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When to select eLearning as the Instructional Design Modality

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

By Sharon Link, Ph.D.

Determining the best instructional design modality should align to the learner's needs along with what is best for the business. There seems to be a common theme in learning design that eLearning is always best. Not only is this often not the most practical approach, it can be costly and may even miss the mark in terms of what makes the most sense.

In this blog, I will examine the eLearning modality and describe the benefits contrasted with the disadvantages. After reading this blog, you should be able to more knowledgeably determine whether eLearning is the best approach for your specific learning scenario.


Let's look at eLearning. The market for eLearning solutions was predicted to reach $275 billion by 2022, and demand for eLearning is still not showing any signs of decreasing. Let's explore eLearning's premise, various forms and technologies, and the benefits it can offer to your organization. Electronic learning, also referred to as eLearning, is the process of delivering education and training utilizing digital resources. Despite having a formal curriculum as its backbone, eLearning is provided through web technological tools including computers, tablets, and even cellular phones. This makes it simple for users to learn when they want, wherever they are, with very few, if any, restrictions. eLearning is basically learning, education, or training that's also delivered online via a laptop or any other form of technology.

Benefits of eLearning

Because of mobile learning and microlearning, participants in eLearning can take part using their own technology at no additional expense. Additionally, you save money on travel expenses and instructors can record and share their sessions at any time thanks to the virtual nature of the classroom.

Custom eLearning is effective in large part because multimedia assets may be delivered flawlessly through it. Learners can be actively involved in the information, which improves recall, rather to reading pages of text or sitting through a training session. A comprehensive training approach can be achieved by combining blended learning and the wide range of eLearning resources available.

Before applying new abilities on the job, simulations and mastery exams give users an additional opportunity to fully experience the training in a secure environment.

Learning is not a one-size-fits-all experience, just as learners are not universal. E-learning enables students to discover, read, watch, and participate at their own pace by utilizing a variety of delivery techniques to create a distinctive and individual experience for each learner.

With no criticism, eLearning allows students to experiment, test their knowledge, and yes, even fail as a learning activity. Continuous, real-time feedback enables students to fix their mistakes and advance their skills in the safest way possible, keeping the learning process on track.

By demonstrating the "why" behind the learning and allowing learners to see the results of their efforts through metrics, leaderboards, and certification, eLearning can engage learners' hearts and minds and improve attitude, resulting in learning that truly endures.

Disadvantages of eLearning

While some students prefer to work individually, others feel more at home in a campus environment where they may easily contact their teachers or other students. To be as effective as traditional classes, online education must enable social interaction.

Online learning necessitates self-control. If a student doesn't feel like they are receiving the right direction, they can lack the self-control to properly participate in the lessons. Instead of only taking online courses, switching to virtual, live classes increases accountability.

Of course, instructors must have adequate training in order to deal with the technical aspects of online learning, including the usage of video and audio recording equipment, virtual classroom and lecture capture software, and of course, learning management software (LMS). The combination of all these new abilities confronts a teacher with a steep learning curve, but careful planning and investing in the right training will benefit the institution, the instructor, and the students equally!

We spend an alarming amount of time in front of screens today, therefore it's pretty much likely that this will continue in 2022. Sadly, online education fuels this issue. Screen time in excess can cause a variety of physical problems, such as headaches or poor posture. But for children who have trouble paying attention to or learning from screens, it can also be a personal problem.

When to Select eLearning

Every completed minute of eLearning normally costs between $200 and $900, however this varies depending on a number of factors, such as:

  • What eLearning level do you select? (Level 1, 2, or 3)

  • If your eLearning contains a voiceover performed by a professional

  • How many eLearning minutes and modules you desire

  • The instructional design team's access to information

  • Whichever Learning Management System (LMS) you select

While there are sound reasons to select eLearning as your selected modality. There are other questions that you should ask before deciding on this model.

Analysis Questions for Selecting eLearning

How many people do you need to train? If you are training a large number of employees, and you need to report and track, then eLearning is a viable solution.

Is this curriculum knowledge based? If the curriculum is knowledge based, which is obtained through lectures and textbooks, and is the theoretical understanding of something gathered through reading, listening, and watching, then eLearning may be the appropriate learning modality.

Is the curriculum compliance/governance training? The use of a Learning Management System, which includes gradebooks, can be advantageous for this type of formal teaching.

Alternative that is a little interactive Classes are less individualized, but they may accommodate much bigger groups.

Does the curriculum need to be delivered in a cyclical manner or on a schedule? If the answer is yes, then eLearning may be the right option. For example, ethics training may be an excellent choice to be presented as an eLearning.

Are you onboarding new employees? If the answer is yes, then eLearning may be the best choice for this type of learning.

Is this a microlearning? If yes, then eLearning may not be the best choice. A short video may be better.

Is this a live training that is being given to a selected audience? If yes, then ILT may be the best option.

Is this work-skills training? If yes, then a performance support document might be a better option.


During this blog series, we will look at eLearning, Videos, Instructor Led Training, Blended learning solutions, and performance support documents to help you better understand how to align your training needs with the most appropriate modality. One size does not fit all. For example, eLearning can be an extremely versatile learning solution. However, there are drawbacks, especially if the learning does not require a Learning Management System for delivery. If you find yourself in a situation, and you are not sure which learning modality is best, you should consider costs, the potential for revenue, and determine if reporting and tracking are needed.

Next Steps

In the upcoming blog, we are going to take a look at videos and their utility in terms of delivery and audience needs. Thank you for reading!

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