The Rapid Elearning Blog

 The Rapid E-Learning Blog - what makes elearning effective?

E-learning is hot. And for good reason. If done right, it can produce great results by decreasing costs and improving performance. Also, unlike a one time classroom session, the elearning course is available for others.  This includes the static elearning course as well as any ongoing conversations in networked communities.

Recently, I had a conversation with someone new to elearning and it struck me that she didn’t fully understand the value of elearning.  I think this is common as more people are joining the world of elearning.  Understanding elearning’s value helps you make the best decisions about when and why to use it. 

E-learning Supports the Organization’s Goals

 The Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning supports the organization

  • Improved training costs.  Producing learning content is time consuming whether it’s online or not.  With elearning, each time the course is accessed your return on investment improves because you are dividing the fixed production costs by number of uses.  You also have savings through decreased travel, reduced material, and hopefully improved (and more efficient) performance.

  • Decreased material costs.  Let’s say you have to train how to arrange equipment in a sterile environment like an operating room.  If you had to use the real environment, it would be costly.  Even setting up a fake environment has material costs and labor.  By creating the environment online and letting the learner practice, you never have to worry about the costs associated with set up, use, and clean up.

  • Increased productivity.  Because elearning is not bound by geography or time, you can control training’s impact on production by training people during down times.  In addition, with the current economy, you’re asking people to do more with less.  So elearning is a great way to give them the tools and skills needed to enhance their performance.

  • Standardization.  You may have a great facilitator, but that’s no guarantee that the courses are presented the same across sessions.  Elearning allows you to create a standardized process and consistency in the delivery of content.  It also compresses delivery time.  I’ve combined elearning courses with facilitated sessions.  Elearning delivered consistent content.  Live sessions were interactive case studies that applied the information.

E-learning Supports the Learner’s Development

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning supports the learner

  • Real-time access.  Live learning events require that those who participate align their schedules to the training calendar.  Elearning eliminates this because the course can be accessed anytime, anywhere.  This can also happen without Internet access.  I saw a Red Cross demo where the learners accessed the content on a PC out in the field and uploaded their results when they were back online.
  • Freedom to fail.  Let’s face it, real learning requires some failure.  But no one likes to fail in a classroom full of other people.  Elearning lets you fail without fear.  This encourages exploration and testing of ideas.  With the right feedback you create a great learning environment.  Worst case, you can always start over.  Something you can’t always do in class.
  • Improved retention.  The combination of multimedia and instructional design can produce a very rich learning experience that is repeatable.  Throw in some good practice activities with feedback and you have a learning environment that’s going to help your learners retain the course content which will produce results.
  • Personalized learning.  Look out the window at your parking lot.  My guess is that you’ll see a dozen or more different cars.  They all do the same thing, yet we have personal opinions about what we want to drive.  The same for learning.  Learners want control.  Elearning allows you to offer control to the learners in a way that classroom learning doesn’t.

E-learning Nurtures a Learning Organization & Community

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning supports the community

  • Ongoing access to resources.  If you take a class in the real world and need a refresher, you better hope that you took good notes.  Otherwise, you’re out of luck.  That’s not the case with elearning.  Ideally, you continue to have access to the online content and resources to brush up on what you learned. 
  • Knowledge management.  Many people see elearning as only the authored courses.  But elearning includes all sort of online technologies.  If you incorporate some of the tools that allow collaboration and conversation, you can capture organizational knowledge that is available for future learners.
  • Encourage sharing.  The foundation of a learning community is built on sharing what you know with others.  This is where incorporating a forum or wiki really adds value to your elearning.  Depending on how the course is structured, you can encourage sharing of resources and insight gained from the course. 
  • Employer of choice.  People want opportunities to grow.  A cafeteria with high fat foods is one way.  Another is a catalog with all sorts of elearning courses.  This allows them to explore other opportunities in the organization.  During downtime, it would be great to spend fifteen minutes learning to better manage meetings or improve working with peers.  Offering these opportunities to learn makes you a place people want to stay.

 The Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning is good for the environment 

  • Elearning is good for the environment.  Britain’s Open University’s “study found that producing and providing distance learning courses consumes an average of 90% less energy and produces 85% fewer CO2 emissions per student than conventional face-to-face courses.”   

One of the challenges with making elearning effective is how you manage the courses and access to resources.  I’m an advocate of freeing up the course navigation and giving the learner more control.

If you’re using a learning management system you might consider how that impacts the learning.  Do people have access to the resources when the course is complete?  Can they retake it?  Are you punishing them for failing?

Elearning is cost effective and can produce great results.  It’s all a matter of how you use it.  Where do you see elearning’s effectiveness?  What suggestions would you offer to those who are just getting started?  Feel free to share your ideas via the comments link.


Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

72 responses to “Why E-Learning is So Effective”

Excellent compilation of eLearning benefits!
Knowledge Management in particular seems to have received a shot in the arm from eLearning. As Social Media continues to evolve this could well be the biggest benefit in time to come.

[…] by Tom Werner on February 2, 2010 A very nice list of the potential benefits of e-learning by Tom Kuhlmann. […]

February 2nd, 2010

Tom – great updating up the e-learning benefits. While many of these have been around for years, we often forget to apply them to newer technologies (social media, etc), instead thinking of the old standby asynchronous course. I especially like the issue of allowing learner’s to fail, and the potential punishment that an LMS provides. While we have an enterprise LMS and it adds a lot of value, I am constantly reminding people that not all content has to be tracked. It is often harder to get to, and it is amazing how many SMEs want to use the LMS like a big “stick” to track and try and catch people who don’t complete or fail. Everyone learns at their own pace. We tend to forget that the purpose of learning isn’t passing a test – it’s applying it on the job.

Great stuff as usual Tom. The line that I connect with most here is “freedom to fail”. That is something that most learners do not feel comfortable with as we get chided for it our entire school lives. We also get reprimanded for failure in so many other areas of our lives that most forget that failure is how most of us learn. We would have the automobile if it wasn’t for failure. The Wright brothers failed a gazillion times before they got the airplane to work first. Do you think the Wright brothers might have done things differently if they could have done flight simulations in Flash or done some e-Learning before they actually built their first model? Well, they still might have crashed a few times but they might have at least saved some money on materials :-). Anyway, hurray for failure.


Some of the graphics you use look like large versions of the microsoft icons in Vista, Win7 and on Sharepoint.

Where did you get those? Are there free versions of these somewhere?

Hey Tom!

Great post! I like specially this environment note!

Where can I find the Britain’s Open University’s study?



February 2nd, 2010


Great blog on the benefits. I was updating my site and was wondering if I can use these benefits to promote eLearning on my site. I have only created one CBT application with Articulate but it will be my sole authoring tool for years to come.

Chris Lognion

I think e-learning is all this and more!!! We moved our Code Management (what to do in a Code Blue situation) program for nurses to the web last year. They used to spend an hour on a treasure hunt in the crash cart…which they never used because not all are qualified! So, this had been a waste of time and very expensive. The new program is 34 slides in an animated format – about 25 minutes, and they can do it from their unit computers! We have seen improved performance, and had lots of good feedback on the program, too.

February 2nd, 2010

The best way to get started and fully understand how a tool like Articulate should be used is to review the archive of these blogs. The examples and information contained therein is right on target. Also, the winners of the Articulate Guru Awards are always an inspiration

Reflections on this blog: While the business case is valuable and will help maintain funding for training projects, what I like about elearning is that it provides learners with many options—all of which have been mentioned here. The most important concept to stress is that learners normally don’t learn by hearing content — they learn by doing something with the content. Like Tom says, having the opportunity to fail is important.

Often in a traditional training environment too much time is spent listening and not enough time doing. When introducing elearning to a group not sold on the benefits of elearning, I ask that they take a learning style assessment. Here are two that I’ve used: VARK and an assessment by Marcia Conner

Great ideas, as usual. I agree with the cost savings, but there is a break even point. Development costs are often similar regardless of delivery method, but since you can deliver the content to more and more people over time, you can end up saving significant money.

In 2005, I worked for an educational research lab that conducted a cost-effectiveness study of a statewide online professional development course (elearning for educators) that we developed. We delivered it to nearly 1200 educators that first year at a cost of about $87 per person, as compared to over $400 per person if it had been delivered face-to-face. That cost continues to decrease as we deliver it to more people, and with 5,000 and counting, we’ve probably come close to pennies per person.

@Felipe: I got the quote from an old blog post from Cramer-Sweeney, but it looks liek their link is broken.

Hi Tom,

Here’s another point to add to your list: The trainer’s personal best.

I’ve done a lot of in-person, instructor led training. And while I’m never perfect, there are days when I’m less perfect than others. Maybe my tongue gets tied or I forget an important point. Maybe I’ve just caught a cold and my enthusiasm has temporarily waned.

With elearning, no problem. If I screw up, I fix it, before it reaches the learners’ eyes and ears. They always get my personal best.

As usual, Tom does a great job. And it seems everyone likes the list of benefits. I guess I will have to take exception to the comments around “failure” however. Failure is a luxury, at best, in most environments. Elearning for trainees on how to defuse a bomb has obvious benefits, as do simulations of all types. However, I read the statement, and some comments above, that seem to make it sound like it is OK to fail in our training design. Unfortunately, that is done too often now, but not by experiment. As for building training and taking risks, that should be handled in the alpha and beta releases, but we should only release training that hits the defined mark! I hate to be so pedantic, but I see far too much bad training out there now! Discussion is good for the soul!!!

Congrulations ver brief and useful article. Would you likr visit and browse eLearning book 2 volumes. And I would like to receive your thoughts.


Ugur Demiray

February 2nd, 2010

I completely agree. Our division will release another e-learning module, this time on information security. It is a definite cost saver.

[…] Why E-Learning is So Effective » The Rapid eLearning Blog By mgvh@ltsg Why E-Learning is So Effective » The Rapid eLearning Blog […]

February 3rd, 2010

Hi Tom!

Great post 🙂



February 3rd, 2010

Hi Tom,
Hey – another great list of excellent suggestions for explaining to those who haven’t yet embraced alternative ways to learn new skills via online learning. Well done!

As another suggestion – what about a checklist next time – the idea being – “Are you doing these things to gauge the effectiveness of your Rapid e-learning courses – even though your users haven’t completed the course yet?”.

One difficult baby I am grappling with is the “how can I get feedback when someone hasn’t yet completed my online course?”.

Often we have staff who “dabble” in the online offerings we provide them with (we use Articulate Studio ’09 for many of these courses)- they start something, but either don’t finish it, or take for ever to get back to it – it can be no fault of theirs, but simply a time thing where they are so busy completing their daily work, serving customers, travelling to and from their place of work – they just can’t fit it all in to a day’s work.

So, there is a lot of worth in what they have already achieved – it’s not so much they have finished the whole course yet – but they are trying to “fit in” their learning around an extremely busy schedule – where days can pass by and they haven’t had a chance to get back to their learning plan.

How can we address this sort of dilemma, Tom?

Hope you do well at the Training 2010 Training & Expo this week – I’d love to meet you and the team, but I’m in Australia – hey, when you guys gonna be here?

Hmmm… I have to admit i haven’t thought much the “freedom to fail” part, but it is so true.

Excellent review of the most important eLearning benefits Tom!

Very refreshing! Well written and to the point. I have a particular interest in knowledge sharing and collaboration. Have you written any blogs on how to incorporate forums and wikis into your elearning?

Thanks a lot for this excellent post. I have gained a PhD in Adaptive e-Learning in the University of Nottingham in 2009 and I agree with most the points that you have listed here. The post is well written and to the point.

However, although I’m a big advocate for using technology in learning, I do see why some people are really skeptical l about it; sometimes it’s badly implemented or overdone. I currently work in a global firm and they have many e-learning courses that I had to take, the majority of which I would classify as suffering from the digital “ page-turning” syndrome. There is no added value in terms of learning (cost, access & time benefits are still valid). I’m afraid that money-saving is currently the main factor pushing people towards e-learning which is not enough. That’s why I see blended learning as more effective than pure e-learning in some situations.

Another problem is that people sometimes want to use each and every technology that is available regardless of the need and overlooking it’s side-effects. Therefore, I agree strongly with one sentence in your post “E-learning (..) If done right, it can produce great results by decreasing costs and improving performance”. I think we should really stress on doing it right before we can get skeptics buy into e-learning.

Hi Tom,
Great information! I agree, businesses are trying to cut costs and eliminate unnecessary spending in their budgets. As, you mentioned, e-learning is a great way to improve training costs through decreased travel. I also think decreased travel may improve the morale of the organization by increasing the time they are to spend with their families.

February 3rd, 2010

Hi Tom,
Great list of elearning benefits!
Just to follow up on the point you made about encouraging sharing. When it comes to developing elearning training for employees related to specific job areas (e.g. customer service skills), instructors and companies would benefit from considering the course as the first step in setting up a community of learners/practitioners.
This community should then be encouraged to expand upon, and share their problem-solving experiences related to the learning topic. This could also serve as a pathway for employee recognition;outstanding contributions could be recognized and publicized within the company.

February 3rd, 2010

Love this post… I think I’ve changed the way I design eLearning since I started reading this blog… I’ve gone from info overload and pageturner to the “eLearning TV Show” approach…

Great post! I think these are great points to discuss with clients who may be hesitant to try elearning. It seems like nearly everyone has had a negative elearning experience at some point, perhaps with an ineffective page-turning type course. And some clients tend to cling to that memory, assuming that this is how elearning has to be. These ideas paint a great picture of what elearning done well should be like.

Another ring of cheers for Elearning! I’ve most certainly been on the bandwagon these past few years and am currently developing an absolutely essential learing portal with loads and loads of material agents have to assimilate in different departments. Just the thought of the tonnes of learning content that needs to be mastered and all just before part of it goes obsolete in a matter of months can be quite a challenge. Elearning helps us tame the animal to a great extent having the bulk,core knowledge stored in one place and accessible anytime by agents and offers a central tool to deploy and evaluate learning with. I like the Employer of Choice advantage you cited and that people want opportunities to grow. They need to feel their lives are moving forward and definitely enhances employee retention. Keep up the fantastic work Tom!


I have appreciated a lot this article. You hace a really interesting blog. Thank you for all this nice articles to read 🙂

I recommend you a video about e-learning:


[…] Rapid eLearning Blog has been on my list of regularly read blogs for awhile, and his post on “Why eLearning is So Effective” is one of the best summaries of the advantages of online learning I’ve seen. It’s as […]

And yet, another praiseful blog for eLearning! I am quickly being swept up in this whole eLearning phenomenon. This blog includes great articles to refer to as well as the ones mentioned in the comments. I feel that this article effectively spells out the wonders that eLearning can do as well as making it quick and to the point.
I also agree with the contents of this article in that failure is something that comes with every attempt to accomplish something and should be embraced rather than rejected. It is always something that you can learn from and then correct in the next try. This creates a positive atmosphere in which in communication is free and allows individuals not to be scared enough to seize the moment in fear of being reprimanded.
ELearning definitely helps to expand the minds of young individuals and helps them to grow within the companies that they are currently employed in. So many advantages are derived by eLearning.
Great article!

March 1st, 2010

E learning does exist in every time we connect to the Internet or even we work on a courrent software in our computers. This happens almost everyday of our lives without feeling that. Moreover, the learning process is not only setting in a class and taking notes or facing a computer and attending an online class. It can be self learning via the different types of technologies that have been functioned to help people, not only students, learn and educate themselves. In fact, many people think the letter “E” is something related to the Internet, which could be true, but it means more than that.

March 1st, 2010

Thank you for this post. Since I began my studies in Instructional Technology, my friends and family have asked me several times what exactly I am studying. When I tell them about e-learning, I feel like it is difficult for them to understand what makes e-learning so great beyond cost efficiency. The reason I believe in e-learning is not so much the cost savings or even the convenience for the learner. I feel like those are often used as the primary justifications for e-learning. Although those factors are significant, especially for an organization making the purchasing decision, I prefer to justify e-learning differently.

My goal would be firstly to use e-learning to engage the learner better through interactive and well structured learning modules. I would like to see e-learning as something that adds to and improves the traditional formal learning.

Secondly, I believe in the power of total quality management and that it applies strongly in the process of training employees. Through decreasing variability in training, e-learning can benefit any organization by offering standardized solutions. These are certainly the two main reasons I believe in e-learning.

The fact that we can engage the learner better and offer them consistent quality throughout the training will ultimately lead to more efficient learning and increase in the level of knowledge and skills. Although this will lead to cost saving and convenience, I feel better justifying what I do through more profound reasons.

It is great that you have listed the benefits from so many different perspectives here. I especially liked how you mentioned the environmental impact. This was something I had never come across or thought about before. The next time my mom asks me what e-learning is, I can refer to this list and feel confident she will fully support my career choice.

@Jessica: good points. Hope your family and friends are proud of what you’re learning.

[…] Tom Kuhlmann is the author of the very popular Rapid e-Learning Blog. In a recent post he provides a very thorough summary of Why e-Learning Is So Effective. […]

Thanks for the post. A few thoughts have come to mind after reading this. School districts everywhere are beginning to consider alternative educational delivery methods. Online learning programs are relatively new, but until recently were restricted to charter schools, alternative education, and as a method to instruct homebound students due to illnesses, suspensions, or pregnancies.

However, the current state of the American economy has caused school systems to make budget cuts. These budget cuts have resulted in many teachers being laid-off and for other activities (such as athletics and clubs) to be severely limited because of costs. Along with these cuts have been teacher layoffs and the elimination of programs. School districts are investigating how to save money. Because of this, online schooling is becoming a widely accepted and popular alternative for many school districts across the nation.

One school district in Virginia, for example, is going to issue cell phones, iPod Touches, and netbooks to all students (Lizama, 2010) as an alternative to classroom learning. It is predicted that online learning will provide half of all high school classes by 2020 (Mincberg 2010). Proponents of online schools believe that online learning delivered at a distance presents many advantages to students and our schools.

However, as simple as an online schooling solution seems to be, it is also fraught with issues that may impede the adjustment of children to society and the workplace. An investigation into this topic confirms that there may be many areas of concern relating to socialization. In fact, there are many socialization issues that online schooling needs to address. Clearly, the student in a traditional schooling method is socializing all day, as their peers and teachers are mere feet away from them. Interaction with all parties involved is frequent and continual. Online schooling is a completely different arena. For some students, online schooling is the best option. However, online schooling is not for every child and does not fulfill every need of a student.

@Leah: thanks for the comment and interesting content. I think that socialization is not really an issue for students who are part of online school programs. My guess is that it is more about a lack of understanding and usually comes from a perspective of those who have interests in the status quo and not alternative education. Many critics would counter that the current school system is more like an educational gulag with little room for independent thinking. Throw in the fact that there’s an increase in increase in harassment and bullying as well as much more sexual harassment and abuse from the educators.

John Holt has some interesting insights concerning public education. I also like the project based approach in books like the Big Picture Schools.

I’m an advocate of alternative means of education. Considering the diversity of people, it only makes sense that our commitment to public education would step away from an archaic cookie cutter approach to education and embrace alternative means to accommodate different needs and interests.

Am doing research on the effectiveness of e learning in engineering so i need help on anything important i need to know

@Steve: what do you want to know?

am doing a research on effectiveness of e-learning through blogging in teaching educational technology. i need some help regarding.

@R.Sumathi: what do you need?

Hi. I really liked the article about the effectiveness of E-learning. Since I am working at a university, I think it will be effective to offer workshops through e-learning. I like the real-time access part. Some of our students cannot attend the workshops offered at a specific time so if we offered e-learning course, they would be able to access them from anywhere and anytime.

Hello Tom,

I have been reading your blog regularly over the last few months and find your articles extremely engaging and valuable.
We had been discussing on what can help in getting stakeholders and decision makers to understand the importance and benefits of elearning and i got the list of favorite 2010 posts in my inbox. Thanks for this wonderful blog post.

Couple of additional things, it would be great to get your comments if they make sense:
-Helps in scaling up teams and skills
-Spaced repetition

January 11th, 2011

thanks for everything
I need articles 2007-2011 in english about :effectiveness of educational elearning in organization/company…and I would like study Krick Patrik’s effectiveness modle on elearning.
I would like to have your help.
Best regards
shokoufe mirarabshahi

@mirarabshahi: try the Big Dog, Little Dog site. He does a great job collecting information.

[…] the increase of popularity many still don’t understand the full value of e-learning. have provided the following factors as to why e-learning is a great new way to […]

e-Learning : Anytime, anywhere, anyone

June 22nd, 2011

Tom do you know of any good elearning programs (preferably free) to teach my toddler to read?

Hi Tom,

just geting started with articulate (great by the way!!)

wondered whether i could post this blog on our site sourcing you as it nails the benefits of e-learning!

kind regards

Lee H

@Lee: feel free to share the article.

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Each segment is nicely categories on how elearning is useful. Thanks for the good work!

December 20th, 2011

i am doing a resarch paper on e-learning can anyone help me with refrance.

[…] courses are effective in dealing with these challenges.  Elearning courses allow you to remove the person from the time and resource pressures of the […]

[…] Why E-Learning is So Effective » The Rapid eLearning Blog Elearning is good for the environment. Britain’s Open University’s “study found that producing and providing distance learning courses consumes an average of 90% less energy and produces 85% fewer CO2 emissions per student than conventional face-to-face courses.” One of the challenges with making elearning effective is how you manage the courses and access to resources. […]

[…] Why E-Learning is So Effective » The Rapid eLearning Blog E-learning is hot. […]

[…] which is that e-learning, offers a variety of solutions for learning. One is that you now make learning mobile and consistent. Second, you allow the availability of training to everyone instead of a select few (Articulate). […]

March 8th, 2012

Do you think that online training is useful in the workplace

[…] providers are increasingly utilizing E-learning in lieu of live events because it is cost effective and leads to improved performance and learning […]

Hi, i am very happy that i find your comment and i need for learning style please help me thanks your comments

[…] couple of the benefits of elearning are consistent delivery of content and compression of time to deliver it. That means that even if […]

[…] one of the points we discussed in this post on why elearning is so effective. On top of that, there’s a convergence of mobile devices and remote workers. So elearning is at […]

[…] uno de los puntos que se discutió en este post sobre por qué el e-learning es tan efectivo. En primer lugar, hay una convergencia entre dispositivos móviles y trabajadores remotos. De forma […]

[…] “E-learning is hot. And for good reason. If done right, it can produce great results by decreasing costs and improving performance. Also, unlike a one-time classroom session, the e-learning course is available for others. This includes the static elearning course as well as any ongoing conversations in networked communities. Understanding elearning’s value helps you make the best decisions about when and why to use it.” […]

how do you know its effective, in terms of:
memory retention?
assessment? transferring practical skills?
workplace observation?
complex technical training?
safety related training

It isn’t. It costs more to develop online compared with classroom, and there are flaws in assessment.

Developer of multimedia online training