How E-Learning Has Evolved Over the Past Few Years

The following is a guest post written by Mary Walton , a professional editor and content strategist. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us.

Can you believe that 2009 was a decade ago? Time seems to pass by with extreme speed and the world keeps changing with it. Many changes happened in the world that influenced e-learning directly. Many colleges and universities started to include e-learning in their programs and students got more interested in it. E-learning started to be used more in the early 2000s, but some evidence suggests that the early forms of the practice have been around as far back as the 19th century. The term “e-learning” was first used in 1999, and other words such as “online learning” and “virtual learning” have been known to be used. As Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” This applies in the sphere of e-learning as well, so if you’re interested in learning more about the development and evolution of e-learning, keep reading!

Early starts

The concept of learning at a distance has been around since before the time of the internet. Distance courses were offered to educate people that were in a different location. Issac Pitman, developer of the most widely used system of shorthand, taught his students via correspondence back in the 1840’s. In 1924, the first testing machine was invented which allowed those who were learning, to test themselves. 30 years later, a Harvard Professor by the name of BF Skinner invented a machine that permitted schools to offer programmed instructions to the students.

In the ’60s, the first computer-based training program was made and it was called PLATO or Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations. Originally, it was made for students that were attending the University of Illinois but ended up being used in many schools in the area. When it comes to the first online learning systems, they happened in the ’70s when interaction began to be more used.


Online learning started to get widespread mostly due to the convenient form it had, offering people courses that they could attend without having to change the location. It gave people more options. However, the content was being transferred through text or poorly scanned documents, the convenience of this type of learning overshadowed the quality of the courses. The majority of the courses were based on one-way communication with some exceptions where online discussion forums were available. However, back then the internet wasn’t as nearly as strong as now and the connection was very problematic.

Another thing that happened in the 2000s when it comes to e-learning was the fact that the businesses started to incorporate e-learning in their employee training programs. At that time, the employees were offered new and exciting opportunities to make improvements in their fields’ knowledge and to expand their skill sets.


At this point, it was clear that e-learning was an emerging industry even besides the resistance that it came across from public education, workplaces, and academia. The benefits of the new computer-based training were well-known by this point especially the immediate feedback and the virtual support. However, at that time we still had many problems related to this since we had slower platforms and browser compatibilities. The limited technology tools that were used back then were at times frustrating for the people that adopted the e-learning practices. This, of course, was the reason to inspire faster and more qualitative development of the industry while pointing out how to detox the mild issues.


E-learning became very popular and it was a well-known mode of delivering education and training within many sectors. The potential of the whole concept was finally fully grasped and with the new, modern technologies available that at the same time became very affordable, e-learning was widely present. The positive benefits of this type of learning were better communication, exploring, expressing, networking, creating which was all in the hands of the consumers. At this point, an overwhelming amount of e-learning options became available making the market much more aggressive which at times made those who offered the courses make promises that they can’t keep.

E-learning today

Today, there are many newer trends that make e-learning even more functional and attractive to people. Some of those are:

  • Microlearning: is a type of learning represented by short bursts of bite-sized content. No sitting behind the screen for hours, but a short on-demand knowledge that was made possible by the high consumption of mobiles.
  • Social learning: a way of training a geographically diverse workforce that is driven by social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and more.
  • Virtual and Augmented Realities: this option turns any classroom into any possible environment which is perfect for as real as possible training of the students. VR/AR are empowering the content of e-learning and make many opportunities possible for easier learning.

There are many more trends that are currently used, and the reality is that e-learning will further develop along with the development of the technology.

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