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The arrival of eLearning can best be demonstrated by statistics AT 1.1.2000 such as;

  • there were about one million courses on the internet, 30,000 of them compiling with a scientific definition of online, 22,000 of these were listed on the telecampus portal, with many of them making didactic use of the World Wide Web
  • e-learning includes online learning, web-based training, virtual universities and classrooms, digital collaboration and technology assisted distance learning
  • WebCT kernel alone was used by 5.100.000 students in 123.000 courses, developed by 33.000 university and college faculty at 1.100 institutions in 48 countries
  • CISCO systems stated that more than half of all technical training will be done by e-learning by the year 2003
  • That Irish e-learning company Riverdeep was launched on the New York Nasdaq exchange in March 2000 for the market capitalisation of $1000,000,000
  • That the Irish schoolteacher P. McDonagh, promoter of Riverdeep, became one of Europe's richest industrialists in March 2000 with an e-learning valuation of e1000,000,000.
  • The e-learning part of vocational education and training (VET) is now big business.
  • The European Union's training deficit in this sector and that of EU government and proprietary providers is dramatic.
  • In 1998, the Open University of the United Kingdom reported that 50.000 of its students were online and that they sent 70.000.000 emails and that these were read 700.000.000 times.
  • In the year 1999, the Open University of Hong Kong, reported that it had 500.000 volumes in its online virtual library for distance students and that in 1999 these volumes were used 5.200.000 times by its 25.000 students.

The collapse of the New York Nasdaq Index since March 2000 has reduced the value of Riverdeep but it remains a worthwhile investment.

Collis of the University of Twente showed that training on the WWW commenced in 1995. The development of the field as indicated by the statistics above in less than five years is staggering.

Further statistical information can be got from the leading eLearning portal, that of TeleEducation, New Brunswick, Canada.

By late 1999, a catalogue of on-line course at TeleEducation, New Brunswick had reached 17,000 entries out of their global estimate of 30,000 courses available.

The 17,000 entries are listed on the web:

Listing of 17.000 online courses by TeleEducation, NewBrunswick

Each of the 17,000 courses in the catalogue was provided with an analysis in fifty-four categories at

Start of 54 category analysis in TeleEducation, New Brunswick database.

The TeleEducation New Brunswick survey of courses deals only with online courses.

An online course as defined by TeleEducation New Brunswick, is one that can be followed completely online. This does not mean that all course materials need to be online. Books, CD Roms, video and audio tapes, laboratory kits could be shipped out directly to students. Examinations for these online courses may be taken at local institutions or testing centres. The TeleEducation New Brunswick database excludes courses with no online component and also includes courses which require compulsory attendance at the university or training institution.

The TeleEducation course directory provides a full text search engine for users who can search by courses, or by subject categories, or by institution. A category list allows users to search by subject for example: biology, architecture, classics, computer technology. Other research features are at present in (early 2000), being built into the system, such as searching by program, by level, by country, or state or province. The aim is to keep the database as simple and useful as possible for users. The database has been built on an open architecture, so that additional fields can be added as needed. The TeleCampus online course directory provides useful analyses of the 17,000 plus courses that were in the database in the definition of online courses accepted for its survey.
The TeleCampus online course directory only houses courses that can be taken on the Internet from anywhere with no residence requirements or need to attend sessions at a physical location. More than 17 000 courses are included in the TeleCampus Online Course Directory. These courses are delivered from more than 30 countries in over 10 languages.

More than 90% of online courses emanate from North America. The USA dominates with more than 75% of all online courses world wide. Canada is second with 16% of online courses.. Australia, a country with a relatively small population is third with 5%. Some northern European countries like Finland, Norway and Sweden deliver many courses online, but these courses all require a residency period on site, so they are not included in the TeleCampus Online Course Directory. The Open University of Catalonia is a European leader in web-based education, but they too insist on a face-to-face component in each course, and are not included here.

The nature of eLearning

ELearning represents the awarding of nationally and internationally recognised university degrees, college diplomas or training certificates to students who spend all ion some of their study period in front of computer screens.

It might be represented diagrammatically thus:

Wired Virtual Learning Environment of Today

In this diagram the computer screen represents the study area - the equivalent of the lecture theatre ion classroom or practical training session of conventional education, or the student's home in distance education.

In the diagram course content is provided on the computer screen and student support services are provided electronically to the student in the form of electronic communication or feedback on assignments or other questioning. Access to the WWW is provided for other resources, suggested readings and library resources. Other materials can be CD Roms, floppy discs, or audio, video or paper-based resources.

In the diagram student to student communication is by emails, bulletin boards or chat rooms in which students can communicate with other students in their class or institution mainly by typed interactions. Student to tutor communication is also mainly by email, with tutor intervention in listservs a further possibility and tutor reaction to student assignments, quizzes and other forms of summative or formative evaluation.

The status of eLearning

In early 1998 newspapers worldwide carried an article claiming that 'web-based training is better than traditional training'.

Reuters had syndicated an article about the research of Professor Jerald G Schutte of the California State University on web-based training. Professor Schutte had proved, the press reported, that students on the web score 20 per cent better than students in traditional universities.

Professor Schutte reports his finding thus:

Students in a Social Statistics course at California State University, Northridge, were randomly divided into two groups, one taught in a traditional classroom and the other taught virtually on the World Wide Web. Text, lectures and exams were standardised between the conditions. Contrary to the proposed hypotheses, quantitative results demonstrated the virtual class scored an average of 20 per cent higher than the traditional class on both examinations. (

The syndicated report was widely used, and is often referred to, because of its striking claims.

Other claims abound:

If the growing numbers of educators, book publishers and entrepreneurs are right, going to school will increasingly mean going online because training and education are already booming on the Web.

While entertainment-oriented Web sites continue to wrestle with revenue models, educational sites are providing a familiar service, only improved by the Web's inherent advantages in terms of geography and time. Students can learn whenever they want, wherever they want, and only what they want. (http;//

These presentations carry forecasts and threats that either or both conventional education and distance education is about to be swamped by web-based education. Invariably these claims show little or no familiarity with the literature, little or no familiarity with educational success or failure at a distance in the past, and little or no research to justify the claims made: but they can be highly influential.

At the time of writing it would appear that the market is still with the traditional paper- and multimedia-based distance education providers who maintain their leadership in fee-paying course enrolments. But in journal articles, conference papers and academic discussion on the web and on paper it is eLearning that is the flavour of the month and the centre of interest, with little attention being paid any longer to the field of traditional distance education.

The status of eLearning is high in corporate training and business providers like SmartForce, Cisco Systems and Click2Learn have developed a compelling presence in corporate training for eLearning.

The acceptance of eLearning

The crucial test for any dLearning or eLearning is the acceptability of qualifications at university degree won by students studying in these systems. Although the award of university degrees bor studying on the web is not yet generally acknowledged, there is a growing acceptance of web components of courses contributing to the award of a degree.

Another measure of the acceptance of eLearning is the growing availability of commercially available Learning Management Systems (LMSs) for the organisation of web-based learning. A listing provided by a Canadian website ( is as follows:

WebCT Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

BlackBoard Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Learning Space Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

IntraLearn Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Top Class Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

eCollege Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Click2learn ToolBook Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Authorware Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

First Class Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Docent Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

LearnLinc Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Virtual-U Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

SiteScape Forum Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Web Course in a Box Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

UniLearn Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Generation 21 Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Phoenix Pathlore Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Saba Learning Enterprise Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Pathware Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Knowledgesoft Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

VCampus Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

EduSystem Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Serf Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

LUVIT Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Mentorware Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

The Learning Manager Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

QuestionMark Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Eloquent Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Trainersoft Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

WebBoard Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Quest Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

PlaceWare Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Embanet Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

OLI Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Ucompass Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

IVLE Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Integrity eLearning Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

InterWise Millennium Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Theorix Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Inspire Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Jones e-education Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Prometheus Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Anlon Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Class Act! Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Colloquia Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Southrock Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames

Yahoo! Education Features/Tools Notes or Notes using frames


European Union documentation

European Union documentation on eLearning begins late: there is little before early 2000 as the following listing of major documents shows:

Council Resolution of 13 July 2000 on eLearning

The European eLearning Summit - (Summit Declaration)

The eLearning Action Plan - Designing tomorrow's education

The eLearning Action Plan : Guide to related programmes and instruments

Communication from the Commission eLearning - Designing tomorrow's education (May 2000)

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament "Designing tomorrow's education - Promoting innovation with new technologies" (January 2000)

Learning in the information society - Action plan for a European education initiative (1996-98)

Press Releases:

Brussels, 8 May 2001
Europe's First eLearning Summit in Brussels (10-11 May)

Brussels, 28 March 2001
Commission adopts the eLearning Action Plan to give new communication technologies a greater role in education

Brussels, 24 May 2000
Commission adopts "eLearning" to adapt our education and training systems to the knowledge economy and digital culture

Brussels, 9 March 2000
The Commission launches the "eLearning" initiative to speed up the adjustment of education and training in Europe to the digital age

It is clear that a great deal of the European Commission's interest in eLearning and the launching of its eLearning initiative is due to the recommendation of a meeting of Heads of Governments in Lisbon on 23-24 March 2000.

The Commission has adopted the "eLearning" initiative to adapt the EU's education and training systems to the knowledge economy and digital culture.

At the Lisbon European Council on 23 and 24 March 2000, the Heads of State and Government set the Union the objective of becoming "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy in the world". Europe which, enjoys one of the highest levels of education, and has the necessary investment capacity, still lags far behind in the use of the new information and communication technologies. eLearning is designed to enable Europe to catch up by intensifying its efforts. It implements and extends into education and training the eEurope action plan, including in particular the guidelines for employment.

This initiative has four components: to equip schools with multimedia computers, to train European teachers in digital technologies, to develop European educational services and software and to speed up the networking of schools and teachers. Most of the resources to be mobilised will be national, but they should be backed by all the adequate Community instruments (the education, training and youth programmes for innovative actions and exchange of good practice, the Structural Funds for assistance in the eligible regions, the IST to support research and to promote European digital contents ) and by the development of partnerships between public authorities and industry.

"Everyone in Europe will in the very near future have to come to terms with the new information and communication technologies if they are to play an active role in an increasingly knowledge-driven society" is the conclusion of the European Commission's policy document e-Learning - Designing tomorrow's education of 24 May 2000 (COM(2000) 318 final).

This was based on the Lisbon European Council of 23 and 24 May 2000 underlining of "the importance of acting swiftly and makes it a priority to successfully incorporate these technologies in our education and training systems". This is the challenge the eLearning initiative aims to meet.

In September 2001 the EU published a study titled Where Is E-Learning Headed?:

Not that anyone has a crystal ball here, but educated guesses can be made about the future of e-learning, which is what this on-line article does, outlining the top ten dominant challenges and trends in e-learning -the driving forces, it says, that will influence users, vendors, and service providers in the years to come.

Here's a summary of what they are:

One, global interest is growing in e-learning. Prediction - 80 percent of
the top U.S. and European universities will offer global courses by 2004.

Two, national, state, and local governments will be investing more and more. While, on the one hand, in underdeveloped countries, e-learning can raise the level of education, literacy, and economic development, on the other, in public services, e-learning will help in developing or supplementing skills and practices in areas such as health, medical, and agriculture.

Three, technology will have to offer easier implementation, lower cost per unit, and better content. Part of meeting these challenges and overcoming these obstacles will be a parallel rise in demand for people who can develop diverse courseware that is multilingual, addresses various topics, and takes advantage of Web functionality. Indeed, estimates are that by 2005, one of the top 10 most in-demand positions among Global 1000 companies will be online learning designers.

Four, hosted e-learning will offer alternative infrastructure. Since companies need ways to meet their immediate, tactical training and reskilling needs, hosted e-learning can offer an alternative to meet those needs, letting companies focus on strategic development instead.

Five, business-to-employee initiatives will address e-learning for recruiting, retention, and employee-relationship management.

Six, collaboration and extended enterprises will expand the employee base by providing delivery and access for every key and enterprise.

Seven, e-learning will also extend to customers, customers who will be looking for diverse kinds of value-added services. By 2005, the report says, e-learning will be an accepted practice on 70 percent of customer Web sites.

Eight, simulation, gaming, and interactivity will enrich e-learning, given that studies show that learning by experience improves learner's retention and understanding. Therefore, technologies such as collaboration,
interactivity, modeling, simulations, virtual reality interfaces, and gaming will help students experience the skill being taught.

Nine, wireless e-learning will be adopted where no wires exist and may become the lowest cost for networking.

And, finally, ten: there will never be enough of the "right" skills. Not just employees but also businesses will use e-learning to reskill and keep pace with the fast-changing technological and business world.

The arrival of mLearning

In the short space of time between 1995 and 2000 eLearning became the state of the art for the use of technology in education. Many predicted that it was the final solution for corporate training and university programmes alike.

But by 2000 wired telephones and wired computers were beginning to be replaced by wireless ones. This has important didactic dimensions as it frees the learner, who may have spent much of his or her working day in front of a wired computer, from studying in front of a computer screen too. Although there is much evidence from eLearning research of the interactive value of emailing, the validity of typed interactions for learning purposes can be questioned when compared with spoken interaction.

From dimensions such as thesecame the birth of mLearning, the provision of learning on wireless and mobile devices.

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Last update: August 2002
Editor: Paul Landers