This factsheet was last updated in July 2016.
What is digital learning?
Digital learning embraces more than e-learning. There’s no universally accepted definition, but we consider it to be learning that is delivered, enabled or mediated using electronic technology for the explicit purpose of training, learning or development in organisations. Examples of digital learning include using a website, ebooks, online communities or a distinct piece of online learning.
This is an ‘inclusive’ definition: it includes the use of distributed technology products that don’t require the user’s computer to be connected to a network, for example, downloaded materials. An ‘exclusive’ definition would cover only learning delivered through the Internet or an intranet (which could be termed ‘online’ learning).
The term e-learning (or ‘electronic’ learning) first emerged around the year 2000, although if distributed technology products are included in the definition, it could stretch back several decades with the use of CD-ROMs, for example.
Digital learning has progressed rapidly to cover a wide range of formal course-based e-learning packages and products together with a huge variety of complementary or alternative e-learning techniques, such as sharing knowledge or links to resources via social/interactive media sites and viewing/participating in online lectures, webinars, podcasts or blogs. More recent trends include the development of gaming technology to support learning, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the use of cloud computing, that give the potential to deliver learning according to user needs via the Internet rather than by in-house computing systems. The growth and development of different types of digital learning is rapid and constantly changing.
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