U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Firearms Examiner Training

Introduction to e-Learning

Home  |  Glossary  |  Resources  |  Help  |  Contact Us  |  Course Map

Two photos side by side, one of a man typing on a laptop, one of a woman typing at a desktop computer.
Synchronous learning
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

Introduction to e-Learning

e-Learning can be delivered and supported using a variety of electronic media, but is also the ideal complement to a traditional education or training program delivery. These technologies are used to create and deliver individualized, comprehensive, dynamic learning content that facilitates learning, anytime and anywhere. It is an innovative approach to communicating almost any type of instructional information. e-Learning can be delivered and supported using a variety of electronic media but is also the ideal complement to a traditional education or training program.

e-Learning is instruction that occurs when the instructor and the students are separated by time, distance, or both.

It can be divided into two major delivery methods:

  • Synchronous learning
  • Asynchronous learning

Synchronous e-Learning or training happens in real time with an instructor facilitating the training. Most commonly this type of learning may take place over the Internet using a variety of communication tools. The student logs in at a specific time and communicates directly with the instructor and/or other students. Synchronous e-Learning may also be accomplished through telephone, video conferencing, or two-way live television broadcasts between instructors and students in remote locations.

Asynchronous e-Learning may be CD, DVD-ROM, Intranet, or Internet based. Students generally work on an interactive self-paced program of study. This may include access to instructors or experts through online bulletin boards, discussion groups, and e-mail. Programs may also be completely self-contained with links to various reference materials in place of an instructor. Asynchronous e-Learning allows students to learn anywhere and usually at any time, as long as they have the proper equipment.


e-Learning has substantial benefits and offers unique opportunities for people who might otherwise have limited access to education and training. It incorporates innovative and creative approaches to instruction and provides unprecedented access to resources and information.

Some of the benefits are summarized below:

  • e-Learning is student centered. The learner is the core of any e-Learning system. Materials and activities are designed with the needs and interests of the learner in mind. Students assume control of their learning experience and use it to suit their specific needs.
  • e-Learning is self-directed and self-paced. Students control the amount of time spent on a particular topic. This allows learners to skip material they already understand or to spend additional time on difficult areas. This individualized approach usually allows learners to complete their education and training faster than in traditional courses.
  • e-Learning is interactive and hands-on. The use of a variety of multimedia increases student involvement and reinforces the learning experience. This leads to increased retention and a stronger grasp of the subject at hand.
  • e-Learning is flexible. Learning can take place anytime and anywhere, as long as the necessary equipment is available. The logistics and expense of face-to-face education and training can be extremely limiting when students are separated by distance.
  • e-Learning also allows physically or otherwise challenged students to more fully participate.
  • e-Learning provides consistent and effective training . All of the target learners can participate simultaneously and receive the same information, reducing the variability introduced through multiple sessions in different locations.
Photo of a man with his head down, grabbing a laptop in desperation
e-Learning requires a minimum level of computer knowledge
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).


Although e-Learning has many benefits for students and organizations, it also has limitations:

  • Computer literacy and access to equipment. Any e-Learning system involves basic equipment and a minimum level of computer knowledge in order to perform the tasks required by the system.
  • Some topics are not appropriate for e-Learning. Certain subjects that require physical activity and practice, such as sports and public speaking, are not good candidates for e-Learning. However, e-Learning can be a useful companion to traditional education for teaching background and technical information.
  • The flexibility and student-centered nature of e-Learning requires a high level of student responsibility. A successful e-Learning student must be well organized, self-motivated, and possess good time management skills.
Photo of an old laptop on a hotel room desk
Dedicated work space
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

Strategies for Success

e-Learning is different from traditional classroom learning and requires that the student take an active role in the process.

Successful e-Learning students must have several attributes and skills:

  • Be motivated and self-disciplined, able to study independently, schedule study time, and meet agreed upon completion deadlines.
  • Understand the requirements and plan ahead to know what is expected and how performance will be evaluated. Define goals and objectives for the e-Learning portion of the training.
  • Possess good reading and writing skills. The ability to efficiently read and interpret instructions is critical.
  • Make inferences based on work, life, and other educational experiences. Meaningful reflection and critical analysis of information are essential parts of the learning process, allowing opportunities to apply learning.
  • Allow adequate time to participate in the e-Learning process, which frequently requires more time and commitment than traditional learning.
  • Have access to the necessary equipment and dedicated work space.

Selected Bibliography

The Selected Bibliography is a list of the writings that have been used in the assemblage of the training program and is not a complete record of all the works and sources consulted. It is a compilation of the substance and range of readings and extensive experience of the subject matter experts.

  1. Armstrong, T. (n.d.) Multiple intelligences. http://www.thomasarmstrong.com/multiple_intelligences.htm
  2. CAPSOL styles of learning. (n.d.) http://www.stylesoflearning.com/
  3. Collins, A, J.S. Brown, and A. Holum. 1991. Cognitive apprenticeship: Making thinking visible. American Educator 15(3): 6-46.
  4. Commonwealth of Virginia (n.d.). Competencies. http://jobs.virginia.gov/cd_competencies.html
  5. Kesten, C. 1987. Independent learning. In Understanding the Common Essential Learnings: A Handbook for Teachers , Chapter 8. Saskatchewan Education. http://www.publications.gov.sk.ca/details.cfm?p=10170
  6. Knowles, M.S. 1970. The Modern Practice of Adult Education: Andragogy versus Pedagogy . New York: Association Press.
  7. Kruse, K. (n.d.). The magic of learner motivation: The ARCS model. http://www.corebiztechnology.com/software_article_elearning_c.htm
  8. Morrison, GR, S.M. Ross, and J.E. Kemp. 2001. Designing Effective Instruction , 3rd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  9. Rea, D. 2003. Sustaining teachable moments on the complex edge of chaos. Presented at: American Educational Research Association Conference, Chicago, Illinois: April 2125, 2003.

Back Forward