Digital media have been used for educational purposes since the 1990s. However, e-learning experienced an upswing primarily due to the rapidly advancing digitalization and the pandemic situation of the past few years. Technological advances not only facilitate time- and location-independent learning, but also enable learners to take a self-directed approach to their personal learning goals. Learners benefit from the interactivity and multimedia nature of learning materials. In this article, we focus on current formats and possibilities in the field of e-learning.¹
What is e-learning?
Due to the multitude of learning formats and the constant change in technological possibilities, there is a lack of a uniform and generally valid definition of the term e-learning. However, it generally refers to all types of learning in which devices or digital media are used. This involves the use of devices such as smartphones, tablet PCs, laptops, PCs, or interactive whiteboards. These devices are used in various forms of digital teaching in schools as well as in adult education. Trainings and continuing education in companies, video conferencing, learning platforms, online courses, workshops, learning modules, and blended learning approaches are all areas associated with the term e-learning.²
One of the many advantages of e-learning is the high flexibility of users in terms of time and place. Whereas learners are bound by deadlines in face-to-face courses, e-learning courses can be adapted to the individual preferences of the learners. This is also associated with cost savings, as travel costs are eliminated, the organization of the respective event is facilitated, and teaching materials can be provided in digital form for a large number of users. Compared to classic handouts in paper form, for example, audio channels, video files, images, and interactive text documents are used in online training.²
The broad definition of the term already shows the wide spectrum of e-learning formats. The best-known formats include computer-based training (CBT) and web-based training (WBT). This refers to multimedia learning with computers and programs. CBT uses data carriers, while WBT requires Internet access, which enables users to interact without being tied to a specific location. Game-based learning is another e-learning format that is considered particularly effective because it takes advantage of the learners’ fun factor. Learning content is implemented in the richly detailed game worlds of serious games and can be experienced while playing. Other formats such as microcontent, on the other hand, rely on short learning sequences that convey the subject matter via short texts, images, soundtracks, or videos.³
Mobile learning solutions expand the spectrum of e-learning formats by making content accessible for smartphones and tablet PCs via apps. User-friendliness is often emphasized here, as content can be accessed at any time even when on the move. The same applies to learning videos, which illustrate complex contexts in a comprehensible way. Learning videos appeal to more senses than texts. They thus establish real-life references and facilitate access to certain topics. Simulations and business games are further formats that train learned skills and make them tangible. For example, landing an airplane can be safely tested with the help of a flight simulator. Similarly, a business game can realistically simulate the management of a multimillion-dollar company without any financial risk.³
Augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and virtual reality (VR) are e-learning formats that enable the transition from the real to the virtual world. Head-up displays in windshields are an example of AR. They serve as navigation aids for drivers or warn them of speeding. However, representations in AR are limited to the respective display and are not transferred to the actual environment. Applications in MR, on the other hand, supplement the learner’s real environment with virtual objects. Examples include instruction manuals that virtually highlight real objects using smartphone cameras or MR glasses. In VR, the real environment is completely hidden. Users are completely immersed in the virtual environment and can interact with virtual objects. VR glasses provide access to virtual reality. Motion controllers recognize the user’s actions and transfer them to the virtual world. This makes it possible, for example, to safely test the handling of large machines.⁴
Simulations such as the Microsoft Flight Simulator realistically depict cockpit instruments and simulate different weather conditions, allowing flight maneuvers to be practiced under real conditions.⁵ In a business game, on the other hand, participants take on the role of the management of a company. They have to take market changes into account and adapt their corporate planning to the actions of the competition. Cloud-based simulation games such as Mastering General Management also enable user administration, access to teaching materials and offer communication options. They make it easier to teach courses because the software does all the calculations, graphs results, and thus allows instructors more time for advising activities. Users can access the TOPSIM – Cloud at any time with the device of their choice and get all relevant information at a glance. In our learning video, we explain and illustrate within two minutes how business games work.⁶
Mobile learning solutions such as “QuizBiz” and “NEO Onboarding” use apps for smartphones and tablet PCs – making it easier to access the respective application. QuizBiz is a competitive learning app for companies that teaches employees company-relevant information in a fun way. In addition to a single-player mode, the app also offers a multiplayer mode in which employees can duel with their colleagues. Those who answer the most questions about the company correctly move up in the rankings. NEO Onboarding is an app that simplifies the onboarding process for new team members. The app informs them about their tasks, helps them enter and forward all the necessary data, and provides them with important information. The chat function also enables communication with other employees.⁷
E-learning formats in augmented reality such as AR-Living Paper enhance flyers, product brochures and posters with digital content. “AR-Living Paper” does not require the installation of an app, as the content is scanned with the QR code scanner of a smartphone. This enhances print media with videos, audios, animations, or 3D models. When it comes to organizing, distributing, and tracking applications in AR, MR and VR, companies are supported by management platforms such as XR Optimus. With “XR Optimus”, virtual tours, VR trainings, VR apps or 360° images are provided for the respective users. This enables companies to keep track of the content provided and the progress of the learning content and to develop effectively by evaluating measurable data.⁷
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You can find more information about our business games and their assignment to different complexity levels in our product brochure.
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¹ Pfannstiel, M.A., & Steinhoff, P.F.-J. (2022). E-Learning im digitalen Zeitalter. Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-36113-6
² Breidenbach, P. (2022). Akzeptanz von E-Learning und E-Learning-Angeboten. In E-Learning im digitalen Zeitalter, S. 159-177. Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-36113-6_8
³ E-Learning-Content. (2022, 26. Juli). Learntec. https://www.learntec.de/de/learntec/produktgruppen/e-learning-content/index.html#e_learning_content_formate
⁴ Baum, K. K., & Kluge, C. (2022). Erfolgreich kombinierter Einsatz von Learning-Management-System (LMS) und X-Reality (XR) im Service-Umfeld. In E-Learning im digitalen Zeitalter, S. 383-399. Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-36113-6_19
⁵ Microsoft Flight Simulator. (2022, 25. August). Microsoft Corporation. https://www.flightsimulator.com/
⁶ Erfahrungsbasiertes Lernen mit Planspielen. (2022, 12. Juli). TOPSIM GmbH. https://www.topsim.com/
⁷ Make Learning Smarter. (2022, 13. Juni). MPS Europa AG. https://www.mpseuropa.ch/produkte/