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Introduction to eLearning

Basic Principles 


The term “e-Learning” appeared not very long ago, more exactly in November 1999, when it was used by Elliot Masie at his TechLearn Conference at Disneyworld. It refers to learning using the web or any other electronic medium and it is considered a form of distance learning as it allows students to access materials and learning tasks although they are not physically in a school location.

E-learning started to be appreciably used in the last decade and even earlier by organisations for training their employees and also by individuals willing to increase their knowledge and develop their skills. Several free educational programs as well as online degrees could be found and accomplished on Internet.


Recently the quick spread of COVID-19 has entailed a huge number of challenges, apart from the enormous health issues stemming from it. One of the biggest challenges is education-related, as schools, colleges and universities had to close for an unspecified timescale.
The entire teaching process is currently done online, and educators are required to learn new skills or improve the existing ones, in order to handle the new approach of the instructional act.


When starting to use e-learning in the teaching process, two main aspects must be taken into consideration:
 The organisation and design of the learning materials
 Engaging and motivating students during the actual teaching activity


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The organisation and design of the learning materials  

As e-learning is different from traditional classroom teaching, the materials created for electronic medium learning must also be designed in such a manner to facilitate accomplishing the expected learning outcomes. The technology development provides a lot of alternatives to select from and embed in learning in order to make the learning content attractive and interesting enough for the students.

According to Richard E. Mayer’s “Multimedia Learning”, there are some basic principles that influence the design and structure of multimedia presentations. These principles for using multimedia in eLearning are applicable in creating valuable eLearning content and also may be considered a guide for many developers who deal with inserting multimedia in eLearning.

1

Coherence Principle

This principle states that students learn better when inessential words, pictures, and sounds are excluded rather than included. Important elements must be carefully selected, while elements which create clutter should be avoided, so the learner will be capable to concentrate on few essentials that are required and not get unfocussed by unnecessary items.

2

Signalling Principle

This principle inspires developers to structure the learning content properly. The material should start by presenting simpler concepts first, then move to the complex one and the important parts of the content should be highlighted adequately with recapping or other means. This helps to better process the material and keep in mind the essentials.

3

Redundancy Principle

When creating e-learning materials, it is essential to remember that students prefer not more than 2-3 multimedia elements at one go. Therefore, it is better to include either graphics + narration or animation + narration rather than a mixture of all elements - on-screen text, graphics, animation and narration.

4

Multimedia Principle

It is a real fact that learners prefer to learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. It is important and convenient to include graphics such as graphs or screenshots in eLearning.

5

Spatial Contiguity Principle

This principle states that learners choose to have corresponding words and pictures presented near rather than far from each other on the screen. This basic alignment may increase the learning impact significantly, as students assimilate text and images together, therefore fully understand the whole concept.

6

Temporal Contiguity Principle

In the spirit of the previous principle, this principle states that learners prefer corresponding words and pictures to be represented simultaneously rather than successively. This matter helps also the learners in better understanding the concept as a whole.

7

Segmenting Principle

The basis of this principle is that learners learn better from a multimedia-filled lesson when it is organised in user-paced portions rather than as a uninterrupted unit. The information flow needs to be paused with adequate breaks, in order to provide the learner with the necessary time to process and understand the material. A well-paced eLearning course will undeniably be more successful than a high-speed one. 

8

Pre-Training Principle

This principle states that learners benefit best from a multimedia lesson when they are acquainted with the names and attributes of the main concepts. So, if you are presenting new concepts, the names and titles of key topics should be communicated on the first few screens to make sure that learners get used to the idea of going ahead with that knowledge.

9

Personalization Principle

The principle states that it is better to include audio in informal style rather than formal style. This helps the learner by creating a more comfortable environment but it also increases his attention as well, as learning is informal and not constrained.

10

Voice Principle

The principle states that learners learn better when the narration in the multimedia lessons is done by a friendly human voice and not by a machine voice. While the machine generated narration may be available and it may be also a cheaper option, it is better to generate a voice-over narration to ensure that the learners remain involved to listen and learn.

 Engaging and motivating students during the actual teaching activity

Most teachers would agree that it seems harder to keep the students’ attention through online interactions than it is in the classroom, but if lessons are properly planned and student-focussed, things may become easy.

Without a doubt, after fully adopting this new medium, teachers might be impressed by the flexibility and interactivity provided by it, as well as by the results.


The secret key to success seems to be essentially ensuring the engagement of the audience during the lesson time. If the audience is engaged, it is also active. The classroom becomes a vibrant environment which encourages the results and the types of behaviours that you would like to see.
All this is possible with a fun-focussed online teaching game-plan.

Thus, the engagement soon becomes motivation and motivation soon becomes a habit.

In this line, you will find below a set of 13 “tips” (or rather said “suggestions”), extracted from

https://www.growthengineering.co.uk, which may help you in your online teaching “adventure”.

1

Pick The Right Tool and test It

Before starting your first online class, you should find a convenient video conferencing tool that facilitates your connection with your students. Currently there are enough options available to choose from (for example Zoom, Webex, Adobe Connect, Google Hangouts and others). Although many of these tools have a free option, you may require a paid subscription to meet the needs of your students adequately. Once you’ve selected a tool, make sure you learn how to use it properly. You need to get familiar with this tool in order to be able to support your students in case they need it and to ensure the fluency of your activity.

2

Send Invites & Clear Instructions

When you’ve set up the classroom event, the next step is that you get invites out to your students. Usually this is done within the video conferencing tool. Your invite should comprise an agenda, joining instructions as well as a list of materials your students will need to have with them.
If they’re expected to use their webcams or their microphones during the classroom session, then you should inform them about this, thus giving them the opportunity to prepare appropriately.
Shortly before the classroom session (approximately 15-minutes), a reminder should be sent to them, to make sure that the joining instructions are accessible to them. 

3

Stay Secure

With the recent peaking use of videoconference, thorough analysis has been done upon the security offered by video conferencing tools. A number of measures can and should be taken to ensure protection for teachers and students during their educational activities. The following steps are recommended to be taken for the safety of the online study sessions:
- Meeting invites must not be shared in public forums.
- Use Password-protection for your meetings.
- Use a ‘Waiting Room’ to supervise who joins the meeting.
- Make sure you recognize all members in the room.
- Ensure you know how to control (and remove) participants. 

4

Show Your Face

A voice which is not associated with a face is not as engaging as seeing the person in action. So, the teacher should turn the camera on and engage directly with his students. You should ensure you are talking directly into your camera in order to maintain their attention, as it is proven to ensure a more personal connection with your students.
But the matters don’t stop there. The teacher must not sit too close or too far from the camera. Also, he/she should check on the lighting and the acoustics of the camera. By removing such distracting factors, it would help your students to apply their focus in the right way. 

5

Set Ground Rules

Productive online classrooms call for a teaching strategy. A clear structure is needed, and structure requires rules. Having clear ground rules sets expectations for your students and emboldens them to take your classroom event seriously.
These rules should help in limitation of unnecessary interruptions and distractions, ensure a safe learning background and provide equal prospects for everybody to participate.
Online etiquette should be discussed with the students, and teachers’ expectations should be made clear with regards to:
- The way in which they should ask questions?
- Should they be on ‘mute’ while they are listening?
- Are they permitted to use the ‘Chat’ functionality? If so, what are the limitations will you place upon it for such thing?
Our recommendation is to write up a list of ground rules and to run through them at the beginning of each classroom session.  

6

 Follow Microlearning Principles

experienced and agreed by most teachers. Child development experts note that focus spans vary subject to the children’s age.
To exemplify, a 6-year-old learner can focus on a subject for 12 to 18 minutes, while a 12-year-old one can focus for 24 to 36 minutes. When creating the lesson plan the audience age should be taken into consideration.

The microlearning principles could be used to help supporting the students to remain focused. These principles recommend splitting up the content into smaller units, which can be assimilated easy and quickly. So large topics should be broken into smaller elements, and a plan should be made for communication of each element.

A better focus might be obtained using a sequence of mediums, in order to achieve some variety within the lesson. Alternation between introducing a concept, playing a video, asking questions and concluding on answers, using educational games and quizzes will spark interest and maintain the learners’ focus.   

7

Record Your Lessons

Recording your online classroom sessions may prove to be a convenient practice for several reasons. These recordings could be useful for the students which were unable to attend, so they would be able to fill the gap to some extend by viewing the records.
They could also be useful for the students’ recaps, but equally could prove useful for the teacher for self-assessment and improvement orientation. 

8

Check-in Periodically

The teacher should check in with his students periodically. He should ensure that the audience comprehends what’s been covered so far, by asking some stimulating questions as well as requesting further questions from the learners.

It’s imperative to make sure that students don’t get left behind during the online classes, and it is equally important to establish what students should do in case that they feel they don’t entirely understand any element of the lesson.

Teachers may also use the polling functionality of the video conferencing tools, as most of them have such features embedded. This way the teacher may be able to establish the audience’s level of knowledge on a certain subject, before moving on to the next item in your lesson plan.  

9

Monitor The Chat

Many video conferencing tools have also a “chat” feature which could be used by participants to communicate with each other. The teacher must decide whether this functionality will be used within the online classes, and in which manner.

Clear guidelines must be set up on how “chat” should be used. The teacher must monitor the use of proper spelling, grammar and punctuation by the students and must ensure that inciting or impolite language will not be allowed. The ”Chat” area should be checked on a regular basis, as it also helps to monitor the focus level and the level of knowledge  

10

Provide Interactive Activities

Teachers should incorporate interactive activities into their online classroom and should eliminate students’ passivity as much as possible. Such activity examples are: icebreaker activities, presentations, puzzles, brainstorm sessions, games, peer reviews, pitches, quizzes and even virtual field trips.
Special attention should be paid to involving all students in the activities, including the ones who are less outgoing than others. After reviewing various activity types, the teacher will be able to select the ones which best resonate with his students. Several activities of this kind can be conducted by the teacher simultaneously through the video conferencing tool.  

11

Assignments & Breakout Groups

Just like in the traditional learning courses, during the online ones the teacher can also split up a bigger class into groups and assign each group various tasks. This seems to work well most of the time, because it encourages peer-to-peer involvement, stimulates mentoring and pushes creativity. In addition, most conference tools have “breakout room” functionality ( Zoom, for instance, enables up to 50 distinct sessions per meeting).
As a host, the teacher will be able to switch between sessions as he considers, in order to check on progress. The students discuss the assigned topic within their groups, then they return to the main session and Once your students have had a chance to discuss a topic within their groups, they can return to the main classroom session and grant their findings. Although it may take some configuration, this is a useful technique in the teachers’ portfolio, which is always proving useful.  

12

Explore Other Free Tools

A broad variety of tools can be used as additions to secure the students; interest and enthusiasm during the online learning.
For example, Animoto allows the students to create 30-second video clips of what they’ve learned. Also, a word cloud tool, a quizzing solution or learning games could be used to secure the student’s interest.

Certain game mechanics could also be implemented within the online classroom. There’s a lot of research indicating that gamification is a beneficial engagement tool. This applies particularly to the teachers who’ve taken the time to craft their own gamification strategy based around what they know about their students.

An example could be the use a free online badge making tool to provide virtual badges to students who ask suitable questions. Or, a virtual leaderboard or a counter based on quiz results could be kept, and the teacher would need to make sure this is regularly refreshed to avoid disengagement or demotivation. 

13

Seek Feedback From Your Students

Teachers should regularly request feedback from their online students. This will help the teacher to make sure that the needs of the audience are met and the methodology can be improved.

For a teacher who just started to host online classrooms recently, the feedback is very helpful indeed, as it gives him/her the opportunity to address concerns, make small changes and build his confidence.

There are several ways for gathering the feedback; either at the end of the classroom session, by e-mail or by issuing an unsigned survey. Once the results are gathered, the teacher should take all comments into consideration and. Just make sure that you give due consideration to all comments and prove to be open minded regarding the needs for change depicted from the feedback. 

Conclusions

Taking on the digital development and switching to online classroom sessions can be scary. Maintaining the level of interest can be even more difficult, as the amount of information the teachers need to process ahead doing this is huge.


Yet there is an opportunity to turn the physical limitations into unlimited possibilities of study and development in the virtual environment. Technology of today makes learning experiences more accessible, highly interactive and thoroughly appealing, provided that the users have the drive, the focus and the curiosity to go through it.

So it proves that eLearning is an adequate educational instrument not only for school students but for all kind of learners, as it promotes the notion of life-long learning and increase of a learning society – in educational institutions as well as organizations.


With increasing reach of internet and mobile devices, using multimedia in eLearning is increasingly becoming a popular and preferred method for learning across corporates as well as educational institutes. Following these design principles, a variety of multimedia elements can be infused into eLearning, with better results.

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Resources

• “13 tips for teachers: How to make online classes fun”, published on May 12, 2020 on https://www.growthengineering.co.uk;


• “10 Design Principles Of Using Multimedia In eLearning”, published on December 19, 2016 on https://elearningindustry.com, by G-Cube Webwide Software Pvt Ltd


You may also consider:
• “7 Tips To Choose Multimedia For Your eLearning Course”, published on May 5, 2014 on https://elearningindustry.com, by Christopher Pappas

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