Towards a Definition of E-learning, 2

In his highly influential 2001 text E-Learning: Strategies for Delivering Knowledge in the Digital Age, Marc J Rosenberg argues that e-learning is based on three fundamental criteria (pp.8-29):rosenberg-elearning-strategies

  1. E-learning is networked making it capable of updating, storage and retrieval, distribution and sharing of instruction or information. So important is this criteria that Rosenberg describes it as fast becoming an “absolute requirement” [his italics] of e-learning.
  2. It is delivered to the end-user via a computer using standard internet technology. Even though the definition of what a standard technology is may evolve as the internet matures, e-learningwill be deliverable on that channel
  3. It focuses on the broadest view of learning: learning that goes beyond “e-training” (Beyond E-Learning, 2006, p.11). Elearning is at the core of the “smart enterprise – a high-performing organisation that allows knowledge and capabilities, enabled by technology, to grow and flow freely across departmental geographical or hierarchical boundaries, where it is shared and made actionable for the use and benefit of all” (2006, p.39).

These concepts are all central to e-learning. In context, I would argue that this definition is quite narrow and does not account for the range of expression I attribute to the term. Don Morrison comes closer to my understanding of the term in the context of this paper when he describes e-learning as:

The continuous assimilation of knowledge and skills by adults stimulated by synchronous and asynchronous learning events – and sometimes Knowledge management outputs – which are authored, delivered engaged with, supported and administered using internet technologies.

(2004, p.4)

What I believe makes this a stronger definition is the explicit statement of key words in the definition. As I mentioned in previous blog articles, my work is concerned with developing and implementing  learning initiatives for business and technology leaders, professionals, and knowledge workers in enterprises of all sizes.

And a bunch of academic stuff too.

As such, (and to provide context for those of you working in different spheres of education) it is important to distinguish what Malcolm Knowles (Andragogy in Action. Applying modern principles of adult education, 1984) called the ‘andragological’ principles of adult learning. This assumes “that the point at which an individual achieves a self-concept of essential self-direction is the point at which he psychologically becomes adult. The individual develops a …need to be self-directing” (1984, p.56).



Knowles, M. et al. (1984) Andragogy in Action. Applying modern principles of adult education San Francisco, Jossey Bass

Morrison, D. (2004) E-Learning Strategies: how to get implementation and delivery right first time, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Rosenberg, M. J. (2001) e-Learning: Strategies for Delivering Knowledge in the Digital Age London: McGraw-Hill.

Rosenberg, M. J. (2006) Beyond e-Learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.