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E-learning, m-learning, and d-learning – similarities and differences

e-learning, d-learning, m-learning

Digital learning is constantly replacing stationary education. It is extremely effective and, at the same time, scalable, which allows the organization to save a lot of time and money. In order to fully take advantage of the opportunities offered by advanced technology, it is worth observing the changes taking place on the market and familiarizing ourselves with concepts such as e-learning, m-learning, and d-learning. Which form of training to choose and how to effectively encourage employees to participate?

This article will explain the following:

  1. What are d-learning, e-learning, and m-learning?
  2. What are the differences and similarities between e-learning and m-learning?
  3. How to choose the optimal form of training for your organization?

E-learning, m-learning, and d-learning – definitions

The dynamic development and popularity of technology strongly influence many aspects of our lives. It has a revolutionary impact on the way we learn and improve our qualifications. Today, the once-dominant stationary training is more and more often replaced by remote or hybrid education.

The pandemic, which in many organizations forced a complete redefinition of existing training strategies, has also become a significant catalyst for changes in terms of employee training. It also forced the exploration of such concepts as e-learning, m-learning, and d-learning. What do they mean?

D-learning (distance learning) is an extremely broad concept that covers all forms of remote education, including e-learning and m-learning. Interestingly, the definition of distance learning also includes correspondence courses, which are somewhat archaic today, and which date back to the 18th century. Although in the past postal services and television quite strongly contributed to the development of remote education, they did not lead to such a revolution as the one caused by universal access to computers and the Internet. This is one of the reasons why d-learning is often defined not as remote learning, but as digital learning.

E-learning is education in an electronic form. It is an alternative to traditional education, although it also often complements it. Most often, e-learning courses are made available to students via a network – a dedicated training platform or the company Learning Management System (LMS). However, those who think that e-learning courses must be boring are wrong. On the contrary, thanks to the use of gamification elements, augmented reality, or various forms of interaction with the student, they strongly engage students and consequently achieve above-average effectiveness.

M-learning (mobile learning) is a form of remote education that involves the use of widespread mobile devices – smartphones and tablets. It is worth emphasizing that many training courses that fit the definition of e-learning also fit the definition of mobile learning. However, this does not change the fact that the number of training courses designed for mobile devices and made available to students only in this form is systematically growing. As a rule, these are micro-learning training courses – they are divided into short modules that can be completed even in a few minutes. Thanks to this, they can be taken in many everyday situations – while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, on the way to work, or during a break between meetings.

Similarities between e-learning, m-learning, and d-learning

Distance learning covers both e-learning and m-learning. Therefore, an analysis of similarities will focus only on the electronic and mobile forms of education. In both cases, it is necessary to have access to appropriate devices (a computer or telephone), and – in the vast majority of cases – access to the Internet.

The definitions of e-learning and m-learning partially overlap, which results in another similarity; the same training materials can be used in both, e.g. text files, graphics, videos, etc. It is worth noting, however, that creating training materials for mobile devices is a bit more demanding. It should be taken into account that small screens of mobile devices can significantly impede the reception of complex diagrams or large graphic files. Mobile courses should consist of simple and legible charts, while the navigation between them should be as simple as possible. It is also good practice to shorten the training modules to a maximum of several or a dozen minutes.

In both cases, course content can be modified and updated at any time, for example in response to feedback from the participants.

The main differences between e-learning, m-learning, and d-learning

The main difference between e-learning and m-learning is the type of device used by the course participants – computer vs. smartphone or tablet. This factor significantly influences other differences. Each of these devices has its advantages and disadvantages.

Mobile devices are relatively small, which means that not every type of training material can be properly presented and legible enough for the user. The structure of such a course should also be different so that the trainee can smoothly move through its stages without major difficulties. Giving answers to control questions should be easy as well. Difficult navigation is an easy way to ruin any training course.

It cannot be denied that mobile training is considerably more affordable and flexible. Mobile courses can be held at any place and time. It takes no more than a few minutes to complete them, which is a great advantage for many students. E-learning is a bit more troublesome in terms of mobility, but it is much better for advanced and more complicated training materials requiring a big screen, e.g. company documentation, process maps, or extensive graphics.

E-learning, m-learning, or d-learning – what to choose?

We already know that d-learning includes both e-learning and m-learning, so we can definitely say that digital learning should be implemented in every organization. So far, companies have focused primarily on creating and constantly improving e-learning, but in recent years there has been a clear shift towards training dedicated to mobile devices. This is largely due to the changing needs and expectations of employees, especially the young generation.

It is therefore worth reaching for all forms of training and adapting the available courses to the requirements and limitations of the device used during the training. A state-of-the-art Learning Management System (LMS) can certainly help implement such a strategy. It will facilitate the design of interesting training materials and, at the same time, help adapt them to various devices.

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