The e-learning wave has become a tsunami. Capterra (@Capterra) [link] reports that 10 million students have taken a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), that 84.2% of firms surveyed claim they use e-learning for employee training and development, and that — while the US and Europe are the locations for 70% of e-learning, Asia is seeing 20% per year growth in this form of education.

SlideShare (@SlideShare) [link] has an infographic showing the trends in e-learning. It was there I learned that the average age of an e-student is 34, that over 40% of the Fortune 500 now educate via technological means, and that companies that offer best-practice e-learning opportunities generate 26% more in sales per employee.

Studying on Computer

Yet, all the stats are not good news. For example, Capterra also reports that only 1 out of every 10 MOOC students actually complete or pass the course. Holly Young, writing in The Guardian [link] last month, asked “E-learning: more hype than hope?” in connection with electronic education opportunities in Africa. Young seems to be optimistic and notes that, whether the subject under study is mastered or not, just interacting with the technology can be beneficial.

Will Thalheimer (@WillWorkLearn) [link] probably has the best point of view on the subject. In trying to present an overview of the major paradigms, or types, of e-learning, he concedes that the field “is “still a relatively young field, having its start in the 1960’s during the advent of the computer age and gradually gaining a critical mass after the internet became a mass phenomenon. Because it’s a young field, we are still learning how to think about elearning. With each new paradigm, we think more deeply, more fully about what elearning is — and can be.”

In his post, Thalheimer speaks of the “Serious eLearning Manifesto” [link], which is a cogent statement about the importance of making sure that e-learning is not simply poor content and bad educational techniques transmitted around the world by the Internet.

Thalheimer was one of the authors of the manifesto, and one has to respect the honesty of those who wrote it. Consider the first two sentences: “We believe that learning technology offers the possibility for creating uniquely valuable learning experiences. We also believe, with a sense of sadness and profound frustration, that most elearning fails to live up to its promise.”

The manifesto offers 22 principles that the authors believe are essential for e-learning to become excellent learning. Whether teacher or learner, these points of reference for assuring that e-learning is effectively done are worth a slow, careful read.

You should also hop to the May 2014 post by Kate Everson (@EversonKate) on the Chief Learning Officer website [link]. “Five Ways GE’s Design Principles Can Create Better Learning” is a compelling summation of the thinking of Greg Petroff, General Electric Software’s chief experience officer.

Petroff says that e-learning design has to be right for the learning context and the other connections of the student. He also stresses that e-learning must be reinforced by providing students “dashboards” that are operationally relevant. Lastly, he notes that any e-learning design should allow the student to make choices about how he or she is learning and, thus, be open to customisation.

There will be no turning back e-learning, as it is now a part of education at every level as well as a part of corporate learning. I salute those who, even at this early stage of the evolution of the art and science of e-learning, are working hard to make such learning not only electronic but excellent.