What Is E-Learning?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover some essential details about what e-learning is and what counts as e-learning. Learn the advantages and potential disadvantages of remote learning and get tips on maximising the experience.

[Featured Image] A man is using e-learning on his laptop in his office to improve his skills.

E-learning is learning from a course or part of a course that is delivered electronically. You access this form of digital learning live online or at your own pace via recorded material.

E-learning is varied, provided through video, audio, text, or a combination. You can access whole courses digitally through your phone, tablet, or laptop, or a subset of the course might be e-learning, with the rest delivered in person. The possibilities are vast. 

E-learning is popular amongst course providers and learners alike. Online learning has seen a 900 percent growth rate since the year 2000 [1], becoming even more widespread since 2020 and the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. Online courses became a fantastic way to learn when accessing in person wasn’t possible or posed too high a risk, and the trend continues. 

In this article, you’ll examine e-learning, the benefits and downsides of digital courses, and how to get the most out of your time. 

Scope of e-learning

You may use e-learning for various courses or as part of your courses. It can be the whole focus or a component of a broader educational programme. As the popularity of e-learning grows, more options are becoming mainstream. Let’s take a look at the various types of e-learning available.


Self-study as a form of professional or personal development is extremely popular. COVID-19 was a contributing factor, but the distance learning trend online has been growing steadily before that and isn’t showing signs of slowing down. 

Whereas not too many years ago, the Open University was your only option to study for an online degree in the UK, now you’ll find multiple organisations and educational institutions offering this, along with basic skills courses, certifications, and courses studied for interest.

Examples of e-learning if you are looking for self-study include:

Part of a more comprehensive course (blended learning)

Some courses, mainly longer ones, use blended learning, a hybrid of in-person and online learning. This may resemble scheduled in-person lessons, with videoconferencing meet-ups to discuss subjects in smaller groups. 

Employer led learning

You may study an e-learning course through your place of employment. In-house training is familiar, but e-learning to upskill employees in the workplace is on the rise. Allowing employees to work at their own pace, revisit materials, and work with greater time efficiency has shown numerous benefits in engagement, staff development, and staff retention.

Examples of e-learning

E-learning can mean many things. The definition of e-learning is learning electronically or digitally, so it encompasses many aspects. Anything that we can present digitally can be used for e-learning. 


We all know what a PowerPoint is and have seen it in numerous presentations, but it also embeds well into e-learning material. Users can watch a presentation or work through slides at their own pace.

Video conferences

Using technology such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams makes meeting with other people virtually a possibility from anywhere. It could be a study group, a one-to-one meeting with a tutor, coach, or supervisor, or an informal meeting with other students to boost your learning. 


Screencasts and other software allow you to film yourself undertaking a process online. The person conducting the process may record it and add it to e-learning courses as an example. 


Webinars are a great way of learning from an expert in a group. The person delivering the course or lecture presents the material and allows learners to ask questions. 

Interactive engagement

This type of e-learning includes several actions, such as using games to learn and virtual reality to put the learner in certain positions and simulations. A virtual workplace is a prime example. 

Articles and workbooks

Many e-learning courses are structured around the simplicity of articles, ebooks, or workbooks that can be printed or completed on screen and returned to as a knowledge base.

Podcasts and audio

Video and reading are only two of many ways you can learn online. Audio is also a popular e-learning option. Podcasts and bursts of audio are recorded and embedded into e-learning concepts. 

Benefits of e-learning

With the boom in e-learning, you’ll discover many benefits over traditional in-person training and learning methods. The education technology (EdTech) sector in the UK alone was valued at £3.2B in 2020 and continues to grow [2]. With the biggest barrier to online learning being an internet connection and a device such as a phone, computer, or tablet, access to e-learning is possible for almost anyone. 


Being able to learn wherever you are is a huge timesaver. Often, remote learning modules are short, so you can manage them in small chunks, which isn’t always possible with an in-person course you have to travel to at a set time. Also, saving on travel to a location means you have more time to study and can access remote learning wherever you choose. 

High retention

Online learning that is flexible and allows people to work in their own way and in their own time can improve retention. Students have control over when they access learning and can revisit course material.  


E-learning breaks down some barriers when it comes to the costs of studying. Not having to pay for a physical space to deliver the course means hosts provide e-learning courses cheaper than in-person learning, and associated costs such as travel and accommodation are not a factor. 


E-learning usually allows you to design your schedule and take the time necessary to complete modules or work faster than an in-person course allows. This flexibility will enable you to learn about other commitments, including family and work. It also allows learners to work at a self-guided pace, making it much more accessible. 

Easy to track progress

Having all your learning in one place on a dashboard means it’s easy to see what you’ve completed and have yet to complete, any grades for assignments, the ability to share resources efficiently, and it reduces paperwork. 

More choice

Unlike in-person learning, an e-learning course means you can live anywhere and access a course as you don’t need to travel there. In turn, it widens the scope of learning, allowing you to access courses on any subject from any location.  

Includes a wider range of participants

As you can choose a course from far and wide, so too can the other participants on your course, meaning the learner population can be from anywhere in the world. This diversity adds a variety of experiences, cultures, and religions to draw from, creating a diverse environment to strengthen what you learn. 


E-learning has improved accessibility to learning for people with disabilities or neurodiversity. It removes the need to travel to a location and allows participants to work from the comfort of their own homes or an adapted environment.

Factors to consider 

You’ve seen the many pros of e-learning. As with anything, there are also some possible drawbacks to consider. 


Remote learning can be isolating at times. Even with video conferencing options, human face-to-face contact cannot be entirely replicated, and as social beings, we often crave connection with others. 

Hard to motivate yourself

Maintaining motivation when working alone is challenging, especially on entirely independent modules that don’t involve a conference call or workshop.


Without physical attendance, it’s easier for students to stop studying and for dropouts to go unnoticed if your e-learning course doesn’t include regular check-ins and accountability with others. 

Must have equipment

Even though e-learning receives praise for being more accessible than in-person learning, some barriers still exist for people who do not have the necessary equipment. Slow internet, dated facilities, and limited access to headsets and technical equipment can make online learning difficult for some.

How to get the most out of e-learning

It’s important to consider the pros and cons and ensure your e-learning journey accounts for every eventuality. A good e-learning course allows you to manage your time, study in a way that suits you, and provide opportunities to engage with others and perform solo work.  

Manage your time. 

Having the freedom to manage your e-learning your way is great, but it also requires some time management. Put time aside to study rather than just fitting it in. Note any deadlines, and develop a study plan so you know what to do and when. 

Create a study space.

Make sure you have everything you need for your course, including all equipment and an environment free from distractions that make you feel focused and motivated. 

Have a point of contact.

Working alone can be isolating and challenging when you encounter something you don’t understand or need support. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that your course includes a point of contact should you need it. 

Engage with other course participants.

Face-to-face interaction is lacking in online learning, so it’s essential that you find other ways to surround yourself with course participants. This could be through study groups, social media, or contacting people in your course.

Start your e-learning with Coursera.

Are you ready to start your next e-learning course? Coursera offers a range of course options, from online degrees from some of the world’s leading universities to Professional Certificates in various subjects. For example, you can develop your cybersecurity skills with Microsoft’s Cybersecurity Analyst Professional Certificate or get career-ready with the Google IT Support Professional Certificate.

Article sources


Oxford Learning College. “Online Education Statistics UK, https://www.oxfordcollege.ac/news/online-education-statistics/.” Accessed May 9, 2024.

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