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Under e-learning or electronic learning ( English electronic learning "electronically supported learning", literally: "electronic learning"), also called e-learning ( e-didactics ), - according to a definition by Michael Kerres  - all forms of learning understood in which electronic or digital media are used for the presentation and distribution of learning materials and / or to support interpersonal communication.

E-learning can be found as synonyms , inter alia, terms such as online learning ( online learning ), distance-learning , multimedia learning , computer-based learning , computer-based training , open and distance-learning and Computer-Supported-Collaborative Learning (CSCL).


Probably the first learning machine was developed by the Italian engineer Agostino Ramelli in 1588 when he was inventing a reading wheel for the King of France . This reading wheel made it possible to access various literature sources without having to go back and forth.

In 1866, the New York loom developer Halcyon Skinner applied for the first US patent for a machine that could be used to practice spelling. By 1936, 700 further patent applications for comparable "exercise machines" had been confirmed.

In 1938, BF Skinner and James G. Holland developed linear learning programs based on the law of operant conditioning (Skinner-Holland's learning program) . Accordingly, the course material was presented to the learners in small steps (frames), each followed by questions.

In 1959, Norman Crowder invented the branched learning programs in which an error-dependent presentation of the teaching content was made possible. This enabled the learning process to be individualized.

Teaching machines have been developed in Germany since 1964, but neither according to the ideas of Skinner / Holland nor those of Crowder. The learning programs that were developed in Germany were used for group training. Examples of such automatic training machines are the Geromat III, in which three learners had to give the correct answer in order to advance in the subject matter, and the “Bachelor of Science” learning program. Up to 64 people could learn at the same time on this program, branches were possible and three different levels of difficulty could be set.

In 1971 the NSF ( National Science Foundation ) started two major projects in the USA with the aim of proving the efficiency of computer-aided instruction for teaching. On the one hand there was the project TICCIT ( English Time-shared, Interactive, Computer-Controlled Information Television ) and on the other hand the project PLATO (English: Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations ). As a result of these two studies, the NSF was able to confirm computer-assisted teaching as an effective tool.

In the early 1970s there were a number of research and development projects on computer-based teaching . In addition to the use in schools, another focus developed: in-company training and further education. For example, interactive videos were used for behavioral training for sales staff. In 1978 the MIT agency developed one of the first computer-based training courses (CBT) and the matching hardware "Videomit 2000" together with its client Hertie. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the simulation games have become important from a research perspective.

Alfons Rissberger initiated the BLK model test TOAM as early as 1986 in the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Culture as the first e-learning school test in Europe for scientifically supported testing of computer-aided learning systems in mathematics at all types of vocational and general schools, including elementary schools. In 1995 the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) published an elaboration by Rissberger and Günter Serfas, the headmaster of the Gauß-Gymnasium Worms , where both fictitiously dealt with the future of e-learning. The ideas outlined there have already become a fact in many schools.

Since the late 1990s, e-learning has experienced a strong boom due to the spread of the Internet . The term “e-learning” has been established since the mid-1990s. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research has since launched several initiatives. These include, for example, the initiatives “ Schools on the Net ” (discontinued at the end of 2012), “New Media in Education” and “Notebook University”.

Research programs that focus on innovation development and innovation transfer offer a glimpse into the future of e-learning.

  • The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding the use of "digital media in vocational training " with several million euros . Such research projects include a. the development, testing and evaluation of new types of mobile learning opportunities in in-company training and further education within research associations consisting of universities, companies, schools and associations. In this way, current technical developments are linked with current and future social and educational policy challenges.
  • The European Commission promotes ADAM (Leonardo da Vinci program) e-learning approaches on Lifelong Learning (lifelong learning) target, which is u. a. can express skills in the development of professional skills via e-learning.


E-learning is the support of teaching / learning processes through digital media or tools. In addition to the term e-learning, there are various other expressions such as computer-based learning, online learning, multimedia learning, etc. Since the definition of e-learning has not yet produced a generally accepted definition, attempts have been made to describe e-learning through different facets: interactivity , Multicodality, multimedia and multimodality.

Interactivity : Something is called interactive when the user is allowed to exercise various control and intervention options.

Grissom et al. a. (2003) proposed a six-level interaction hierarchy. This ranges from “no interaction” to “presentation including feedback and discussion” as the highest form of interaction .

Multicodality : The term multicodality means that the information in the various media can be coded differently, which also depends on the type of medium. Of course, no animated images can be shown in books. Other types of coding would be images, text and, in the case of computers, hypertexts (cross-referencing, linked text), animations and simulations.

The difference between animations and simulations is that with a simulation the user has increased control over what is happening. An animation is basically an animated image, while a simulation makes it possible, for example, to carry out various virtual "experiments" in the digital environment.

Multimediality : Multimediality represents the different possibilities of media through which knowledge can be acquired. Various media can be, for example, books, video players, audio players, computers, audio books, e-books (electronic books), e-lectures (lectures held online).

Multimodality : Multimodality is understood to mean the various possibilities to receive information about the sensory modalities. Usually these are auditory or visual sensory impressions. Other modalities such as the sense of smell, taste and touch have not played a role in e-learning so far.

E-learning and related technology

E-learning can be based on very different technologies and implemented in different didactic scenarios. The following variants are frequently discussed:

Web and computer-based forms of learning

Students work on online exam questions in a computer room (2015)

The term CBT (Computer Based Training) describes the work with learning programs ( learning software ) which can be used flexibly by the learner in terms of time and space and in which the learner is not in direct contact with the teacher or other learners. These programs can contain multimedia learning content (such as animations or video documents) and are mostly distributed on CD-ROM or DVD. CBT is primarily a non-tutorial form of e-learning, in which self-study is in the foreground and communication, if at all, takes place in an asynchronous manner. CBT has been around since the 1980s.

There are also numerous other terms for older computer-aided learning systems, for example CAT ( computer-aided teaching ), CAI ( computer-aided instruction , computer-assisted instruction ), CBI ( computer-based instruction ), CAL ( computer-aided learning , computer- assisted learning ), CUL (computer-assisted learning), CUU (computer-assisted teaching, computer-assisted instruction), CBL ( computer-based learning ), CBE ( computer-based education ), CGU (computer-assisted teaching), RGU (computer-assisted teaching), CUA (Computer Aided Education) or CUIV (Computer Aided Interactive Video). Other common names in English, the terms Courseware or courseware .

The so-called WBT ( web-based training or web -based learning) - a further development of the CBT - forms the basic component of network-based learning offers . Here, learning units are not distributed on a data carrier, but are accessed online from a web server via the Internet or an intranet. The embedding in the net offers a variety of further possibilities for communication and interaction between the learner and the lecturer / tutor or his fellow learners. Mail, news, chats and discussion forums can be linked to the WBT and audio and video signals can be streamed live. A further development of the WBT towards a more communicative use is the learning platform. This supports different types of communication, such as B. Chat and forums in order to encourage users of the learning platform to exchange and apply what they have learned directly.

Authoring systems

Authoring systems are development tools for creating digital learning opportunities. Their purpose is to create and prepare content for a learning offer. For example, they offer lecturers the opportunity to develop content documents for the network or a data carrier, for example CD-ROM.

There are easy-to-use authoring systems, so that authors do not need to have extensive knowledge of programming, HTML, XML and the Internet. These simple systems are recommended when you want to produce learning materials for a specific purpose, i.e. H. has no intention of reusing the content for other courses. If you want to reuse learning content that has once been produced for different courses, authoring systems are recommended that use courses and media e.g. B. can be saved in the form of libraries that can be accessed by one or more course authors and from which they can use elements in other e-learning products. Modern authoring systems of this kind often work with XML technologies (for example to export all texts used in the course in order to have them translated) and can be connected to a document management system .

Authoring systems can be roughly divided into:

  1. Editors for media (HTML pages, graphics, animations, simulations, audio and video sequences, exercises),
  2. Editors for learning material pages and
  3. Editors for course navigation (“script” or compilation of the table of contents).

Some authoring systems incorporate all of these functions. This means that these authoring systems enable the creator of online courses to integrate different media into one learning unit in order to create professional, dynamic and interactive learning content.

Course navigation and control is offered in some authoring systems through a more or less open programming or script language (in order to be able to define the “script”).

Until the early 2010s, a large part of the authoring systems available was designed to produce courses for fixed computers and laptops. In the meantime, all established authoring systems also support the development for smartphones and tablets , but sometimes with a reduced range of functions. Various media and file types such as text, graphics, video, and audio are supported. Some authoring systems are coordinated with so-called learning management systems and make it possible to create content exclusively for these systems. There are also authoring systems that support special standards such as SCORM , AICC or IMS content packaging . In addition to other options, these standards can communicate with learning management systems via a standardized interface and, for example, transmit and save the name of a learner and his or her learning progress.

The easier an authoring system is to use, the more restricted you are as a rule when it comes to designing the content. Systems that allow a developer great creative freedom are often very complex and require a longer training period.


Simulations are solutions to models that try to map significant properties of the real world in order to impart knowledge about structural or functional properties of the original to learners through free or targeted experimentation or observation. Complicated facts and processes of reality can be simplified and reduced to the essentials, especially when real experiments are too expensive or too dangerous.

Video conferencing, teleteaching

The video conference creates virtual lecture halls by allowing spatially distributed learners and lecturers to communicate with one another. This variant of e-learning, known as teleteaching, is primarily characterized by the transmission of images and sound. It enables communication between teachers and learners similar to face-to-face teaching, which can use verbal expressions as well as gestures and facial expressions. Teleteaching is limited by the relatively high technical requirements. With the increasing bandwidth of the Internet connections, new eVideo formats and globally scalable forms of teaching such as B. MOOC .

Learning management systems

As a learning platform (English. Learning Management System LMS) are referred to systems that can support the complete (or parts of) workflow event management of accounting processes, teaching and learning processes to the resources administration for the online and / or presence of courses.

The tasks of an LMS can include:

This includes the planning and compilation of (online) courses / seminars, the creation of personalized curricula based on placement tests or previously completed teaching units, and the creation of learning profiles for work groups or the entire workforce .
Online registration for all courses offered, often with an integrated interface to an e-commerce system, for example to order documents.
Provision of course materials
The stored content is available in various forms (e.g. for WBT and classroom training).
The recording of training processes, course completions and "skill profiles" ( e-skills ).
Success measurement
Measuring usage and managing the results.

Some LMS contain teacher and room management that can also subsequently swap appointments and people and, if necessary, report any appointment conflicts. These functionalities can be quite extensive, e.g. B. with integrated working time / vacation management of teachers, storage of room data (number of places, available resources such as beamers or overhead projectors ) etc. Comprehensive reports can be created later from the available data, such as room occupancy data, timetables or learning progress of individual people.

Learning content management systems

The task of an LCMS ( Learning Content Management System ) is to create, reuse, find, edit and deliver learning content. The content is often held in a central repository in the form of "reusable" learning objects ( RLOs ). Objects can be referenced from several different courses, so that in the event of an adjustment only a one-time change is necessary to bring all incarnations up to date. The LCMS has (in contrast to authoring tools) a user administration which makes it possible to assign certain rights to different people and groups of people. B. for subject-specific experts, media designers, project administrators different access functions can be defined / implemented.

Multi-user functionality allows concurrent access to be managed so that two users cannot make (contradicting) changes to the same object at the same time. Furthermore, LCMS usually have a version control, which makes it possible to track changes made.

One of the most important tasks of an LCMS is to support reusable learning objects (RLOs). The aim is to largely prevent unwanted redundancies and contradicting information.

Content catalogs

Content catalogs support the exchange of learning objects - from complete courses to raw materials. Providers can specify terms of offer. Access is documented and, if necessary, billed. These catalogs can be aimed very specifically at a certain target group (school, university, branch, company). See also content sharing as a form of e-learning.

Digital educational games

Audience Response System

As Audience Response Systems technical and electronic devices are referred to in the framework of courses or lectures with numerous participants the interactivity between teacher (or speaker) is expected to increase and the audience. The use of such systems is mostly guided by concrete didactic concepts and is therefore to be understood as a sub-area of ​​e-learning.

Forms of e-learning

Virtual teaching

Virtual teaching describes teaching that is primarily carried out via the Internet and does not include any significant proportions of face-to-face teaching . The spectrum of forms of presentation of virtual teaching includes webinars , web-supported textbook courses , hypertext courses (e.g. with teaching texts, multimedia elements, animations and exercises), video-based courses (e.g. lecture including slides) or audio-based courses or podcasts . Since, in contrast to face-to-face teaching and “blended learning”, there is little opportunity for direct interaction with virtual teaching, teachers and students often use electronic media such as chat rooms , discussion forums, voice mail or e-mail or special platforms for communication . Virtual teaching is playing a growing role in the context of the introduction of advanced online master’s courses at numerous universities.

Blended learning

When the advantages of face-to-face events are combined with those of virtual teaching, one speaks of blended learning (dt. Integrated learning). Blended learning combines both forms of learning in a common curriculum. Blended learning is used in particular when practical implementation is to be trained in addition to the pure transfer of knowledge (e.g. in occupational safety).

Content sharing

There are now websites that allow learning units to be exchanged. Such initiatives exist as commercial or free offers. An example of a commercial initiative is StuDocu . Here monetary incentives are set for the preparation of teaching content. This should increase the quality of the published transcripts, flash cards or summaries. A typical example of a non-commercial forum can e.g. B. serve the student council forum for industrial engineering at the University of Duisburg-Essen (WiING-DU). Even with such local initiatives, there is often a high need, as the documented access figures from WiING-Du show.

Learning Communities

Groups of people who have the same goals and / or professional interests can build up a common knowledge base via an information and communication system. Each member of this learning community can contribute their own knowledge and thus the knowledge base is expanded and adapted through common learning processes. Many learning communities are created through video-based courses. In many of these courses, members can network with one another and exchange ideas in a protected member area.

Computer-Supported Cooperative Learning

Computer-Supported Cooperative Learning (CSCL) describes learning approaches in which cooperative learning is supported through the use of computer-aided information and communication systems.

Web Based Collaboration

The term Web Based Collaboration describes the collaboration of a group of people on a learning task via the Internet.

Virtual Classroom (virtual classroom)

In the Virtual Classroom , the Internet serves as a communication medium to connect geographically separated students and teachers. The virtual classroom thus enables a synchronous form of learning. Tele-teaching is viewed as an extreme form.

Interactive whiteboard

Whiteboard use on a media day (2011)

An interactive whiteboard is comparable to a blackboard or a flipchart. Users have the opportunity to create and view sketches together via a network. Drawing, painting and text tools are available for this purpose.

Business TV

Business TV is a television program tailored precisely to the target group. Business TV is a very effective method to encourage a group (employees, suppliers and customers) to learn.

Rapid e-learning


When microlearning , also called Microlearning, it's about learning in small steps learning units, often via web or mobile phone . The overload caused by too much information should be counteracted through user-friendly, flexibly divisible training.

Process visualization of modular content as part of e-learning

Pupils film lesson content, process it and post it online on a YouTube channel

This is an audiovisual representation of teaching units with the aim of preparing a cognitive process - which can lead to new knowledge - step by step in film, image, text and sound.

3-D infrastructure platforms

3D infrastructure platforms such as Second Life or Twinity are becoming increasingly important for e-learning applications. Due to the experience character of these virtual worlds, a very high degree of immersion is achieved. One expects a correspondingly higher learning efficiency from this, since playing & learning grow together. With simulated worlds of experience you can now immerse yourself in situations and experience them. A high level of immersion (virtual reality) may be required. a. This is achieved when the user identifies a lot with his avatar and the user feels part of the world. Thus, the term action learning will also be expanded by the term e-action learning. Another significant advantage of networking teams in virtual worlds can be seen where teams have to work together perfectly, e.g. when the police, fire brigade, rescue services etc. are involved. The participants can now log in from anywhere in the world and regularly access scenarios play through a virtual world. Orientation training, in particular, can be carried out here at more frequent and regular intervals, which can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of such assignments. Language learning is the most widespread form of education in Second Life , according to a Linden Lab employee .

Advantages and disadvantages of e-learning

E-learning: advantages and disadvantages (explanatory video)

Just a few years ago, e-learning was considered the form of education of the 21st century. It is now assumed that e-learning cannot replace traditional forms of education. It is only to be seen as a useful support in the learning process. Learning can be optimized by combining various forms of mediation (hybrid learning arrangements). In particular, people who prefer to use the PC and the Internet than read books can absorb a lot of learning content better through e-learning or work on familiar content in addition and interactively. The economic aspects are undoubtedly one of the other advantages of e-learning. The learners are independent of time and space. The teaching of learning material can therefore take place independently of personal presence. Thanks to PCs and the Internet, it is possible to distribute larger aspects of information. These economic advantages should not be underestimated. For "Lifelong Learning" ( life-long learning ) most often means career-long learning, and there is flexibility in terms of location and time of particular importance.

Media are only to a small extent decisive for the success of learning, so we cannot speak of more efficient learning through e-learning per se . Only when a large number of factors come together can e-learning be successful (e.g. findings from media didactics or media education must be taken into account ).

On the basis of knowledge of media didactics, advantages u. a. in that:

  • Courses are interactive in contrast to traditional teaching materials,
  • abstract content can be made clear with the help of simulations,
  • the traditional linear thinking and learning concepts can be broken up and more flexible, network-like concepts can be implemented,
  • Learning controls can be individualized and repetitive tasks can vary,
  • Courses can be adapted to specific needs,
  • Learning can be combined with operational knowledge management ,
  • can work together asynchronously,
  • can be learned independently of time and place,
  • can be learned just in time ,
  • can be learned integrated in the work process,
  • Documentation and repetitions are easier
  • Learning objects are reusable,
  • Audio and video documents are easy to integrate,
  • individual learning is possible depending on previous knowledge (learning pace, sequence of learning content),
  • different prior knowledge is better balanced,
  • Recording channels (reading, audio , video , animation etc.) are available for each learner type and that
  • there is no “exposure” to other participants in the event of knowledge gaps.

Disadvantages are seen, among other things, in the fact that:

  • Learner must first learn to deal with the various forms of publication ( media ),
  • too few educators work in the e-learning area (in many areas, but not in all),
  • the technology and the technicians determine the market (didactic-technical research and development activities partially refute this)
  • the presentation of the learning content is often determined by technical rather than didactic factors,
  • the didactics is often not taken into account when creating an e-learning solution,
  • Screen learning is more tiring than learning from paper for almost everyone,
  • Self-discipline and self-learning skills are necessary,
  • reduced social contacts to teachers / trainers and participants make the exchange of experiences more difficult and therefore questions often remain unanswered,
  • Explanations by teachers / trainers are reduced and the knowledge has to be acquired
  • the additional learning in leisure time or at work is perceived as a nuisance,
  • the complex requirements of inclusive education are not taken into account, although these have been a binding standard for Germany since the ratification of the UN Disability Rights Convention in 2009.

Current approaches therefore combine e-learning with classroom teaching , i.e. personal communication. These approaches are known as “hybrid learning arrangements” or blended learning . The aim of these approaches is to combine the advantages of face-to-face teaching with those of media-based learning and to avoid the disadvantages of both methods.

While many e-learning concepts still adhere to linear knowledge transfer, as known from books and other traditional teaching aids, modern e-learning systems allow flexible and adaptive structures that respond to the learners with a certain human touch . Such systems are based on network-like dialog structures. The advantage of such e-learning models is that there is much higher interactivity over the entire learning process. Often the need for blended learning is reduced (unless practical skills - such as operating devices or social skills - are the subject of the learning activity). The disadvantage is the increased effort, the need to react variably to the results of learning controls, and the need to implement numerous learning, deepening and excursion paths, which in practice only a few learners may ever follow.

Motivation for using e-learning

The rapid technological development of the computer industry and the associated new methods for the design of content (especially hypertext and multimedia ) promoted the development of so-called e-learning programs to a large extent. In the specialist discussion, there is still no agreement on whether e-learning in the sense of e-mail, e-business, etc. should be used for learning on the Internet or as a more modern synonym for CUL (computer-assisted learning). Today there is even a tendency to view e-learning as a pure supplement to face-to-face teaching as part of so-called blended learning . In addition, various actors are trying to give more weight to the actual learning content, as the technological aspects have so far been in the foreground.

Alfons Rissberger asked as early as 1997 in an article in the FAZ: "Are we oversleeping the multimedia future?"

Introduction of e-learning in organizations

The successful introduction of e-learning requires a number of accompanying measures for the respective institution:

  • Survey of the learning requirements and needs,
  • Adaptation of the curricula ,
  • Changing work processes so that there is time and incentives for on-the-job learning
  • Adjustment of job descriptions and remuneration systems,
  • Multidisciplinary teams (didacticians, technicians, content experts) are either to be set up within the organization rsp. Appropriate cooperations are to be established and
  • Contents should be saved in exchangeable formats and made available to all participants.

Robin Mason has proposed a procedure with Models of Online Courses , how e-learning can be introduced in stages:

  1. Content + support models: (information model, static website) Online activities take up a maximum of 20% of the teaching time. The Internet is available for support activities (research, use of e-mail , downloading of materials);
  2. Wrap-around-Model: (Asynchronous discussion forum) Ratio of web to non-web activities up to 50%. Lessons sometimes with traditional materials (e.g. books) and an interactive learning environment with additional resources. For example, work plans, exercises and tasks as well as common web activities (discussion forums, group work) can be accessed on the Internet . However, face-to-face instruction remains the center of activities;
  3. Integrated Model: (100% e-learning) The core of all activities takes place on the Internet , especially collaborative activities and the exchange of materials.

If e-learning is to be operated effectively and efficiently, certain modifications are required in relation to the curricula. In particular, key skills such as media , information and computer skills must be promoted. These key competencies are ideally learned with the help of information and communication technology (tool character).

Gilly Salmon (Salmon, 2000) distinguishes five stages of the learning process on the way from e-learning beginner to e-learning professional:

  1. Access and motivation : In this phase, your own computer environment is set up and adapted for later e-learning. This refers both to the physical installation of hardware and software that may be necessary, but also to the development of personal motivation to use and want to use e-learning. Often there is no access to the learning platform / tutors / other learners at this stage . Assistance must be provided via other media (telephone / in person). In this phase in particular, problems and difficulties are particularly frustrating and can quickly lead to the entire process being terminated.
  2. Online socialization : As soon as technical and motivational hurdles have been overcome, e-learning is now in principle fully available to the learner. However, at this point in time, many functions are still unclear and have to be explored by the learner - the personal benefit and applicability for the personal learning process remain initially closed.
  3. Information exchange : A lively and active exchange of information begins in the new medium. The functions of the software used are increasingly being exploited. At this stage, however, problems arise in terms of handling the new and large amount of data; That is, it is about classification, archiving, searching, ordering and structuring.
  4. Knowledge construction : Participants use e-learning more and more freely and flexibly. There is not only the use of the material offered online, but now also increasingly intensive cooperative learning between the participants. The participants now learn from and with one another.
  5. Self-organization : In this phase, the participants not only take responsibility for the content of the learning process, but also increasingly for their organization, i. This means that learning is self-organized and roles are allocated within the groups of participants. This phase does not make sense in all e-learning processes.

E-learning in personnel development

Companies can drastically reduce their spending on personnel development using e-learning. In addition, process and error costs are reduced through qualified personnel, lower error rates and increased efficiency through the use of more modern methods. At the same time, the quality is increased by a uniform level of knowledge of all employees.

The goals of e-learning in personnel development include:

  • Reduction of downtime from the workplace through training-related absences.
  • Ensuring cost-efficient and timely training .
  • Documentation , control and influence on the learning process .
  • Securing the legal due diligence within the framework of mandatory legal training.
  • Holistic competence development for dynamic, complex fields of action.

Need for staff development

  • Lack of well-qualified employees on the labor market .
  • The demands and complexity of work tasks are increasing continuously.
  • Legal and external requirements are increasing (e.g. legal instruction obligations ).
  • Necessity of permanent knowledge transfer due to constant research and development .
  • Expansion of professional qualifications to motivate employees (= employee loyalty).
  • Essential instrument of quality assurance .
  • Securing and maintaining the efficiency of the company.

Cost efficiency

  • No travel costs, no additional distribution costs.
  • Shorter absences from daily business / work.
  • Reduction of error costs / increase in customer satisfaction .

Rethinking within networked universities

The conception of the courses remains the same in most cases where e-learning is used. There is a tendency to translate familiar teaching and learning content into digital formats. In the future, the question should be asked whether learning and teaching using computers should not take unfamiliar paths and thus new forms of learning and contexts will arise.

The organization of the universities could also be fundamentally reconsidered by promoting their networking. Since the teaching and learning situations mostly take place within the institutional boundaries and these are subject to access restrictions, this means that lecturers within an institution are left to their own devices. From the point of view of the institution, it is the task of the lecturer to create a consistent curriculum within a subject area . The individual lecturer would not find any starting points for his own subject-specific development within his own institution, because communication takes place outside with other lecturers who are spread all over the world.

The other point would be that despite horizontal networking, no collaborative working methods are developing at universities. In the future, course content could be created jointly and offered at all universities. By eliminating lone warriors and turning from a vertical to a horizontal university culture, not only qualitative but also material synergies would arise. However, discourse and criticism must remain a central part of science.

Before that happens, you have to solve a whole series of problems in the organizational, personal, cultural and technical areas.

For students too, e-learning will require a rethink in the next few years. The present is characterized by media-conveyed information, which has a significant influence on private and public life. People as knowledge carriers are becoming more and more important and the students must be able to assess the quality of existing information more than before. Pure factual knowledge will become less important. On the other hand, basic knowledge and the associated assessment skills and processes of understanding are becoming more and more important.

In addition to pure networking, MOOCs , so-called virtual classrooms, are also becoming more and more interesting for universities. Students can follow the lecture from home or on the go. The big advantage for the universities is that the lectures are increasingly relieved and students can catch up on missed lectures. You are therefore more flexible. This type of e-learning is already used at some universities in Germany, for example at the Technical University and the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. A study by HIS shows that around 12 percent of those questioned stated that their university offered virtual seminars.

Role of the tutor in e-learning

It is now undisputed that the use of tutors improves the success of e-learning. Trainers and teachers are increasingly qualifying themselves to become tele-tutors in order to enable learning via the Internet ( online learning ). Depending on the provider of the qualification, online tutors, tele-tutors, e-trainers, e-coaches etc. are used. The literature mainly speaks of tele and online tutors (see: Christina Rautenstrauch: Tele-Tutoren !).

There are three different requirement profiles:

  1. The tele-tutor who looks after the learners online with the help of various tools - such as: forums , a virtual classroom , computer-supported cooperative works (CSCW) or chats ;
  2. There are also online trainers who conceptually create individual online learning opportunities;
  3. E-learning managers are responsible for the introduction and implementation of e-learning programs in companies.

The support of learners by tutors is in many cases very important for the success of e-learning. The learner's dependence on online or face-to-face tutors can also be seen as a hindrance.

Quality in e-learning

The quality concept

Because quality aspects are emphasized and in the course of this proof of quality assurance measures is provided, e-learning is increasingly spread and recognized. A sophisticated multimedia presentation does not guarantee that learning will be child's play. Because the quality of e-learning will not automatically increase even with the most modern technology. In the course of this, since the beginning of the 2000s, more and more attempts have been made to formulate quality standards for e-learning and to spread these standards further through application guides and easy-to-use tools. National and international standardization bodies (in particular DIN standard , ISO , IEC, CEN / ISSS) are also involved in the formulation of an e-learning quality standard, e. B. ISO / IEC 19796-1: 2005, Information technology - Learning, education and training - Quality management, assurance and metrics. In this way, the needs of users, buyers and providers can be better coordinated through comparable and generally understandable requirements and criteria. It is of great importance that quality development is not only a supplement to e-learning, e.g. B. in the form of a stand-alone evaluation approach at the end of a course. Because quality development is a key aspect that always comes into play in the development and implementation of e-learning courses and programs. In order to provide more transparency about the quality of a solution for users and to increase the perception of the quality of e-learning offers on the market, there are some initiatives to establish seals of approval for good e-learning, e. B. the seal of quality of the e-learning association vebn or the e-learning label of the Ruhr University Bochum.

Evaluation of e-learning offers

The term evaluation , which has established itself in the education sector since the 1970s, describes things such as quality control, quality assurance , evaluation or effectiveness control. Since a large number of multimedia learning offers compete with one another on the market, this quality concept is also important in the e-learning area.

Evaluation can be carried out during the development process as a process-accompanying evaluation or after the development as a product evaluation evaluation.

The process-accompanying, also formative evaluation serves to assess and improve the program during the development phase. It can be seen as a step-by-step optimization of the overall product in order to prevent undesirable developments and to optimally adapt the system to the needs of the target group.

In the case of the product-evaluating, also summative, evaluation, the final quality assessment is in the foreground. The result, success or benefit of the measure must be assessed on the basis of various evaluation criteria.

The range of product evaluation criteria varies depending on the focus of the evaluation. Possible criteria and their systematisation:

Content / correctness

  • Depth, degree of difficulty, timeliness, scope, complexity are appropriate
  • Practical relevance (content corresponds to the current state of knowledge)
  • Freedom from errors (no content or technical errors)

Didactic design

  • Is the previous knowledge taken into account? (Entry test),
  • Is the learning content coordinated with it?
  • Is there any help and feedback?
  • Opportunities for interaction with other learners ( communication , cooperation and collaboration ) and support by tutors
  • Possibility of self-determination (subject matter, tasks, task difficulty, etc.)?
  • Learning effectiveness control (are learning outcomes measured?)
  • Are didactic principles implemented that are considered useful in the respective discipline, e.g. B. in vocational education situated learning .


  • Self-descriptiveness: is the product easy to use or self-describing?
  • Ease of use : Do the functionality and performance of the product correspond to the technological state-of-the-art?
  • User guidance, navigation structure, navigation options (can you always see where you are in the program, how you got there and what other alternatives you have?)
  • Are orientation and navigation elements clearly recognizable in their function?
  • Orientation: Is it possible to estimate the personal benefit for the learning effort before learning begins?
  • Interaction feedback: Is there any feedback about interaction?

Media design

  • Is the product aesthetically attractive, uniform and functional?
  • Does the design support user-product interaction?
  • Are media elements such as text , images , audio , video , color design, etc. used appropriately?
  • Are understandable metaphors and icons known to the target group used?

Training for e-learning

The conception and development of e-learning offers requires a wide range of skills at the interface between media didactics , IT , design and business administration . So far, they have rarely been taught in conventional courses. With the increasing interest of both business and educational institutions in e-learning in the mid-1990s, a demand arose for “e-learning experts” who are able to plan, implement and implement e-learning offers . Initially the focus was mainly on technical skills, later conceptual knowledge and skills from media didactics came to the fore.

The demand was initially met by lateral entrants, later by graduates from z. B. University of applied sciences courses that increasingly set up interdisciplinary courses (such as media informatics or information design ) in the early and mid-1990s . As an additional qualification , further training offers developed as certificate courses or master’s degree programs . They are aimed at people who are already working in the field or who want to work in this field. E.g. the tele-academy of the Furtwangen University has been offering the extra- occupational certificate course “Expert for New Learning Technologies” since 1998, which is offered as a blended learning program . Since 1999, the tertiary part-time master’s course “E-Learning and Knowledge Management” has been offered in Switzerland.

The University of Duisburg-Essen has been offering the modular educational media study program under the direction of Prof. Michael Kerres since 2003 , which can be studied online and part-time. The accredited program can be completed at the University's Duisburg Learning Lab with a certificate or a Master of Arts. At the University of Rostock there has been an extra-occupational master's degree in "Media and Education" since 2004. The FernUniversität Hagen also offers an advanced master's degree in "e-education".

E-learning as distance learning with electronic media

Distance learning within the meaning of the FernUSG is any transfer of knowledge and skills: (1) on a contractual basis, (2) for a fee, (3) which takes place exclusively or predominantly over a spatial distance, and (4) where the lecturer or his representative monitor the learning success, then according to the definition of the Distance Learning Protection Act (FernUSG) of 1977, it is distance learning . In Germany, such e-learning offers require approval by the State Central Agency for Distance Learning (ZFU) before they go on the market (in October 2009, the Federal Court of Justice ruled that if there is no approval, the course fees paid will be repaid Decisive feature: The learning success monitoring can be carried out in the form of correction and examination tasks both during the domestic self-learning phase as well as during the accompanying lessons; however, a one-time final examination after the completion of the distance learning is also sufficient sufficient that the learner has the opportunity to have an individual control of the learning success through oral questions about the material learned by the teacher or his representative).

The ZFU also registers distance learning courses that are not subject to authorization ("hobby courses", which are used exclusively for recreational purposes). The ZFU must be notified of the distribution of these courses. The decision as to whether it is actually a "hobby course" rests with the ZFU. The distance learning contracts for such distance learning courses are also subject to the FernUSG and are checked by the ZFU. This is a special regulation for German providers (in addition, in 2000, the European Union specified a " Distance Selling Directive " for all partner countries, which is modeled on the German Distance Learning Protection Act). In 2005, 632 of the 2097 state-approved distance learning courses - i.e. 31% - were classified as e-learning courses. Over 80% of all distance learning schools now support their distance learning courses electronically. This blurs the line between traditional distance learning and e-learning.

See also


  • Patricia Arnold, Lars Kilian, Anne Thillosen, Gerhard Zimmer: Handbook E-Learning - Teaching and Learning with Digital Media . 2nd, enlarged, updated and completely revised edition. Bielefeld 2011, ISBN 978-3-7639-4888-8 .
  • Andrea Back, Oliver Bendel , Daniel Stoller-Schai: E-learning in companies: Basics - strategies - methods - technologies . Zurich 2001, ISBN 3-280-02749-7 .
  • Oliver Bendel, Stefanie Hauske: E-Learning: The Dictionary . Oberentfelden / Aarau 2004, ISBN 3-0345-0111-0 .
  • Beate Bruns, Petra Gajewski: Multimedia learning on the net: guidelines for decision-makers and planners. 3. Edition. Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-540-42477-6 .
  • Ullrich Dittler, Jakob Krameritsch, Nic. Nistor, Christine Schwarz, Anne Thillosen (eds.): E-learning: An interim balance . Critical review as the basis for a new beginning . Waxmann, Berlin 2009.
  • Martin Ebner, Sandra Schön: Textbook for learning and teaching with technology . Bad Reichenhall 2010.
  • Peter Glanninger: Systemic e-learning. A theoretical model for the design of open knowledge systems . Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-631-59462-9 .
  • Andreas Hohenstein, Karl Wilbers (Ed.): Handbook E-Learning, Expert Knowledge from Science and Practice . German Economic Service, Cologne 2009, ISBN 978-3-87156-298-3 .
  • Ludwig J. Issing. Paul Klimsa (Hrsg.): Information and learning with multimedia and Internet: textbook for study and practice. 3. Edition. Psychologie Verlags Union, Weinheim 2002, ISBN 3-621-27449-9 .
  • Michael Kerres : Multimedia and telemedia learning environments. Conception and development . Munich 2001, ISBN 3-486-25055-8 .
  • Michael Kerres: Media Didactics: Conception and development of media-based learning opportunities . 3rd, completely revised new edition. Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-486-27207-9 .
  • Bernd Kleimann, Klaus Wannemacher : E-learning at German universities. From project development to sustainable implementation . Hanover 2004, ISBN 3-930447-56-8 .
  • Helmut M. Niegemann u. a .: Compendium of multimedia learning . Springer, 2008, ISBN 978-3-540-37225-7 . ( online )
  • Günter D. Rey: E-Learning. Theories, design recommendations and research . Hans Huber Publishing House, Bern 2009.
  • Reinhard Scholzen : E-learning - the development steps. In: German police sheet for training and further education. 5/2008, pp. 28-30.
  • Claudia Wiepcke: Computer-aided learning concepts and their evaluation in further education. Blended learning to promote gender mainstreaming . Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-8300-2426-6 .
  • Ullrich Dittler (Ed.): E-Learning: Implementation Concepts and Success Factors of Learning with Interactive Media . 3rd, completely revised and expanded edition. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-486-70587-4 .
  • Stephanie Pruschansky; Berlin, Senate Department for Economics, Labor and Women: eLearning. Innovation for business, work and qualification: Symposium of the Senate Department for Business, Work and Women, Berlin, on 21./22. November 2002 . (= Series of publications by the Senate Department for Economics, Labor and Women. 55). Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-937033-00-9 .

Web links

Commons : E-learning  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: E-learning  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • Collection of case studies and reflections on e-learning: Kate Borthwick, Erika Corradini, Alison Dickens (Eds.): 10 years of the LLAS elearning symposium: case studies in good practice. Research-publishing.net, Dublin Ireland 2015. doi: 10.14705 / rpnet.2015.9781908416230
  • e-teaching.org , extensive information portal on didactics, technology and the organization of e-learning at universities as well as numerous references and links to current information

Individual evidence

  1. Michael Kerres, Annabell Preußler: Mediendidaktik . In: Dorothee Meister, Friederike von Gross and Uwe Sander (eds.): Enzyklopädie Erziehungswissenschaft Online . 2012.
  2. Angela Carell, Isa Jahnke, Natalja Reiband: Computer-assisted collaborative learning . In: Journal Hochschuldidaktik; 13th year 2002 issue 2 . 2002, doi : 10.17877 / de290r-12872 ( tu-dortmund.de [accessed on May 9, 2019]).
  3. Niegemann, Helmut M .; Domagk, Steffi; Hessel, Silvia; Hein, Hein; Hupfer, Matthias; Zobel, Anett: Compendium of multimedia learning . Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg 2008, ISBN 978-3-540-37226-4 .
  4. http://www.rissberger.de/pages/faz_87-06-25.html
  5. http://www.rissberger.de/pages/faz_95-03-07.html
  6. BMBF portal QualificationDigital
  7. BMBF research project Mobile Learning in Vocational Education and Training ( Memento of the original from November 9, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / cevet.eu
  8. ADAM research program of the European Commission ( Memento of the original from November 11, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.adam-europe.eu
  9. WeBLab as a European research program for the purpose of innovation transfer ( Memento of the original dated December 2, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.adam-europe.eu
  10. a b c d e Rey 2009.
  11. Case study on the use of virtual training courses (PDF; 1.1 MB, date unknown)
  12. Second Life Has Skype In Its Sights ( Memento from April 2, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  13. Gebbe, Marcel: Web-based self and external assessment. A didactic instrument for individual support . In: Beutner, Marc; Kremer, H. Hugo; Zoyke, Andrea (Ed.): University Days Vocational Education 2011, Workshop 16 . Special 5th bwp @, 2011, p. 1–19 ( bwpat.de ).
  14. http://www.rissberger.de/pages/faz4.html
  15. ^ Marc Beutner: BMBF project NetEnquiry. (No longer available online.) University of Paderborn, February 2, 2015, archived from the original on April 22, 2016 ; Retrieved April 22, 2016 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / netenquiry.eduproject.eu
  16. a b Dittler 2009.
  17. Significance of digitization for universities. In: pharetis.de. February 4, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2016 .
  18. Studying in Web 2.0. (PDF) In: hisbus.his.de. Retrieved December 29, 2016 .
  19. eLearning Papers. (No longer available online.) In: eLearning Papers Nr.2. Archived from the original on February 11, 2013 ; Retrieved November 4, 2012 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.elearningpapers.eu
  20. vebn seal of approval. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on November 25, 2015 ; accessed on August 24, 2015 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.vebn.de
  21. eLearning label of the Ruhr University Bochum. Retrieved August 24, 2015 .
  22. Institute for Communication Research IKF
  23. ZFU FAQ
  24. ^ Text of the Distance Learning Protection Act
  25. Federal Court of Justice BGH of October 15, 2009 - III ZR 310/08, NJW 2010, 608 ( Memento of May 3, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 111 kB)
  26. ^ Tasks of the ZFU.
  27. Textbook for Learning and Teaching with Technologies