Introduction to e-learning

According to Rodrigues(2011) e-learning can be defined as the use of internet technologies which can be used at a distance to improve the applicability of the knowledge. Therefore, e-learning needs a medium which is internet/intranet.

According to Moore(2011) e-learning was originated in 1980’s but, the basis for e-learning was formed in 1840’s  according to Fe-ConE team(2011), the distance learning. Sir Isaac Pitman used distance learning to teach his students shorthand in Great Britain in 1840’s. He used this learning technique to send assignments as homework to his students by mail and receive them once they have finished. The distance learning simply means that the lecturer and student are in distant locations and connected via some medium. The medium can be mail, email, telegram etc.

Important point to note is that still many academics even researchers believe that distance learning and e-learning are same. But it’s not. Simply, when you consider the definitions, you can understand the difference. In e-learning we need an internet technology to access materials and to have communications with each other. But, in distance learning you do not need internet technology. Distance learning only uses simple communication mechanisms like mail, telegram, fax. But, the modern day distance learning courses use the latest technologies such as email, internet. But, those are not necessary to complete the distance learning aims and objectives.

Now that we have discussed about distance learning and e-learning, some might think why not discuss about the traditional learning system. Yes, it is a must to discuss. As an e-learning researcher I have done continuous research on both literal and practical means and summarized some key differentiations between them. Before I point out these facts let me introduce you to  traditional learning system. Traditional learning system or classroom learning system is where lecturer and students are located in the same place and a blackboard is commonly used by the lecturers. It is considered to be originated in 200 A.C. but, I think it might have existed even before. In this environment the student is able to freely raise questions from the lecturers at any time.

Here is the comparison between e-learning systems and traditional learning systems which was extracted from my thesis ‘E-Prop: A multi-agent system to facilitate students in e-learning, 2012’.

Comparison between e-learning systems and traditional learning systems

Many people ask if e-learning is at peak these days. My answer is no. According to e-learning Hype cycle we are just picking up(refer the below graph).

e-learning Hype Cycle

But these days there’s a sudden rise in e-learning systems. There is an increase on using e-learning systems in different industries. Most organizations are using these systems to train new employees,for knowledge transfers, online courses, consultancies etc.  Therefore, all of a sudden everyone is using e-learning!

Currently there are many e-learning systems available with open source and commercial licenses. The most popular e-learning systems are Blackboard, Moodle, Sakai and Adobe e-learning. WebCT was acquired by Blackboard and now comes with Blackboard as a separate package. Blackboard is the most used commercial licensed e-learning system around the globe. Many universities use this e-learning system but, there is no way that you can customize this system according to your needs. Blackboard can be accessed with any mobile device. Moodle is the brainchild in e-learning systems now being the most popular e-learning system. During the last couple of years there has been a rapid conversion rate from Blackboard to Moodle due to the low cost and easiness to customize Moodle. Adobe e-learning provides impressive support on creating content for e-learning systems with inbuilt SCORM conversion and audio/video embedding for slides. This is a commercial version but very powerful. Sakai is again an open source based on Java. It has several packages like the blackboard for different target audience.

I will drive you through these major e-learning systems in my next posts and give you both theoretical and practical knowledge in order to hunt down the systems!


  • Punchihewa C., E-Prop: A multi-agent system to facilitate students in e-learning, Informatics Institute of Computer Studies, Sri lanka, 2012
  • RODRIGUES J.J.P.C, SABINO F.M.R., ZHOU L. 2011. Enhancing e-learning experience with online social networks Communications, IET 5, 1147 – 1154
  • Moore J.L., Dickson-Deane C., Galyen K.,2011. e-Learning, online learning, and distance learning environments: Are they the same?, Internet and Higher Education, 129–135
  • FE-CONE TEAM. 2011. Available: [Accessed 6/22/2013].