If you work in e-learning or training, you’ve probably heard people refer to the levels of e-learning before. But what does that mean? In the e-learning industry, there are four generally accepted levels of e-learning that will, in turn, affect the learning experience, cost, and development time of your project.

Today, you’ll get a high-level look at all four levels. Once you understand the key components of each level, you’ll be better equipped to estimate the time—and also cost—of future projects. 

Level 1: Passive Interactivity

Level 1 e-learning is a passive experience, where the learner just consumes information. There’s little to no interactivity with the course and the learner mostly reads and moves forward by clicking Next. In fact, some refer to level 1 as the “click next” style of e-learning because of its low level of interactivity. These courses include static text and images, and little to no multimedia. Quizzes in level 1 courses are usually straightforward multiple choice and true-or-false questions.

Level 1 e-learning, while simple, does have its place: it can be a quick way to cover simple rules or procedures.

Check out these examples to get a better understanding of what level 1 courses look like:

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Level 2: Limited Interactivity

At level 2, e-learning courses start to incorporate some multimedia. Courses at this level can contain audio, some video, basic animations, and a few simple transitions. This level of content is often accompanied by narration and click-and-reveal interactions. Level 2 quizzes start to incorporate drag-and-drop interactions and matching activities.

If you’re looking for a nice middle ground with a richer learning experience without too much development time, level 2 e-learning is probably a good fit. 

Here are some examples of level 2 courses:

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View Example

Level 3: Complex Interactivity

With level 3 e-learning courses, the interactions become even more sophisticated. In this level, you can expect to include extensive audio, video, transitions, animations, and more. Quizzing can involve branched, scenario-based questions that allow learners to explore multiple paths and feedback levels.

Level 3 e-learning is usually a good fit if you’re looking to teach learners more complex skills, for example, if you’re creating a course for new nurses on patient care.

Here are some examples of level 3 e-learning: 

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Level 4: Full Immersion

Level 4 e-learning uses all of the components in levels 1, 2, and 3, plus gamification or simulation. These courses may incorporate 360° images, games or complex gamification, scenarios, avatars, or interactive videos. These courses are more immersive than other levels of e-learning. As learners interact with the course, they receive feedback on their choices. And in some cases, their choices might even impact the content they’re presented with next.

This makes level 4 e-learning excellent for learners who need to practice real-time decision-making skills. Although these courses take the longest to develop, the learner experience makes it well worth the effort.

Take a look at a few examples:

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View Example


Now that you know about the four levels of e-learning, you’re ready to identify which one a new project falls under! This will help you appropriately estimate the time and assets needed to create the course. 

Are you looking to learn more about e-learning development? Check out these helpful resources.

What level of e-learning is your favorite to create? Let me know in the comments below.

Follow us on Twitter and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.

Daniel Mitchell
Carmelo Moschella
Diane Wilkerson
Daniel Mitchell
Daniel Mitchell