Jody Campbell
Adjunct Instructor 2D, 3D and 4D Communication Design

Is eLearning as effective as traditional instruction?

The world is moving to eLearning but is it as effective has having an instructor in the same room as the student?

5 / 5 • 6 Ratings

Comments (18)

Write a reply...
or Join for free to view all comments and participate in the discussion.

carolyn brown

Posted on 3/11/15 10:58:14 PM Permalink

I think it depends two things. 1) How effective is the "instructor in the room" and 2) How effective the course design and implementation of the eLearning is.

You can't say one is better than the other because both can vary widely in quality and effectiveness. Just because one "instructor in the room" is more effective than one eLearning doesn't mean that instructor is more effective than all instances of eLearning. Nor does one bad example of eLearning make all eLearning less effective than F2F. In other words this is a pointless discussion.

Dimitri Merritt

Posted on 3/12/15 6:00:43 AM Permalink

Well put. Brilliant!!

Dimitri Merritt

Posted on 1/6/15 1:07:22 PM Permalink

I have been in eLearning for 17 years and this is one of those topics that come up all the time. I would like to give my opinion on the matter BUT before I do that I must add that I work for a corporate company and focus on adult education i.e. whatever I say here may be totally useless info. Furthermore I work in South Africa (I mentioned this because infrastructure must surely come into the equation )

I would like to start with one of the comments made below (which is not quite true) and that is that eLearning is a cost saver (very debatable). Let me explain. To create a learning intervention for a classroom is a lot quicker than creating the same intervention online (normally it takes a lot longer to develop an elearning intervention). Normally speaking things like graphics, audio clips, etc are purchased for eLearning (one could argue that one has to purchase graphics for books etc BUT at the end of the day to create a good eLearning intervention you need a lot more graphics). Teams are also used to create eLearning interventions (i.e. you get a graphics artist, programmers, etc) .... Obviously the quality of the eLearning intervention will determine how much is spent as well. O! Yes! Software….. Another expense.

One can make another topic for this but what I think people often forget is that the initial cost to create an eLearning intervention is very expensive. A lot of factors come into play e.g. travel (which I am sure is not in the school environment, how many learners one reaches, how long one is going to use the intervention, etc). It can take up to two years to recoup the expense….. and …what happens in my industry is, when one breaks even one has to recreate the module as the info is outdated.

Having said that there are many arguments that go to prove how cheap eLearning can be…so…..

As far as ROI there are so many permeable and one can doctor the stats to suit either camp. One thing I can say … is that Virtual Classrooms seem to be the go between of both worlds. This to me is a biggest cost saver of all.

Sorry for that…back to the point of “Is eLearning as effective as traditional instruction?”

The short answer is Yes and No!

In some instances, eLearning, way out performs traditional learning and in other cases traditional way out performs eLearning. Then there are certain aspects that traditional learning just cannot perform (visa versa)…. and a good example would be …. Our sales force drive a lot i.e. we create cd’s with topics and the learner can listen to the topics while stuck in traffic (something that one will not be able to do in the traditional world (ooops – before I forget … I am not sure if you could do something like this for a school environment but there are other examples))…but then there are things that one can do in a classroom that one just cannot do in an eLearning environment.

Our solution is a blended learning approach i.e. some interventions go via eLearning and others in a classroom (we actually take it a step further as we take it back to the work place where we get the managers involved in the learning process).

On a different note regarding the effectiveness of eLearning. Something that I picked up with my daughter when she was small. I noticed that the younger children prefer 2D instead of 3D images (sounds silly but that was interesting to me).

Something, I read, regarding the comments below, can eLearning replace traditional learning.

The truth is Yes and No! A perfect example is one can actually do a degree via eLearning. So yes it can replace the old traditional way of learning. Is it as effective …well that depends on how it was made and the time and effort put into it … but yes some of the work we have done and proven that eLearning is better than classroom. In the same way as getting poor teachers/facilitators one finds lots of bad eLearning out there….BUT … the truth is that eLearning can replace traditional learning.

I would think that younger children need a lot of character building etc i.e. eLearning cannot help that out.

This is another one of those topics one can debate …BUT… what I have seen is that teachers/facilitators feel threatened by eLearning. Instead of realising that eLearning is just another tool to use in learning they fear it. What I have seen is that in this discussion we have the “us and them” scenario… BUT… at its root eLearning is just a tool.

One last thang …. Somebody commented on the eLearning Market Trends. One of the countries missioned was Africa with a growth rate of 15.2%. Now my company deals with countries in Africa, Mexico, Columbia, Japan, etc. Infrastructure is the biggest killer of eLearning. I do not know how they got those stats (and as with all stats I am sure it has been doctored)… BUT … I must think that would reflect businesses and not schools. Infrastructure plays a massive role is this game called eLearning i.e. once again blended learning plays a big role here as well.

Ok.. I have gone on way too long and apologise but I love these discussion and learnt a lot from reading all the comments…so thank you.


Alisha Crawford

Posted on 9/2/14 4:05:49 PM Permalink

The beauty of both methods when properly developed and monitored is that both enhance the learning process. Effective e-Learning like traditional learning depends on how well prepared and clear the course is to the learner as well constant assessment to keep improving the process. The direct human to human transference of information can not be replaced or properly measured for the psychological impact learner's gain (before formal education we all learn this way). However, the ability to to have additional layers of instruction accessible to everyone at anytime also isn't physically possible for Teachers so as both learner and Instructor I cannot see one with out the other. In this case, when the work is put into it, it's a good marriage.

Jody Campbell

Posted on 9/16/14 7:30:40 PM Permalink

I agree with you that eLearning is a effective tool when used in concert with direct, present instruction from a living human being. There are so many different learning styles in any group and (at least with today's tech) eLearning has not effectively mastered that aspect. Humans are able to adapt to changing environments quicker and more intuitively and as Lorraine points out sometimes students just need someone on their side, to motivate them and nurture them.

Lorraine Nitschke

Posted on 9/2/14 11:56:38 AM Permalink

I think that those who think that we could ever move to a totally eLearning system really have no idea at all about what teaching is all about. It is instructing, guiding, reinforcing, sympathising, revising, reviewing, finding a dozen different ways of saying the same thing to reach as many students as we can, drawing diagrams, inventing examples, stopping and going back when we realise that some are just not getting it . . . . . .

And some think that a generic eCourse can replace us? I don't think so! There is so much more going on in a classroom than just injecting information into receptive minds. A good teacher is in tune with the students, how they are reacting. We can fine tune, adapt, modify our lessons on the fly, if necessary, create and participate in discussions. Sometimes we nurture, rather than teach, trying to reach those who initially reject learning. (Have you spotted my soap box yet?)

That's not to say that eLearning doesn't have a place in education. Most of us use it already as another tool in our arsenal. YouTube is our friend, along with all the providers of really great online materials. I am a person who loves learning that way, and am a great fan of Lynda, but it takes a great deal of self-discipline to learn that way, and not all students, even adult ones, respond well to that kind of learning. One could even argue that eLearning is only learning, not educating, but that is a whole different discussion!

Jody Campbell

Posted on 9/16/14 7:13:11 PM Permalink

I think you hit nail on the head Lorraine and I could not agree with you more!

sandro c mendes

Posted on 8/16/14 11:04:19 PM Permalink

I think so, and we have great traditional teaching institutions offering distance education mode. What ever we have to ensure is proof of proficiency in the subject matter. Anyway, EAD is the future

Jody Campbell

Posted on 9/16/14 7:15:25 PM Permalink

I regretfully accept the idea that EAD is the direction we are headed, I don't like that direction but I can't ignore that reality.

Jody Campbell

Posted on 8/16/14 3:08:30 PM Permalink

One of the arguments for eLearning is cost. It is a lot cheaper to move to Cloud base management systems than the brick and mortar, highly trained faculty and staff and hardware/software systems. The later in my opinion will always be more effective, responsive and adaptable but how do we counter that urge many have for cheaper and faster?

Bhuvana Sriram

Posted on 8/16/14 2:06:08 PM Permalink

The effectiveness depends on the teacher and the learner. I don't think e learning will replace the traditional teaching in a classroom but it will become a choice if we as teachers are not more effective then the learners will have to go for other option.

Jody Campbell

Posted on 8/16/14 3:04:28 PM Permalink

I agree with you Bhuvana 100%

So how do we encourage more teachers to be more effective? Do use a pay for performance approach?

Eliot Attridge

Posted on 8/16/14 8:01:00 AM Permalink

I don't think the world is moving over to elearning and dropping face to face. It's bolstering the traditional styles of teaching.

In an ideal world there will be a mixture of instruction and learners will be able to pick and choose what suits.

Of course, if there was an instructor that no one got on with / was ineffective, then they may have more to be concerned about.

Jody Campbell

Posted on 8/16/14 2:40:42 PM Permalink

Thanks for you input Eliot I have found your feedback valuable here and in other discussions.

Many of my students would agree with you in that eLearning is bolstering at least their desire for traditional face to face education. I have yet to hear from a student that they prefer eLearning.

Docebo's "E-Learning Market Trends & Forecast 2014 - 2016 Report" indicates a projected 15.2% growth rate in eLearning in African markets, 16.9% in Eastern Europe, 17.3 % in Asian markets, 14.6% in Latin America, 8.2% in the Middle East, 5.8% in Western Europe and 4.4% in North America.

In North America $23.8 billion was spent on eLearning in 2013 and is expected to grow to $27.1 billion in 2016.

Evidence of the growth of eLearning can be seen here on EDEX, right?

I am not fan of this move away from face to face instruction as it assumes one learning style will serve all users but we do seem to be moving in that direction.

Sjaani van den Berg

Posted on 8/15/14 11:23:11 PM Permalink

I think that would depend on the individual, and how they learn.

Many teachers don't cater for different learning styles which means many students get nothing out of sitting in a classroom anyway.

Jody Campbell

Posted on 8/16/14 2:46:01 PM Permalink

Thanks for the feedback and I agree with you that there are many types of learning styles and this was my motivation for asking this question. I think your comment about "Many teachers don't cater for different learning styles which means many students get nothing out of sitting in a classroom anyway." hits the nail on the head. eLearning has it pros but its biggest con is that it does not account for different learning styles.

Sjaani van den Berg

Posted on 8/16/14 10:50:26 PM Permalink

Or it's another tool in the teachers arsenal to help reach those who don't like other teaching methods.

I think the best way to look at it is that it's another tool rather than a replacement tool. Many people are more connected to their devices than they are to people on a face to face basis therefore the elearning phenomenon could be helping to reach people who couldn't be reached by 'traditional' means.

Jody Campbell

Posted on 8/17/14 1:13:39 AM Permalink

Excellent point!