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E-learning can be defined as instructional content or learning experiences that are delivered or enabled through the medium of electronic technology. In a short period of time, e-learning has begun to redefine the process of training. It has shifted the focus from the trainer to the learner. Elliot Masie, of the Masie Center in New York, an e-learning proponent, says that e-learning is much more than the transfer of traditional courses to a new medium. He describes it as “a new blend of resources, interactivity, performance support and structured learning activities” (

There is a wide spectrum of learning experiences that can be offered online. Self-directed, self-paced instruction on a given topic, as in computer-based training, is one type. At the other end of the spectrum, online courses can be extended experiences which involve accessing online materials for reading and the regular use of online discussion boards for communication among students.

Online learning experiences can also differ in their intensity, from materials that are largely text-based through to immersive simulations aimed at teaching advanced cognitive/motor skills such as driving a car.

The online environment can be used in many ways to support or fulfil training objectives by functioning as an information system, a communication system, an instructional system, a performance support system or a management system.

Information system. The internet has the power to provide access to a vast array of databases and information sources (e.g., web sites, databases, hypertext, etc). These can be either sources of information which are valuable in their own right for research and knowledge, (e.g. encyclopedias, financial information, etc) or to other sources/providers of training.

Communication system. Through email and computer conferencing technologies, the internet provides the ability to bring together users with common interests, either synchronously or asynchronously, using technologies such as listservs (discussion groups that take place through the exchange of emails through a list moderator), bulletin boards and chat rooms.

Instructional system. The internet has the ability to connect users through the web to sources of pre-designed instruction, for example, interactive multimedia instructional packages and more traditional types of computer-based training. It is rapidly also becoming a medium for the direct delivery of training packages and learning materials.

Provider of learning materials and experiences. The internet makes possible a wide variety of experiences to enable learning, with features that include multiple pathways, instant feedback on actions, and interaction with the materials.

Performance support system. The internet takes advantage of features such as online help and expert systems which combine aspects of the above systems.

Learning management system. The internet can integrate all of the administrative aspects of training, including providing course information, taking registrations, monitoring progress, administering assessment tools, recording completion of the course, issuing certification, and updating learners' records.

Training providers differ in how they combine the internet with other means to carry out these different aspects of training. Different models for online learning are a result of these differences. The differences may be due to the availability of technology, the readiness of learners to benefit from the internet mode of learning, or the nature of the material to be learned.

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e-Learning is a new, accessible blend of resources, interactivity, performance support and structured learning activities.

Glenn's e-learning experience and qualifications

I have been writing commentary on e-learning and the implementation of e-learning in organisations for over ten years, for CCH Australia and for professional magazines.

I obtained a Master of Education in online learning from the University of Southern Queensland.

I was the Project Director at NSW Department of Planning for 12 months, designing and implementing an online course on the NSW Housing Code. I was responsible for the engagement of a company to produce the online course, I worked with the Department’s subject matter experts to determine the content, wrote the script for the course, and managed the relationship with the e-learning company through to delivery.

The Housing Code course is publicly accessible (free registration; required):



Notes on the design of learning

Working with subject matter experts


Masie Center (New York)

Flexible Learning (Australian vocational education & training network)