How Many Types of eLearning Are There?


One of the first things to learn about elearning (aka “eLearning” or “e-learning”) is that there is no such thing. Or rather, there’s no one such thing as “elearning.”

People apply the term to all sorts of video and audio recordings (any electronic media) where
education or training, or even selling, is involved. So when you say you specialize in “eLearning,” it’s a bit like saying you do “voice over” -- first you need to be sure the person you’re talking to knows what it is … then you need to say what kind. Which means you should know the same!

This understanding will influence how and where you prospect for job leads.

Again, it’s similar to saying you do voice-overs: That’s not the most effective opener with the average prospective client (who may or may not have hired VO talent before). A better introduction is along the lines of, “I help you communicate more effectively.” By understanding the various elearning types, audiences and objectives, you’ll be better able to speak convincingly about the benefits of your VO services.

First, be aware that eLearning spans a wide variety of subjects. In fact, it could involve any subject. For example:

  • Product “explainers.” The term “explainer” is usually applied to any video presentation that explains how a product or service works. It’s somewhere between a sales presentation and a “how-to” or demonstration. Some people even apply it to almost any corporate video. One key difference, though, between an explainer and a training video (for example) is that the explainer’s target viewer probably has not yet bought the product being explained.
  • School subjects. This is a classic elearning situation, anything from sports to language, to chemistry. But, of course, a school isn’t necessarily involved. The training might be obtained by a parent, or it might be a pre-school subject, or … the next item….
  • Self-improvement and adult education. Adults can use elearning to teach themselves. Whether it consists of a full course worth of college lectures on DVD, or an interactive language program, it’s “elearning.”
  • Professional training. For example, real estate agents and financial professionals may need to be re-accredited every year. Elearning is an efficient way for them to keep abreast of changes in their industry’s rules, laws, standards and practices.
  • Product training. Companies produce elearning products to teach anything from how to perform a new medical procedure to how to use a sabre saw, from how to decorate a room to how to use new software. The presentation might be provided by the manufacturer, but administered by the corporate purchaser, or the manufacturer might have a trainer visit. A lot of mix-and-match possibilities.
  • Corporate training. The company itself might produce the elearning vehicle. Employees need training in the performance of their jobs, including not just operations and the operation of specific equipment, but also policies, salesmanship, overall operations, etc.
  • Government training. Similarly, government employees need training in all the same things. In addition, Federal law requires that agencies’ information and workplace tools be accessible to people with disabilities – which may be best served by audio/visual presentation.
  • Political and cause education and marketing. Is someone concerned about the fate of the Eastern Bolivian Bat Frog? They may have a video about it.
  • With such a subject range, obviously elearning has many different audiences. As with any voice over genre, knowing your audience is a key factor in speaking to them one-to-one, whether it be pre-school or higher education and beyond ...the shop floor or the trading floor.

    For example, company employees (and the elearning producers aiming at them) expect a businesslike tone, which will itself vary depending on audience and subject. Whereas talking to kids requires a more informal yet easily understood manner. And both audiences require an appropriate measure of friendliness in your voice, without sounding condescending. The ear always knows when you’re talking down.

    See our point? There is no one “elearning” audience or format. The genre includes all the following, and more:

    • “Slide” presentations (e.g., PowerPoint). These might be simple, consisting of bullet points, graphics, pictures and audio, or very sophisticated production with mixed sound, isolated headlines and “leader” text, animated graphics, rapid page changes, even video. The presentation might be self-paced (user clicks to change page), or automatic, requiring the user only to watch and listen.
    • Actual videos.
    • Interactive Q&A lessons. The presentation asks a question and waits for an answer. The elearning content might then “branch” depending on whether the answer was right or wrong.
    • Computer and other video games.
    • Standalone toys and other presentation devices
    • So, depending on what kind of form the elearning takes, it might require skill in audiobook, narration, animation, or all of these genres and more.

      And add your own skills to the mix. If you happen to be well versed in medical technology, that may a perfect market for you to pursue. If you manage a day care facility, that may make you specially well qualified for a younger audience. And so on, if you speak another language, or are mechanically savvy, or good at figuring out technology … whatever you’re good at, there’s an elearning niche to match.

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