It’s also important to understand the relationship between e-learning and distance education. These days distance education is primarily delivered online but historically it has used other technologies and there is still a considerable amount of distance education that would not be considered e-learning. So there is what we could call blended e-learning in which there are some face-to-face sessions but most of the learning is done online, and there is distance education e-learning in which all teaching and learning is done without teacher and learners ever meeting face-to-face. And there is distance education that is primarily print-based and would not be considered e-learning.
But the single e-learning continuum doesn’t capture e-learning fully and it may be more helpful to think about it in terms of two critical dimensions, each with its own continuum: distance and synchronicity. The distance continuum spans place-based learning and teaching to fully distance teaching and learning and the synchronicity continuum spans real-time interaction to completely asynchronous interaction. If we think about these as two axes on a graph we can then place the different implementations and applications of e-learning on it (see below).
Kasey (Mallen) Whalley (KMW)
The graphic above is a fantastic way to understand the complexities of defining e-learning. For public school libraries, and some academic libraries, encountering all or none of these implementations and applications is an ongoing reality—it creates a trend of defining e-learning by the shape it takes in our schools. If school and academic libraries look at the whole e-learning picture, they can get lost in what could be and not what is e-learning at their institution. This means, for some school and academic libraries, e-learning is defined by the digital tools and applications through which it happens: The learning management system, the online forums, or the digital literacy initiatives happening in individual schools.
E-learning becomes contextualized, and libraries work with the teachers to support e-learning as it exists in their educational institution. This doesn’t mean, however, that library professionals are blind to the possibilities of e-learning, as many of us work to be knowledgeable about the big e-learning picture, and support new e-learning initiatives brought forth in our schools.