  3. Leo Salazar says:

    Is there a difference between a single driver in a car and a fully integrated public transportation system?

  4. James says:

    e-learning is more designed to aid in the transfer of learning and also acquiring particular skill set. It customized and usually designed with th end user in mind , it is an off site class room very interactive,simplified for the user to understand.Usually it based on research done by content designers who have skills in particular subject and can also deliver that information to the end user to aid learning and understanding.WEBSITE have good information however learning might not happen.

  5. Andre Michaud CMA, CHRP says:

    Based on my experience, a well designed e-Learning program follows a structured approach with defined learning objectives, targeting a specific audience. This standard practice will address a broad range of learning styles, if and only when well designed. However, different learning types might have a preference for researching and browsing websites.
    The quantity and quality of the information available on these websites can be an issue. The learner might find it challenging to select and synthesis which content is accurate and pertinent.
    The content presented in an e-Learning program will reflect the organization’s “approved” model or perspective on the subject matter.
    In contrast, when browsing websites, the learner controls the amount of information he is willing to research and is exposed to different information and opinions on the subject matter, thereby broadening his overall perspective.
    However, this might prove to be overwhelming for some learners with little to limited experience on the subject. In addition, the information available on these websites may or may not be accurate or valid and at times bias or vendor sponsored. So caution and judgement is required.

  6. Rain Longson says:

    There is a big difference between e-learning and website material.
    Let’s start with websites:
    1.) Accuracy of information, on websites there is no way of knowing how accurate the information is
    2.) Number of websites – there is an over abundance of web sites on just about every subject you can imagine, how do you discern which has the information that is of value in an educational manner.
    3.) Levels of clarity – some sites will discuss a topic but assume that you have some basic knowledge of the subject matter.
    4.) Good for learning IF you are interested in the subject matter – no out of pocket expense, but not sure if this is what you want to learn.
    5.) Not really valid for resume inclusion except to say that you read up on the material, but you can do that with a book or newsletter, or magazine.
    6.) For learning, a printed (or e-book) book is a lot better than learning from a website that may not have their facts checked or lack in breadth of detail.

    On e-Learning;
    1.) Tutorials are laid out in 1, 2, 3, steps, can have images to video to show how to do what you want to learn.
    2.) Training material online is sorted out (usually) in order of level of understanding, beginner, intermediate, and advance to guru.
    3.) Some e-Learning courses are interactive and will have tests as you go through the course to test you level of understanding.
    4.) Other e-Learning course have e-mail or some other form of communication with an instructor for additional one-on-one clarification of what the subject matter is. Almost like in a regular class.
    5.) The pay for e-Learning on a DVD which you can use to refer back to at a later date for either a refresher or as reference material.
    6.) Online e-Learning in some cases (Lynda.com or other online universities) will offer a certificate on finishing the course which is proof of completion and some companies refund the course cost (you can also write it off in your taxes – US/Canada)
    7.) This is valid for resume inclusion.
    And that is what I know to be some differences between e-Learning and a website.

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  1. [...] eLearning. For some, its technology of course; it’s all about animations and interactions; it’s a website. So, according to you, what is the real definition of [...]

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