E-Learning: 6 Effective Methods for Digital Learning Explained

Manfred Rump

VIDEO With english subtitles

Microlearning, self-directed learning, gamification - Various e-learning methods in the professional context are on the rise, but which approaches are suitable in which situation? In this article, we look at six effective approaches and show you how they can increase employee learning success.

Digital Learning Methods: The 6 Most Important Methods

In an increasingly digital working world, e-learning is becoming evermore important because of its ability to make employee training more effective, efficient, and flexible.

Nevertheless, as the methods diversify and expand, it is also becoming more complex for HR managers to identify the most important e-learning measures – that is at least, before reading this article.

Here's an overview of the six key approaches to digital learning you need to know.

1. Microlearning

Microlearning relies on short learning modules that focus on a specific topic or skill. The characteristic feature is that the learning content is easy to understand and can be consumed quickly, making it possible for employees to organize their learning time more flexibly. Common formats include videos, infographics, podcasts, and quizzes.

Infographic on microlearning formats

Microlearning is suitable for teaching both new topics and theories and for refreshing previously acquired knowledge or skills.

Application examples

An example of microlearning is a short video tutorial explaining a certain aspect of a software application, such as how to set up a new e-mail address. Another example is a quiz that briefly teaches important facts or rules on a particular topic, such as data protection or occupational safety.

Challenges

Microlearning can also be used to convey more in-depth concepts or complex interrelationships. In these cases, it is necessary that the learning modules are coordinated with each other, i.e. that they build on each other in a didactically meaningful way and are embedded in the largest context.

2. Gamification

Gamification is a method that integrates game mechanisms into the learning process to make learning more captivating and entertaining. The goal is to increase learner engagement and content retention.

This method can be used in various forms such as quizzes, puzzles, simulations or competitions. Reward systems such has collecting points, receiving badges or achieving ranks can further motivate learners.

Smartphone that shows a quiz as an example for gamification

Application examples

One example of gamification in professional development is the award points after completing digital courses on a learning platform. At Masterplan, for example, learners can document their progress and also compare their achievements against others via a ranking list.

Quizzes can also be used to test what has been learned in a fun way after a video lesson and to help anchor knowledge in the learners' minds.

Challenges

One challenge in using gamification is its application in favor of learning success. Gamification measures must support the learning objectives and not distract from them. Quizzes should not only be fun and bring moments of success, but also be challenging enough and test the content covered.  

Feedback from the learners themselves can be helpful here: Are quiz questions too easy or difficult?

3. Social Learning

Social learning is a method in which employees learn through interaction and collaboration with other learners and experts by sharing knowledge and experiences with each other.

Social learning can of course take place offline in direct exchange with colleagues, but also on various digital platforms, such as social media, online forums or e-learning platforms.

Application examples

One example of social learning is the use of online communities that specialize in certain topics or industries. In these communities, learners can share their knowledge and experiences, ask questions, and receive answers from other learners and experts.

Challenges

One challenge with using social learning is that some learners may not know how to engage in an online community and how to learn from others. It is important to encourage learners to actively participate in the community and provide feedback and support to ensure that they reach their full learning potential.

4. Self-directed Learning

Self-directed learning is a method where learners can determine their learning environment speed themselves. This allows employees to tailor their learning experience to their own needs and interests, which can have a motivating effect.

Self-directed learning can take a variety digital forms, such as video courses, e-books, and podcasts.

Application examples

Self-directed learning is effective when based on a digital learning platform that provides learners with a variety of courses on different topics, which they can select based on their need and interest and complete on their own time. At Masterplan, for example, learners can find course content on different topics and discover further learning materials, e.g. PDF, in addition to videos.

Challenges

One challenge with using self-directed learning is that some learners may have difficulty creating their own learning environment and pursuing their learning goals autonomously. Therefore, if organizations choose to use this form of learning, it is important to mentor learners and provide feedback and support to ensure that learning objectives are met.

5. E-Learning Platforms

E-learning platforms typically offer a wide range of digital learning materials and resources that are available to learners anytime and anywhere. As mentioned in the sections before, such digital platforms can form the basis for different forms of learning, such as microlearning, social learning, or self-directed learning.

Moreover, these platforms are ideal for companies that want to offer a wide range of training and development programs because employees can use them as a one-stop shop for continuing their education according to their own learning needs.

For L&D managers, e-learning platforms have the advantage that they can track the progress of employees and thus evaluate the effectiveness of certain measures.

Application examples

An effective e-learning platform is Masterplan. The platform allows companies to access a broad course library and likewise upload their own content, such as video courses, and combine it with existing lessons.

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The platform enables a variety of learning methods, including microlearning, self-directed learning, or blended learning. Masterplan also offers features such as gamification and social learning to increase learner engagement and motivation.

Challenges

Learners must, of course, have access to the devices and technologies they need to access the platform. This is especially challenging for industry workers or other employees who do not have a corporate e-mail address. Masterplan.com solves this problem with the option to login with an ID, using the feature: Masterplan for All.

In addition to access, companies need to ensure that their workforce has the digital skills they need to learn effectively on e-learning platforms.

6. Blended Learning

Blended learning, in short, combines traditional classroom training with digital learning methods. It is a hybrid form of learning that allows learners to benefit from both the advantages of face-to-face interactions with trainers and colleagues and the advantages of digital learning.

Infopraphic on benefits of blended learning

This term can also be understood somewhat more broadly - as a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous learning. After all, in addition to digital, asynchronous forms of learning (e.g., online forums, video courses, etc.), personal, synchronous interaction can also take place virtually. Blended learning is therefore, a combination of the forms of learning already mentioned.

Application examples

Blended learning can be effective when onboarding new colleagues.

Digital video courses on an e-learning platform could provide newcomers with basic information on the structures and processes of representatives in individual departments. Employees can complete the courses at their own pace while microlearning elements, such as quizzes, are used to further enhance the experience.

In a subsequent face-to-face event, the job starters can then clarify open questions in a direct exchange with colleagues from other departments in the spirit of social learning. Et voilà: Such a mix of flexible digital methods and interactive classroom formats can give learners a comprehensive overview of the company more quickly.

Challenges

One challenge in implementing blended learning is to ensure that the digital and face-to-face elements of the training are seamlessly integrated: Of course, employees must also have the necessary skills and access to be able to complete the digital elements as well.

Advantages of e-learning methods

One of the biggest advantages of e-learning methods in professional development is the flexibility and the ability to tailor learning to employees' needs and schedules. From a business perspective, these formats also help scale learning in a resource-efficient manner:

  • Content can be created once and viewed as often as desired.
  • Training content can be updated comparatively quickly on a digital platform.
  • Self-directed learners generally require less supervision.
  • Measuring learning activities via an e-learning platform simplifies the optimization of any measures.

Challenges of digital learning methods

Although e-learning methods in professional development offer many benefits, there are also some challenges that need to be considered.

1. Employee Motivation

One of the greatest challenges is certainly to keep employee motivation high. The aforementioned forms of learning can be effective tools for successful learning experiences, but the quality and validity of the content as well as its didactically meaningful interlinking (such as in microlearning learning tracks) remain decisive.

2. Learner Supervision

In addition, digital learning is not a foregone conclusion: Particularly in the area of self-directed learning and social learning, companies must provide a suitable framework in which employees can operate. L&D managers are required to provide the best possible support for learners, especially as supervisors, guides, and moderators.

3. Employee Empowerment  

Companies must not only ensure that their e-learning methods are accessible to all employees, but also that employees can use these methods. This is especially true for employees who may not (yet) be familiar with the latest technology. Therefore, tools and software should be selected that are easy to understand and intuitive for everyone.

Conclusion – The Right Mixture Makes the Difference

Digital learning methods offer a wide range of opportunities in professional development to improve employees' skills and knowledge while conserving their own resources. Studies suggest that it is precisely the mix of digital methods and classroom formats that promise the highest motivation and most learning success.

In order to achieve this, companies must ensure that their e-learning methods are designed to motivate, are of high quality, and easy to use. Furthermore, digital learning methods should be used didactically and developed vicariously with the learners.

A good starting point can be a digital learning platform that offers the opportunity to gradually establish digital learning within the company. Platforms such as Masterplan already offer digital learning formats named out of the box and can be adapted according to the needs of the respective company.

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Manfred Rump

Manfred Rump is Senior Content Marketing Manager at Masterplan. In the blog, he shares insights from his conversations with learning experts and highlights current learning trends in companies.
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