What Are the Advantages and Potential Challenges of E-Learning?

E-learning is kind of a big deal—and it’s getting more popular every day. Roughly 80 percent of organizations use some form of online training and 30 percent of all corporate training is e-learning. But when it comes to getting organizational buy-in for e-learning, many folks are challenged to aptly explain the clear advantages and address the potential disadvantages posed by e-learning.

Whether you’re an instructor looking for ways to supplement your in-class training or an e-learning professional looking to present the pros and cons of e-learning to your client or boss, this article will help you get the whole picture.

Advantages of E-Learning

Let’s start by looking at the main benefits of e-learning.

  • Lower costs. When corporations replace instructor-based training with e-learning, they save big. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see a cost savings of anywhere from 35 percent to 60 percent. Where does this cost savings come from? Decreased travel and material costs are a big part of it, but that’s not all. Thanks to e-learning, trainers can build a course once and use it over and over again. This means they can focus their efforts on creating new training courses, resulting in increased productivity. Not to mention that employees spend less time traveling, so they have more time to concentrate on doing the actual work.
  • Faster delivery. Organizing training sessions can be time-consuming and expensive—especially if your employees are scattered around the country or the world. With e-learning, employees can get the training they need, when they need it. And the sooner your employees learn new skills, the sooner your organization will reap the benefits!
  • Increased reach. The world is moving faster than ever. Employees expect their training to be mobile, just like they are. Thanks to responsive course development apps like Rise, it’s super easy to create courses that learners can access no matter where they are—or what device they’re using.
  • Personalized training experience. One of the hardest things about face-to-face instruction is that you have to adapt your course for learners coming from a variety of backgrounds. With e-learning, learners can advance at their own pace. You can even build different learning paths into your course, providing learners with a more personalized experience.
  • Eco-friendly. Reduced travel means reduced CO2 emissions! That’s something you and your learners can feel good about.

Potential Challenges of E-Learning

Like any other training solution, e-learning does have some potential challenges. However, if you’re aware of them, you can avoid them.

  • Motivation. Some people contend that employees have to be extremely motivated to get something out of online training. I would argue that the same is true for in-class training. Just because you’re in the room doesn’t mean you’re learning. As e-learning course developers, it’s our job to make our courses engaging to ensure our learners pay attention and soak up the information.
  • Less face-to-face interaction. One thing people worry about with e-learning is isolation. Won’t learners miss out on discussions with peers? How will learners ask questions? There are many ways to counteract this potential for isolation, for example, by recreating the social aspect of training online, via discussion boards or instant messaging, or by supplementing e-learning courses with in-class sessions.
  • Access to technology. By definition, e-learning requires learners to access courses using some sort of technology. If they don’t have the device or Internet connection required, they won’t be able to take the course. The best way to avoid this kind of problem is to identify the learner environment prior to development.

This is not an exhaustive list, so to learn more, check out this great infographic about what people love and hate about e-learning or this article on why e-learning is so effective. Convinced e-learning is right for you, but your boss and coworkers are still on the fence? Learn how to make the case for e-learning in this article and how to convince the “higher-ups” that e-learning software is a worthy investment.

What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of e-learning? Do you have experience making the case for e-learning in your organization? Please share what you learned by leaving a comment below!

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

Rob Swanson
Rob Swanson
Allison LaMotte

Hmm ok I see what you mean. I actually think it's quite common for IDs to be autodidacts. I like to think it's part of what makes us so good at our jobs - we know how to learn and therefore know how to teach others!... Expand

Vicki Preyer

Hi Allison, I’m new to the field of Instructional Design and Technology and to the Articulate blog. I’ve been exploring some of the blog topics, and I came across this post. As a person who has taken eLearning courses in the past and in the present, this article resonated with me. The advantages and disadvantages you state are accurate, and the information in the infographic is telling. Something I thought about that wasn’t mentioned in either source is the effectiveness of eLearning on employer performance versus traditional teaching methods. If it can be proven that eLearning is more effective than traditional teaching methods on worker performance or that it positively impacts it, another point could be made for its implementation. Do you know if any research has been done in thi... Expand

Allison LaMotte
Dave Ferguson

One of the risks in elearning (inherited from its ancestors that ran on PCs or mainframes) is the ALAWHT factor: "As Long As We Have Them," meaning the learners, let's include: - This nineteen-item list of expense-report policies, because they're important for people to see. - Photos and bios for everyone with "vice-president" in her title, because staff really oughta want to see them. - A sales pitch explaining the benefits of the new project-management system, instead of those tiresome instructions about how to record your time using that system. It happens ALAWHT in instructor-led training as well, of course. In that mode, there's a hard-dollar sense of sunk costs: we're already paying people to be away from the job and in a formal session, so As Long As We Have Them... On... Expand