Definition of e-Learning

What is the definition of e-learning? Is there only one way to define e-learning? Electronic learning or e-learning (sometime written as elearning) has various definitions.

E-learning is basically boils down to learning that is facilitated and supported via information and communications technology (ICT). The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) defines e-learning as a broad set of applications and processes which include web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital.

Much of this is delivered via the Internet, intranets, audio- and videotape, satellite broadcast, interactive TV, and CD-ROM. The definition of e-learning varies depending on the organization and how it is used but basically it is involves electronic means of communication, education, and training. Sound e-learning is founded on instructional design principles pedagogical elements that take into account learning theories.

Many terms have been used to define e-learning in the past. For example web-based training, computer-based training or web-based learning, and online learning are a few synonymous terms that have over the last few years been labeled as e-learning. Each of this implies a “just-in-time” instructional and learning approach.

Regardless of the definition you chose to use, designers, developers, and implementers make or break the instructional courses and tools. E-learning is simply a medium for delivering learning and like any other medium, it has its advantages and disadvantages. E-learning covers a wide array of activities from supported learning, to blended or hybrid learning (the combination of traditional and e-learning practices), to learning that occurs 100% online.

Given its nature, online distance education is well matched with e-learning and flexible learning but is also used for in-class teaching and blended learning.


Alonso, F. et al. (2005) “An instructional model for web-based e-learning education with a blended learning process approach”, British Journal of Educational Technology; Mar, Vol. 36/2, 217-235.

Mayer, R. E. (2003). Elements of a science of e-learning. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 29(3), 297-313.

First understanding the definition of e-learning is therefore key to understanding it’s potential and the best ways to achieve learning goals through various related media, which are accomplished over the Internet, computer networks, using CD-ROM materials, interactive television, audio, satellite broadcast as well as other multimedia resources.