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Many are already incorporating elearning in our teaching and professional practice, but when people speak about elearning there is an assumption that we are talking about something about which we have a common understanding. Closer examination reveals that there are a number of elearning approaches that are quite different from each other, but are all described as elearning. This is perhaps not surprising as the term elearning was introduced to cover the various online learning activities that were occurring around the year 2000.

Clint Smith (formally of eWorks in Victoria)has done a lot of the groundwork in delineating models of elearning. I have modified his work a little and originally settled on six different models of elearning in current practice. I have since added types 7) 8), and 9.)

  1. Etraining
  2. Distance Education
  3. Blended or Web Enhanced Learning Type 1
  4. Blended or Web Enhanced Learning Type 2
  5. Virtual Classroom Type 1 (Collaborative)
  6. Virtual Classroom Type 2 (Presentational)
  7. The Community of Practice
  8. MOOCs

Let’s look at each of these in turn and see how they might suit your training or teaching needs:

1) Etraining

• intranet (in-house) or Internet
• self-directed (ie no facilitation)
• courseware is the course
• uses Learner Management System (eg Blackboard, Janison, Moodle)
• off-shelf, customized, pre-packaged, pre-loaded content
• no use of collaborative or communication tools (forums, chat, Instant Messaging, blogs, wikis)

This model of elearning can be useful for product or compliance training where the desired outcome is based primarily on information recall.

2) Distance Education Model (original ‘Online Learning’)

• remote delivery
• supported (ie facilitated)
• purpose-designed materials - pre-packaged, pre-loaded content
• uses Learner Management System (eg Blackboard, Janison, Moodle)
• team development of content and methodology
• some use of collaborative (student presentation spaces, wikis, blogs) and communication tools (forums, chat, Instant Messaging)

This form of remote elearning delivery can be effective for reflective, knowledge based learning in subjects that are language based (Business Services, Community Services). Needs to be skillfully and closely facilitated to secure good retention and completion rates.


3) Web Enhanced 1

• enhanced face to face
• teacher guided/tutored
• teacher as author/lecturer
• lectures supplemented by web content and email or other e-communication
• VET, higher education
• May or may not use LMS

This is the perhaps the simplest model of elearning, has wide applicability in TAFE/VET and can be successfully integrated by all programs where there is reasonable Internet access.

4) Web Enhanced 2

• enhanced face to face
• teacher guided/tutored
• teacher as author/lecturer
• lectures supplemented by web content and email or other e-communication
• uses LMS
• content progressively added to LMS
some collaboration and communication tools (eg discussion forum, wiki, blog, Facebook,etc)
• some emphasis on learning community
• higher ed, adv TAFE/VET
• some reflective, knowledge-based learning

This model of elearning assumes that participants and teachers will have some ongoing learning and collaboration online outside of class time. While ideally suited to advanced VET learners, this model can be applied successfully by all programs where learners are supported and taught how to operate in the online component of the course.


5) Virtual Classroom 1 (Collaborative)

• live distance delivery
• trainer presented
• live materials, PowerPoint
• uses web conferencing
• collaborative team learning
• communities of practice, enterprises (national, global)
• situated learning
  • sessions can be recorded

This kind of elearning event is typical of much professional development where people have a common interest, fairly sophisticated web-conferencing skills, and a willingness to collaborate.

6) Virtual Classroom 2 (Presentational)

• live distance delivery
• lecturer/trainer presented
• live materials, PowerPoint
• uses web conferencing
• heavy reliance on later retrieval of session archives
• knowledge-based learning
• advanced VET, higher ed, enterprises (national, global)

This form of elearning in a sense simply replicates teacher-led classroom delivery but has the advantage of being accessible in real time for remote students. Can be applied in any program where there are distance and face to face students studying the same subjects.

7) THE COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE (for Professional Development)
  • mostly online but complemented by occasional f2f meetings
  • community of peers with shared responsibility for sharing the teaching/learning (the community knowledge)
  • mostly informal (occasional formal events at conferences, seminars)
  • email list as principal means of communication (augmented by other networking tools eg Twitter, Facebook)
  • synchronous meetings
  • community artefacts stored online

8) MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses)

  • large scale (from hundreds to thousands of students)
  • anyone can enrol
  • content is free; instruction often free or minimal cost; successful participants pay for qualification/certification

Two types of MOOC.have been identified.

a) xMOOC
  • pre-recorded lectures
  • preset assessment (usually quizzes)
  • participants free to work alone

b) cMOOC (c= connectivist)

  • regular live webinars that can be retrieved later as recordings
  • participants self-organise into learning networks
  • emphasis on paragogy - peers learning from each other
  • extensive use of social media (esp. Twitter- via hashtags, blogs,podcasts)


"The flipped classroom model involves courses that move the traditional lecture, or content dissemination, away from face-to-face hours and into online delivery outside of class time. The face-to-face class time is used for practice and actual application rather than for introducing the content being studied. " from Hill (cited below) That is,what used to be homework now becomes classwork, and vice versa.


  1. For a comprehensive overview and guide to creating elearning materials check out the wonderful Designing eLearning website.
  2. Online Education Models - A Descriptive View (Phil Hill, Educause Review)
  3. An Introduction to eLearning - JISC Digital Media (UK)

Michael Coghlan