E-learning: The Digital Teacher’s Secret Ingredient for Success

How many times have you wondered why your students aren’t paying enough attention in online classes, or why they’re not getting what you’re teaching as fast as they used to in traditional classrooms?

How many times have you thought about or heard these words from other teachers?“Learning online is similar to learning in a classroom”, “There’s no need in changing the way we teach since we have the same students and the same curriculum”

But unlike what those teachers think; e-learning is actually quite different from traditional learning.

This is why I get this AHA! moment when I start explaining the difference between traditional learning and e-learning, which inspired me to write this article to bridge the gap between them through better understanding and proper planning, especially after knowing that online education is not a temporary or emergency situation anymore. In many countries worldwide, it’s here to last.


Traditional Learning Vs. E-Learning

The first and most important difference between e-learning and traditional learning is the presence, where students and teachers aren’t physically in one place during e-learning. Another difference is that e-learning occurs synchronously (Live with the presence of the teacher) and asynchronously (through recorded sessions and electronic resources). Last but not least, the students have access to unlimited resources and learning material on their devices and online around the clock.


When does learning happen?

Research has shown that students learn effectively when the curriculum is developed through pedagogical approaches that are:

Through years of experience with many trials and errors, I can say that learning occurs when students are engaged in the learning process by being active members rather than passive receivers of information and it’s the teachers’ role to identify what gets their students engaged and trigger their intrinsic motivation. If you want to know more about how to motivate your students, check my teacher’s guide to motivation here.


E-Learning; A new trend? Really?!

E-learning is defined as learning facilitated by the use of digital tools that involves some form of interactivity, which may include online interaction between the learner and their teacher or peers.

As we all assume, E-learning is a new trend that has been recently developed due to the pandemic. WRONG! It’s actually been around for more than 15 years, but schools and teachers never had to implement it extensively before.


Active learning in virtual setting? Is it Possible?

YES! It’s possible! According to NTL (National Training Laboratories), research results have lead to creating the learning pyramid which shows that knowledge retention rates are higher when active learning is involved, such as:

  • Group discussions that can be done through activities like the four corners.
  • Peer learning during various activities such as debates and peer discussions.
  • Experimentation of new theories and their validity.

E-Learning Ladder (Pam Moule 2007)

As shown in the E-Learning ladder, there’s a direct relationship between E-learning activities and IT skills for both students and teachers, this means that the teacher should consider the level of technology literacy of the students while preparing the activities and encourage them to continuously develop their technological skills.

This photo demonstrates a suggested e-tivities (electronic activities) ladder. Passive learning is demonstrated by using slides like PowerPoint, or electronic questions, while digital active learning is achieved by including active objects with texts, such as gamification, online discussion boards and activities; up to immersive learning, that have students full focus on activities done completely by themselves, such as podcasting, movie production and direction. 


How can we improve e-learning?

According to the UNESCO, more than 70% of students worldwide were affected by COVID 19 and most schools has gone online. Pause for a while and think about that fact; you’ll come to the conclusion that rethinking learning is the key to modify and reshape teaching to suit the new e-learning environment. By transforming activities to e-tivities that suit the new virtual setting, active learning can be implemented in E-learning.

There are various ways to improve students’ e-learning experience, including remodeling teaching strategies, digital lesson planning and reflecting upon your work to understand what works and what needs to modified.

  • Remodeling Teaching Strategies

Coherence Principle, which states that humans learn best when extraneous, distracting material is not included. In simpler words, use only the information that the learner needs.

Multimedia Learning may seem overwhelming to learners, but in fact, having more than stimulus (Audio-Visual) to the brain achieve better learning. Instead of speaking for 10 minutes, a video from YouTube for example can give better results in understanding and remembering the information.


Audience response is a type of interaction associated with the use of audience response systems, to create interactivity between a teacher and students. Kahoot is a great tool that which allows immediate feedback and therefore leads to active e-learning.

Pre-Training your students on using new technologies gives them confidence and become more engaged while using it in the assigned activity.

 Together is better when planning e-tivities, as collaborative learning develops problem solving skills through interaction, sharing of perspectives, and the motivating nature of belonging to a group.

  • Digital Lesson Planning:

As a teacher, you can plan your activities based on Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, where you can implement technology in every stage depending on your students’ technological and academic skills.

Understanding the traditional taxonomy and the digital one can show you how different traditional learning and e-learning are.

If you’re new to planning e-tivities, here’s an e-tivity checklist that can help you get started.

  • Plan, Teach, Reflect, Repeat

When you reflect upon your teaching and planning, it gives you a chance to improve. Knowing what your students like/dislike most in a lesson can give you an idea about how they think, their preferred technology and strategies for e-learning.

Here’s a Checklist for Online Interactive Learning (COIL) to guide you while reflecting upon your interactive e-learning strategies.


What about you?

Which means of learning do you prefer; traditional or online? Have your teaching techniques changed since you shifted your teaching online to improve your students’ e-learning experience?

Published by Israa Osman

With over 12 years of teaching experience, having taught students in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Essraa holds a TEFL and a diploma in teacher training from London Teacher training College, Pathways course from IH London (CELTA equivalent) and CET (Cambridge English Teaching course). Also having 3 years of teacher training experience with reputable institutes, such as Emkan education, Cambridge international assessment and MISK. Essraa’s extensive experience teaching students of diverse backgrounds in many countries has helped develop her empathetic approach to teaching. She is currently the founder of Teach-O-Gen

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