What is E-Learning? (Definition, Types, and Benefits)

Updated September 30, 2022

If you're responsible for creating training programs at work, you may consider e-learning as a method of instruction. Creating a digital course can help you deliver interactive content that engages your audience. Understanding e-learning and how to use it at work can help you enhance training and productivity in your workplace. In this article, we explain what e-learning is, offer a list of the different types, and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of this type of learning.

What is e-learning?

E-learning is a structured program or course that an instructor typically delivers online. The instructor may appear on video or only use a microphone to teach the content and answer any questions. Many e-learning platforms allow instructors to display presentations, videos, pictures, quizzes, simulations, or activities to be completed that enhance the learning experience. For self-paced training, the e-learning sessions can also be pre-recorded and accessed at any time.

Related: How to Learn Skills Online and Which Are Best to Learn

Types of e-learning in the workplace

Here are some examples of ways companies can use e-learning in the workplace:

Onboarding training

The most common type of e-learning in the workplace is employee onboarding training. Companies hiring new employees may require them to complete a training program before starting work. This training may include details about the company's policies or the new employee's role and responsibilities so they can familiarize themselves with the details. This type of e-learning may include interactive quizzes after each topic to increase engagement while improving their knowledge.

Related: Understanding the Importance of Training Employees

Compliance training

Companies may also offer compliance training to new and current staff to ensure everyone is up-to-date with the company's rules and regulations. This training may include details about laws that apply to the industry, company, or specific roles to ensure all employees comply with them to minimize the risk of legal repercussions. Compliance training helps companies maintain their positive reputation and ensures everyone can work safely. This online training may include a final test that is mandatory to pass before returning to work.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Compliance Is Important for a Business

Inclusion and diversity training

Inclusion and diversity training teaches employees more about different backgrounds, cultures, religions, genders, or physical conditions. This type of training aims to create awareness and help employees from different backgrounds respectfully interact with one another. It may teach employees how to handle conflict or recognize and minimize bias in the workplace to ensure everyone feels comfortable. Inclusion and diversity training may involve roleplaying online, where employees have a designated role, act out common conflicts, and use their new knowledge to resolve them together.

Related: What Is Inclusion and Diversity Training? (With Tips)

Health and safety training

Health and safety training is a form of compliance training that teaches staff about the company's policies to keep everyone safe. This training may include details about potential hazards, minimizing them, reporting and treating injuries, and the personal protective equipment each employee must use. Online health and safety training is typically self-paced, meaning employees can complete each course element on their own time.

Related: The Importance of Health and Safety in the Workplace (Benefits and Tips)

Manager training

When a company hires an internal or external employee for a management position, it may offer a specialized training program. This program may help employees improve their leadership skills, choose a management style, or learn more specific details about the role or industry. Managers may receive regular digital training, such as once a quarter or yearly, to ensure their knowledge and skills are up-to-date. The training may occur one-on-one with the employee and an instructor online or as a group with other managers in training.

Related: What Is Manager Training? (Definition, Types, and FAQs)

Customer training

When a company has a product or service with a learning curve, it may offer customers digital training opportunities to help improve understanding and increase engagement. Companies may create a digital course that shows customers how to use their product or service correctly. They may include access to this training for free or for a fee if it's more complicated. It's typically self-paced, so customers can access the training online whenever they need assistance.

What are the benefits of e-learning?

Here are some of the benefits of e-learning for workplaces:

More cost-effective

One of the main benefits of e-learning is that it's more cost-effective than traditional training programs. Companies can save costs on travel, training venues, meals or snacks, and physical resources, such as handbooks or computers. They can also save costs on instructors as a course is created once and can be viewed and completed on their own time, rather than teaching the course multiple times to all new employees.

Saves time

E-learning can help companies save time just as well as it helps them save money. Employees can complete digital training from their homes, so they won't spend unnecessary time commuting to the training venue. Similarly, self-paced learning allows employees to manage their time, and many prefer to complete their training quickly before returning to work. When training employees in person, many companies wait until they have a group so that an instructor can teach everyone simultaneously. With self-paced e-learning, companies can train these employees immediately.

Related: Why Is Time Management Important? And How to Manage Your Time

Improves productivity

E-learning can help improve performance and productivity, as it's often more interactive than in-person learning. Some companies include quizzes or other activities employees can complete to display their knowledge and show the company they're completing the training program. Self-paced e-learning can also improve productivity because it makes employees feel more independent as they have control over when and where they complete their training. Comprehensive e-learning can also help employees feel more productive when they start working as they may better understand their roles and responsibilities.

Related: 8 Job Training Methods to Improve Employee Productivity

Provides records of learning

Many digital training programs provide companies with employees' progress and learning records. For example, if you want employees to complete 10 training modules, the learning software you're using may show you that the employee is on the fifth module, so you know they're halfway done. Some online learning even provides a grade to employees that you can see, so if they received a low score, you could offer additional training.

Enhances quality assurance

If you hire an instructor for in-person training, you may not know what they're discussing during each training session. But if you create a digital training program once, you can ensure it includes all the necessary information from the beginning. This ensures all employees receive the same high-quality training they need to be successful in their position.

Lowers environmental impact

E-learning can help companies reduce the impact their operations have on the environment. Employees who aren't commuting to work for in-person training can reduce pollution and their carbon footprint. E-learning also means resources like handbooks are digital, so companies aren't using as much paper, and there is less waste overall.

Related: What Is a Sustainable Business? (With 4 Helpful Examples)

Drawbacks of e-learning

While there are many advantages of e-learning, it's essential to consider some of the drawbacks as well, such as the following:

Requires self-motivation

E-learning requires self-motivation and discipline as each person is responsible for their progress. This differs from in-person learning, where an instructor oversees daily progress and encourages them to continue working hard. While instructors conducting live online training sessions can still offer this motivation, self-paced training programs can be more challenging for people who struggle to work independently.

Related: Ways to Train Employees Effectively (With Importance)

No hands-on training

One of the main drawbacks of e-learning is that it can't offer hands-on training. If you work for a business that requires hands-on work, such as a restaurant or salon, you may not be able to provide all the training online. Instead, you can include a mix of in-person and online training to ensure employees receive a comprehensive education to avoid potential injuries or issues while on the job.

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