If you've been dabbling on the idea of eLearning, chances are you have already heard about mobile learning, bite-sized learning, gamification, virtual reality and social learning. All of these forms are easily interchanged by learning and development practitioners, even eLearning professionals themselves. In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the each form and set the record straight for those who are interested in making eLearning a staple in their organization’s training life cycle.

Mobile Learning

With the rise of phone technology, mobile learning or “m learning” depending on who you ask, has taken center stage as a form of dispensing high- value learning on the go. A lot of learning organizations have adopted this form of eLearning to replace classroom-based training because of two things: learner mobility and ease of consumption.

Mobile learning offers unparalleled flexibility in terms of the learner’s ability to engage in educational activities minus the limitations of being confined in an office or a training room. This leverage allows remote employees or virtual teams to consume learning in the comfort of their own home, during their daily train ride or in between meetings outside of the office. The only thing that can stop a mobile learning program from being successful is lack of learner’s enthusiasm.

Consuming mobile learning is a breeze; thanks to the ever- evolving technology that allows individuals to store learning materials such as videos, reading materials or learning applications on handheld devices. Mobile learning materials can also be streamed real time as internet connectivity has become a norm everywhere you go. With the introduction 5G technology, downloading mobile learning materials from anywhere will be even faster, making the experience more seamless for learners.

Bite-sized Learning

Bite-sized learning which is also known as micro-learning is the learning industry’s answer to millennials dominating the workforce. This form of eLearning breaks down huge chunks of information into smaller pieces. It captures the attention of learners with even the shortest attention span by making the point across in the simplest and quickest way.

For instance, a two-hour long classroom-based training for an HR- mandated course on security can be replaced with four short Youtube videos uploaded in the company’s LMS or directly sent to the employees’ email and can each be consumed within two minutes. A reporting system can be put in place in order to track completion rate, which is very useful in the case of compliance- related training.

The main objective of bite-sized learning is to make bigger impact in a smaller amount of time and the least effort from the learner. Start-up organizations where multitasking is the norm benefit from bite-sized learning the most, since there is no need to pull employees away from their desks and place them in a costly training room for learning to happen. It also is the most cost- effective due to the smaller amount of training material needed to start implementation. It is a wise choice for organizations with a small training budget.

Gamification

The Fun Theory states that if you want behavior change, you have to introduce the idea in a novel and fun way. Gamification in eLearning applies this theory in order to increase engagement and knowledge retention. It employs “the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems.'' A good example of gamification in eLearning is letting learners or in the context of a game, “players” choose what to do in real-life work scenarios. This level of customization adds to the relatability of the game and serves as a direct simulation that is conducted in a safe environment. Gamification is very versatile and can be used to introduce organizational change, drive new behavior, create a new culture, inspire creativity and innovation or teach both technical and soft skills.

Gamification also provides a room to incentivize learning. Most training games include a leaderboard feature, which encourages participants to compete against each other for a set “prize”. Some games use badges as a form of recognition for active participants. Adult learners are competitive in nature, so these features boost the learner’s morale and drive longer and more active engagement.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is an advanced form of gamification. It provides a much richer user experience that is usually in 3D and lets the learners truly immerse in the game environment. Most often, learners are assigned a character or an avatar that goes through a series of challenges.

Like gamification, learners are able to demonstrate their decision-making skills and are given lessons along the way. Due to the life-like quality of the game, the level or engagement and retention is higher than that of a 2D learning game. However, due to the level of detail required in a virtual reality game, it is the most costly of all the forms of eLearning.

Social Learning

Social learning uses human nature to encourage learning and raise the impact of the training effort. The idea is to set-up a shared space where learners can learn together and from each other.

An example of social learning can be as simple as creating a Facebook page for all of the learners in the class. Learning materials such as videos, links to eBooks, articles, tasks and activities are regularly posted on the page. Learners are encouraged to post their reactions, answers and questions on the comment section, so everyone can join in the conversation and bounce ideas off one another.

In social learning, learner’s engagement is dependent on the quality of resources that are offered to the group. It has to sustain the learners interest and drive to complete learning tasks and activities. A successful social learning program requires creativity and to some extent, marketing skills, from the learning and development team. Organizations that already have an established learning culture benefits the most from this form of eLearning.

Combining Forms of eLearning

The main reason eLearning forms are often mistaken with each other is that most of them are actually several types rolled into one. For instance, a virtual reality game is also a form of gamification, which can also be played in a mobile device (making it a form of mobile learning). Social learning pages are normally set in an online platform making it a hybrid of social and mobile learning. Despite the nuisance in naming these different forms, it’s important to understand how they differ and how they work in order to make a wise decision when choosing what works best for your training budget, organizational goals, learning objectives and learners.