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The Evolution of eLearning: from Baby Steps to Giant Leaps

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Evolution of e-learning

eLearning is defined as the use of the Internet and other digital technologies to educate people without geographical boundaries. The definition is as new as 2001, though the term e-Learning was first used in the year 1999 when the word was first utilized at a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) seminar. This is also why e-Learning is still considered as a new form of learning.

E-Learning has evolved in different ways in the education, business and training sectors, and it has different interpretations for different sectors. At the school level, e-Learning refers to a learning process that uses both software-based and online learning tools, whereas in business, training and higher education sectors, e-Learning solely refers to online learning.

An eLearning Timeline

Before the Internet

Long before the Internet came into the picture, the concept of distance education was used to provide education on particular skills or subjects. The correspondence method, as it was termed, used the mail system to get in touch with students and vice versa.

After the launch of the Internet, open universities further expanded their horizons and started the concept of distance learning. This was first started by the British.

The Start

Online Learning or e-Learning can go back to the 1990s, where the trend started and was emerging. In this decade, the development of personal computers was on the rise. E-Learning became more simplified, and it was easier to learn skills online. With this, e-Learning opportunities began to rise, with online environments becoming more acceptable. Interactive CD-ROMs and PDF text files came into the picture to ease the process of online learning. As it was monetarily more beneficial, online courses became more and more popular. This decade saw some notable achievements like personal home computers, online environments, educational courses online, and repurposing content into digital formats.

The Advancing Technology: 2000 – 2005

The common e-Learning that was becoming popular in the nineties era did not suddenly get discouraged because of the technology developments that took place. Instead, the technologies made the concept of e-Learning more advanced. The upgraded technologies, methodologies and software attracted more people to use PowerPoint tools and learning management systems (LMS).

In the span of these five years, there were a number of achievements in the field of e-Learning. Increased access to wireless, scalable vector graphics, improved PowerPoint capabilities, learning objects, educational games, e-Learning repositories, SCORM, LMSs and social media networks were some of the notable achievements in this field.

The Rapid Development Era: 2006 – 2010

2006 – 2010 was a time period when e-Learning tools became quite standard in the learning industry. The “anyone can build” functionality of online learning tools enabled every common person to learn more. The added benefits of advancing technologies along with less money and no geographical boundaries changed the way learning happens. Introduction of methodologies like podcasting, mobile Internet, learning analytics, and augmented reality created a boon for the online learning niche. Other notable achievements for this time span included:

  • Educational Gaming
  • User created content
  • Library digitization
  • Virtual worlds
  • Cloud computing
  • Online video
  • Gesture-based computing
  • eBooks
  • Mobile learning

Modern Times: 2011 Onwards

From 2011 onwards, online learning has advanced tools available that further simplify e-Learning course creation. Today, e-Learning courses are popular among students, businesses and trainers. The tools used in the industry have become more easy to use. There is more content, expert advice, virtual classrooms, and a lot of interaction.

Students use these technologies to gain expertise in any one subject. Professionals use learning courses to enhance their skill set and attain a better position in their career path.  

The future of e-Learning is bright and set to expand along with advancing technologies.  

Some of the technology advancements that have helped e-Learning grow since 2011 are the cloud, tablet computing, learning through social platforms, advancement in learning analytics, MOOCs, and wearable technology.

It will definitely be exciting to see what the coming years will have in store for e-Learning.

Have your own thoughts on the evolution of e-Learning? Please share in the comments below!


Akansha Arora is a professional writer and blogger who loves to pen down her views on a number of topics that interest a reader. She writes keeping in mind the current scenarios and wishes to keep her readers well informed. You can 

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