The New E-Learning Framework

Some time ago, I wrote a new e-learning framework for a company I consulted for here in Calgary. I broke down the structure into types of learning, types of e-learning products, and interactivity types. It helped the company to estimate the amount of time and money they need to put into the e-learning projects. I am sharing this in the hope that other organizations would find it beneficial to adapt or modify this framework.

The Three Types of Learning

Broadly speaking, e-learning can be broken down into three types: formal, informal, and social. Here are the definition for each of them:

“Learning is formal when someone other than the learner sets curriculum. Typically, it’s an event, on a schedule and completion is generally recognized with a symbol, such as a grade, gold star, certificate or check mark in a learning management system. Formal learning is pushed on learners”

Source: Informal Learning 2.0, Jay Cross, Internet Time blog, 8 August 2009.

“By contrast, informal learners usually set their own learning objectives. They learn when they feel a need to know. The proof of their learning is their ability to do something they could not do before. Informal learning often is a pastiche of small chunks of observing how others do things, asking questions, trial and error, sharing stories with others and casual conversation. Learners are pulled to informal learning”

Source: Informal Learning 2.0, Jay Cross, Internet Time blog, 8 August 2009

“Social learning is about learning through your interactions with others and through the knowledge and expertise of others.”


The reason I differentiate these types of learning is that often times we tend to forget the variety of learning available, and to factor in effort in developing and measuring these different types. The table below attempt to provide more details on each types of learning, their formats, examples, and measurement matrix.

Types of Learning Formats Examples Measurement Matrix
Formal Instructor-led courses

E-learning modules
Blended learning (combine face-to-face facilitation and elearning)

In-house LMS hosted courses
  • grades
  • assessment sheets
  • self-reports
  • focus group/interviews
Informal Books/journals
Online content
Mentor City
  • number of people accessing the site/webinars
  • assessment sheets
  • self-reports
  • focus group/interviews
Social Microblogging
Social networking
  • click stream/site traffic
  • total number of people in the social network
  • total number of posts
  • total number of replies
  • total number of “likes”


Types of e-learning products

We can segment various e-learning products based on Levels and Types. Levels correspond to the learning principles derived from Bloom’s Taxonomy. Types focus on the technical and multi-media development aspect of the learning. Altogether, we can have 9 types of possible courses. The naming conventions could be: CL1-IT1, CL2-IT3, etc.

Course Levels Level 1 (CL1): Information/Dissemination
(this level includes information presentation, dissemination of facts/data, regulations, and policies)
Level 2 (CL2): Scenario/Decision-based
(this level includes interactions that require learners to make decisions, choose different paths, or
Level 3 (CL3):

Game-based Simulation

Learning Objectives (based on Bloom’s taxonomy) Understanding and Recalling Level 1 +
Applying and Analyzing
Level 2 +

Evaluating and Creating

Interactivity types Type 1 – Basic
Type 2 – Intermediate
Type 3 – Advanced
Type 1 – Basic
Type 2 – Intermediate
Type 3 – Advanced
Type 1 – Basic

Type 2 – Intermediate

Type 3 – Advanced


Interactivity Types

Type 1 (T1) – Basic text, graphics, simple audio and video, simple assessment such as multiple choice test questions.
Type 2 (T2) – Intermediate Type 1 + 25% or more interactive activities, some interaction such as “drag and drop”, “trying things out”, “commenting”, etc.
Type 3 (T3) – Advanced Simulation, 3-D graphic, game-based, virtual reality, augmented reality, custom interaction.

We can also use this as a baseline to estimate the cost of development:

For each hour of e-learning material, it could look something like this:

CL1-IT1 – 50 hours
CL1-IT2 – 100 hours
CL1-IT3-150 hours

CL2-IT1 – 100 hours
CL2-IT2 – 200 hours
CL2-IT3 – 400 hours

CL3-IT1 – 150 hours
CL3-IT2 – 350 hours
CL3-IT3 – 600 hours


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