eLearning – where to start?

Some knew what eLearning is way before the Covid-19 pandemic, but indeed it started to get recognition when life, including education/schooling/classes, moved to the Internet. As the world fought the ubiquitous virus by isolating at home, teachers worldwide (and other professions, of course) had to find ways to create classes online, some without any prior knowledge of technologies available or ideas how such an endeavor could be possible. Currently, the idea of eLearning is way more „popular” and recognized (even though we still write it in a few different ways, haha!). Over times, there were different definitions of what eLearning is, but the current knowledge sources say:

Distance learning, also called distance education, e-learning, and online learning, is a form of education in which the main elements include physical separation of teachers and students during instruction and the use of various technologies to facilitate student-teacher and student-student communication.

Encyclopedia Britannica

e-learning – noun [ U ], UK /ˈiːˌlɜː.nɪŋ/ US /ˈiːˌlɝː.nɪŋ/ – learning done by studying at home using computers and courses provided on the internet

Cambridge Dictionary



I think you already have an idea of what some benefits might be, so I won’t focus on that part too much. Here’s a quick run-down:


  • It’s cost-effective and efficient – saving up on rooms, equipment, transportation costs, etc.
  • It’s flexible in time and place – gives the possibility to study in one’s own time and use self-paced learning.
  • It’s tailored to the learner – with different ways of teaching, there’s possibility to create personalized learning paths.
  • It can build a dedicated user base – as eLearning should always be based on the needs of the product users (i.e. learners in the learning context).
  • It’s accessible (almost) everywhere – provided you have an electronic device (what is assumed anyway) and (sometimes) the Internet.
  • It’s reusable for other needs – makes it easier to create new pieces of content, and keep the consistent.
  • It can be social and based on knowledge exchange – both can be very motivating and provide extra knowledge sources.



In my humble opinion, it doesn’t really matter if by eLearning we mean using mobile apps, or maybe just the laptop. Any learning that is moved from classroom to technology is e-Learning. But there are a few terms that circle around that have their specific meanings. If you know then, reading articles or planning classes would be much easier. So, let’s focus for a bit and read about them below (click on the gray topic to see the explanation, first option is open by default):



Synchronous learning happens in real time, so the teacher and students are present during the „class.” This can be: a class on Zoom/webinar software, online audio/video (A/V) conference, screen-sharing session, virtual classrooms.


Asynchronous learning is location/time independent, so the teacher and the students are doing their independent studies in their own time. This can be: recorded webinars, self-study (self-paced) programs like Coursera or Skillshare, simulations, VR sessions, old school CDs or even tapes, forums or message boards, email classes.

Blended Learning (Hybrid)

Uses elements of both synchronous and asynchronous learning types, depending on time, location, place, learning goals, tools used, etc.


Computer-Based Training (CBT)

This type of eLearning happens with the use of a computer and software. It dates back to the 1960s, when the Internet wasn’t widely available and learning content was distributed on diskettes, or CDs. Currently, this terms is used more historically, since the possibilities are wider, but lots of other eLearning types need a computer as well.

Web-Based Training (WBT)

This generally refers to any form of training that is delivered via an online environment, without the need to install specific software (Zoom doesn’t count, it’s only a web-medium). Other names may include virtual training, or distance learning. WBT utilizes online-based tools such as chats, streaming services, learning portals, webinars.

Mobile Learning

M-Learning is using mobile/cell phone platform to teach. It’s important to realize that it’s not just the same content, but with a mobile-responsive design, no. Mobile Learning needs careful content planning and visual design based on how phones are used. Mobile Learning is characterized by software-based and image-based limitation, the idea of how and where phones are used, structuring the content having the previous in mind, different assessment and evaluation methods, and knowing the distractors.

Social Learning

Social Learning (based on social learning theory, that didn’t even know about social media, but is eerily true nowadays) uses the power of social situations online to do the teaching. Maybe it doesn’t offer a full learning programs, but it creates possibilities to learn pieces of content as they need it and strengthens content attribution. It can happen as a thread on Twitter, a live video on Facebook, but also by social sharing, using game ideas to motivate people, or discussions on message board platforms such as Reddit.


What I mean here is what idea is the basis of your learning content: is it a story, a challenge, or maybe a game? Unfortunately, there is so many different options, and we can invent our own types here as well (like this guy, talking about Zombie Learning), and I think it’s beautiful! Whatever works for the students is the best learning you can give them, innit?


However, there are some commonly used terms, such as:

Problem-Based Learning (PBL)

PBL is a student-centered pedagogy approach in which people learn about a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem found in trigger material. Examples:
– Using code/math rules to crack a safe.
– Researching ideas and using observation to create zoo habitat plans to teach zoology.
– Observe, interview, research members of one community to identify social issues.

More on this here: Faculty Focus

Project-Based Learning (PBL)

This PBL is a teaching method in which people learn by researching and investigating solutions for real-world and personally meaningful projects. Examples:
– Planning a march for Black History Month.
– Creating sketches to explore different types of humor.
– Designing tiny houses for certain social groups.

More on this here: PBLworks.org

Game-Based Learning

GBL is an educational approach where game characteristics and principles are embedded within learning activities. Examples:
– Survivor and bushcraft games.
Using Minecraft to teach writing.
– Using games to teach various math concepts.

More on this here: Edutopia GBL

Phenomenon-Based Learning

PnBL is a pedagogical approach where people study a topic or concept in a holistic approach instead of in a subject-based approach, and includes topic-based learning and theme-based learning. It uses „the natural curiosity of children to learn in a holistic and authentic context.”
More on this here: Phenomenal Education


„And and so forth,” one could say, haha! But, hopefully, you now understand why you would need to google the name you hear; because it’s such a smorgasbord!



The underlying question is: does anyone care? I think it’s good to know the terms used most frequently, as explained in this post, so you understand them in articles, webinars, and other content. However, anything else really should be based on the team you work with. If you are on the same page with how you name that thing you do, it doesn’t really matter outside the team.


Just remember: pedagogy is not in the name, it’s in your knowledge and its application! Keep this rule up, talk to your learners, and you’ll be (mostly) covered!