How many ‘e’s are there in e-learning?

Apart from the obvious numerical response, an answer to this question may well depend upon someone’s background, experience and perspective ….. and their interpretation of the question.

Among the joys of working in a culturally-diverse department, with different countries of origin and native tongues, are discussions with colleagues over the meaning and use of words. One recent exchange could be rationalised as different linguistic and managerial viewpoints.

Which led to the question in the title of this post, and consideration of how words such as ‘efficient’ and ‘effective’ could be used most appropriately in the context of e-learning. And then what other ‘e-words’ also might be relevant in the world of e-learning and learning design? 

The concept of 3Es for economy, efficiency and effectiveness is used commonly in management consideration of performance measurement and evaluation (1). In other fields of endeavour, different sets of ‘Es’ have found favour, as a quick Google search will show. 

While such formulations can be criticised as overly simplistic, it is often the case that simplicity equals wider utility. Such conceptual issues are as relevant in e-learning as in any other field, and so here, for consideration, are the suggested 7Es most relevant to e-learning with composite dictionary definitions (2): 

  • Effectiveness – The state or quality of producing a desired or intended result.
  • Efficiency – The state or quality of working productively with minimum wasted effort or expense.
  • Empowerment – Increased ability, strength, confidence, power or means to do ‘something’.
  • Engagement – Involvement or participation; enthusiasm or eagerness; state of increased energy or activity.
  • Embeddedness – The state of being fixed firmly and deeply in a surrounding mass.
  • Evaluation – Form an idea of the amount or value of ‘something’; assess.
  • Equity – Justice according to natural law or right.

This list offers a particular view about a set of 7Es relevant to e-learning. Other practitioners may wish to add to, subtract from or change this list and to comment and discuss further.

Roger Dence / Alejandro Armellini
6th June 2009

1       Eccles R G (1991) “The Performance Management Manifesto” Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 1991, 69(1), pp131-137.

2      Dictionaries consulted included:  Compact Oxford English Dictionary Online; the Cambridge Online Dictionary; and Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.

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