Online training vs. elearning

Is there a difference?

I'm building an elearning department in a technical publishing company. I've been using Google search records to see what sort of technical topics are in demand.

For most technical topics, "online training" seems to be much more in demand than "elearning".

That is to say, many more people search for "excel online training" than "excel elearning" for example. According to Google, about 15x as many: (

Aside from the different name, is there any difference here? Are people searching for "excel elearning" looking for something different from people searching for "excel online training"? Or is it just different words for the same thing?



6 Replies
Bill Corwin

Just my opinion, but ... Many years ago, we used to use the term "online learning" to differentiate whether a course was delivered via cd (CBT) or over the internet.  Today, I feel as if the terms "eLearning" and "online learning" are the same.  Whether it's being delivered via the internet, phones, webinar, whatever... both terms apply.

Steve Flowers

"Online training" is two real words. eLearning is a jargon-ish non-word but commonly interpreted as some kind of digital learning product.

We've stuck with eLearning for our internal lexicon, in part because most of our audience and stakeholders are comfortable with the term. However, for a general audience (and my own feel), it feels like the phrase "Excel eLearning" doesn't look right.

There's another component of ambiguity with eLearning. The number of flavors that it can take on can be misleading without some kind of context. Is it facilitated (some folks only have experience with Blackboard style courses) or self-paced. Is it a mix of both? How does it fit into a pattern of the support I need to accomplish something.

We've added "Self-Paced" to prefix eLearning in cases where the products are self-paced. This could help.

If I were shopping for courses I'd be interested in "what it is", "at what level", "what's my commitment", and "what am I going to get out of it" more than anything else. Examples could include:

  • Advanced Excel: Self-Paced Learning (Self-Paced Skill Builders / Tutorials or other common words that pique interest)
  • Excel for Giraffes: 15 Minute Mastery Series
  • Excel in Your Sleep: Certification Series

If I were selling stuff online, I don't think I'd use eLearning in the title. I'd use the jargon term in the description without hesitation. But not in the title.

Amy Lins

"Online training" can mean a couple of things.  It can mean self-paced, computer based training (i.e. "elearning") delivered over the internet (such as or it can mean instructor-led, synchronous training via a virtual classroom.

I'm sure some people searching with those terms mean online self-paced training and others mean online, live training.  What percentage of each, I wouldn't be able to guess.

David Barnes

Thinking about this a bit more, online training is a particular kind of elearning. All online training is elearning (or maybe blended elearning Amy?) but not all elearning is online training.

Training is a particular kind of learning. Training means learning a practical skill that is immediately useful, usually enabling you to make money for yourself or somebody else. is clearly online training. Khan Academy (check it out if you don't know it... it's great) is online learning, but not training.

Online is particular kind of electronic, as Bill said. It's hard to remember that there is a world of "e" that isn't online, but there is I guess.

So now I know that what I'm working on is really online training, which is a more particular term than elearning.

Thanks folk. I am learning online here.

Habbakuk Habbakuk

Having done a lot of keyword research in my last job, I know a bit about this. While they technically may be different things, you have to consider the mind of your average Google user. I would dare say that most people would be using the two terms quite interchangeably and not think so much in terms of if they are really using the best and most specific search term for their needs or not. I seriously doubt people sit at their computers and think, "hmm do i really mean 'e-learning' or 'online training'?"

Many times with keywords, you can switch the order around, and have a vastly different amount of search volume. (e.g. online training vs. training online). You probably want to optimize your business around the most profitable keywords, that is, the ones people search for the most.

Also, online training just sounds more professional. I would personally say the major difference from the average search engine user is they are looking for something free, like free instructional articles on the subject when they search for 'e-learning', whereas those who search for online training are looking for actual paid courses and more in-depth stuff.

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