An eLearning program is a combination of courses and resources designed to produce a learning outcome among a group of learners or trainees. It is a collection of learning interventions that achieve an outcome such as a degree, certificate, or skill verification. A program has common elements, the most important of which are the learners and the content being presented. In the case of revenue-producing education, it must be designed to appeal to the target market. There must be an understanding of adult learning theory provides a foundation for appropriate online learning activities. In a traditional brick-and-mortar lecture program, the instructor is the subject matter expert and is responsible for both transferring information and verifying pedagogical outcomes. In the case of technology-based instruction, however, a mix of technology and pedagogy, which is the art and science of teaching, must be considered.
There is a debate concerning developing learning programs based on technology or pedagogy, and it varies by industry. As one might expect, academia and industries relying on lectures and seminars for training are likely to attempt to duplicate a classroom model using technology. This is because instructors, who remain the subject matter experts, are inherently comfortable with this type of delivery. On the other side of the spectrum, technology-based courses that are fully on-demand must be evaluated for cost and perceived benefit. Some researchers insist that sound instructional principles, or pedagogy, take a lead with technology supporting the delivery, while others believe that the two should receive equal weight in the program design process. Balancing technology with sound pedagogical principles at the program level ensures that all courses and learning interventions will be uniform in nature, and provide the best learning experience possible given the content and the target market.
A wealth of information is available concerning various learning technologies and how each supports adult learning principles and sound pedagogical practices. Multimedia technologies are becoming more popular, and provide interactive elements add to superior learning experiences as compared to traditional instruction. In an effort to produce authentic, learner-centric products, the learner should be able to relate to real-world experiences and these must build upon one another to improve outcomes. Passive learning methods such as reading text online, or watching a presentation followed by an assessment should give way to interactive elements like discussions that foster critical thinking and self-reflection. Problem-based learning, situational learning, and scaffolding of subjects should be considered so that students can build upon prior knowledge, which is unique to the learner. This constructivist stance is prevalent in published material on technology-aided learning because technology is commonly used to help learners construct unique and meaningful learning experiences.
These and other research-based principles on eLearning Program Development can be found in the eBook on the subject.