Online learning, digital learning, virtual learning and eLearning. All of these terms are used interchangeably to describe one and the same thing in a lot of circles. But do they mean one and the same thing? Actually, no. Although all of these are closely related, there are subtle differences (and in some cases major differences) in each of these terms. If you belong in the eLearning, learning and development or corporate training industries, or are somehow involved in any one of them, it is imperative to know the difference. In this article we’ll discuss those subtle changes that set these terms apart from each other in detail.
- Online Learning
As the name suggests, the distinguishing feature of online learning is that, well, it occurs online, i.e. on the internet. But not all learning experiences that are delivered to learners through an internet connection are online learning. For example, eLearning occurs online too. Online learning can be understood as somewhat of a blended learning experience, as learners do communicate with trainers/coaches using web video conferencing and other such tools. eLearning, however, does not allow such a communication between trainers/coaches and learners even if they are on the same premises. In eLearning, learners can communicate with experts via chat though.
- Digital Learning
Digital learning is basically the ultimate amalgam of online learning, e-Learning and blended learning. It also allows offline digital learning by using local conferencing software and digital cameras. e-Learning, on the other hand, is a limited concept in comparison. As digital learning is a blend of various learning methodologies, it even includes a number of learning strategies in various combinations, such as adaptive learning, gamification, classroom learning, e-books, learning analytics, learning objects, mobile learning, personalized learning, open educational resources (OERs), technology-enhanced teaching and learning, virtual reality as well as augmented reality.
- Virtual Learning
Virtual learning is wholly video-conferencing based, and occurs in a classroom. It allows the students as well as the teachers/trainers to interact, connect, learn and share their learning materials with the other students and teachers out of their classroom by using a video conferencing software. Students interact with their teachers and other students face-to-face as they would in a traditional classroom, with the exception of the face-to-face communication happening through a video conferencing tool. The teacher and learners/students are physically separated (in terms of place, time, or both). Virtual learning can be both asynchronous or synchronous.
eLearning is pretty straightforward, and pretty much the forebear or other learning methodologies mentioned here. eLearning courses or modules are visual, interactive progressions of content made up of text, images, videos as well as interactivities, with the sole purpose of educating the person who attempts or takes the course or module. There is no trainer or coach involved in pure eLearning (except if its blended learning) although learners can ask questions of experts in some eLearning courses.
Learning the difference between all of these learning methodologies empowers you to make an informed decision on which one of these to use for your learning and development needs. Thus, now even when you see either of these used interchangeably, you’ll be able to understand which is which by taking a closer look at its aspects.
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