In 1954, Harvard professor B.F. Skinner invented a “teaching machine,” which enabled schools to provide programmed instruction to students. But it was at the end of the 20th century, with the emergence of home computers and the internet, that the concept of e-learning expanded to a broader audience.
If you are interested in a career change into the field of technology, one fascinating application of the study of instructional design and technology is e-learning development. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a widespread shift toward remote, online learning and work, making e-learning particularly relevant in today’s uncertain times. As an e-learning developer, you may work in public or private education or in other settings such as corporate training and professional development programs.
What Is E-Learning?
E-learning, often referred to as online learning, is simply acquiring knowledge using electronic technologies and media. In today’s internet-connected world, any course of study delivered and consumed via digital devices, such as a computer, tablet or phone, can be considered e-learning, even if conducted offline.
E-learning may be incorporated into education and training using a hybrid model, in which students receive some instruction while attending class in person and some by remote or electronic means. The same education or training can often be offered entirely online, where students start and finish a degree or program without stepping into the classroom at all. E-learning models can be effectively applied to academic education as well as training and skill-development for employees of corporations, nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies.
What Does an E-Learning Developer Do?
E-learning developers design systems and courses, creating content intended to meet specific learning and skill-acquisition goals, using electronic interfaces and various media.
The e-learning developer is responsible for making sure course design, delivery, user interface and learner interaction serve the content learning goals and the participant’s learning style and pace. In addition, the developer ensures all components of an e-learning course are engaging and can be delivered seamlessly.
Can Instructional Design Specialists Also Be E-Learning Developers?
Instructional designers and e-learning developers commonly work together on e-learning project design, and each requires a variety of skills, training, depth of knowledge and experience. There may be overlap between the two roles in one project. But there are significant advantages to involving both, reflected in the course design and in the potential efficacy of the product.
When instructional designers are competent in e-learning authoring technology, they can more effectively match content to instruction and delivery methods as well as build complex, differentiated delivery modalities into each course. This aspect of course design is essential to educators in both the public and private sectors as they recognize the importance of serving students with diverse learning styles and needs.
Preparing for a Position As an e-Learning Developer
Earning a master’s degree that integrates instructional design and technology competencies will help professionals enter the field and land higher level positions in the competitive e-learning development job market. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted a significant portion of education online, there is an immediate need for competent e-learning developers. Moreover, the benefits of online learning and remote work combined with uncertainty about the future has the potential to accelerate the integration of e-learning and hybrid models. It seems clear that e-learning developers will continue to play a vital role in education and training, both academic and organizational.
St. Thomas University offers a fully online Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology intended to prepare professionals for roles in the growing field of e-learning development.