As eLearning has continued to gain popularity in the learning world, there is a pressing need to develop practical learning modules that enhance learners’ engagement and effective learning outcomes. Thankfully, a reliable means to achieve this is to incorporate classic learning principles into eLearning. These principles have been researched to a large extent, tested, established, and thrived in traditional educational settings.

By understanding how classic learning principles can positively impact eLearning, you can develop more engaging and effective learning modules. In this article, we will discuss several classic learning principles that have been identified through research in the field of psychology. We’ll also address their benefits to learners, employees, and the organization, by extension.

The Active Learning Principle

Classic learning principles suggest that learning should be an active procedure rather than a passive one. A trainer can achieve this by including assessments and interactive activities requiring learners to engage with the learning content actively. In active learning, learners are engaged in problem-solving, critical thinking, debating, dialog, and writing. Ultimately, this is an excellent learning strategy as it enables learners to engage deeply with the learning content. It is also effective in aiding the learner’s retention rate.

Benefits Of Active Learning

  1. It addresses diverse learning needs: Any content promoting active learning helps to improve the learner’s interaction with the training content. This principle allows learners to explore and experiment, which enables them to absorb information in the style that suits them best.
  1. Active learning reinforces vital skills like decision-making and critical thinking: Self-exploration with the learning materials helps to improve learners’ decision-making and critical thinking skills. It encourages learners to take charge of their courses without necessarily requiring supervision from a superior.

The Repetitive Learning Principle

One of the classic learning principles is that repetition improves learning. In the eLearning context, trainers can incorporate this principle through quizzes and several interactive features that enable learners to practice all they learn.

Benefits Of Repetitive Learning

  1. It fosters learning: This traditional learning principle is still highly effective today. In most cases, one experience is insufficient for the brain to create and sustain a neural connection. This is why spaced-out learning is usually more effective.
  1. It improves the learner’s retention: Consistent repetition makes it easier to recall information.

The Scaffolding Learning Principle

This principle suggests that learners need support to transcend their present understanding to a higher understanding level. In the eLearning context, this principle provides learners with every support required to accomplish complex tasks. With the scaffolding style, a trainer provides step-by-step instructions for completing a task. This makes it easier to handle complex assignments.

Benefits Of Scaffolding In eLearning

  1. Clear direction: With scaffolding, complex materials are broken down into absorbable chunks that enable learners to understand and retain easily. It provides learners with a better glimpse and helps them to understand necessary steps with the aid of new techniques. Therefore, this helps to eliminate anxiety and confusion.
  1. It creates higher engagement: Captivating learners’ attention is usually challenging for some eLearning designers. This is where scaffolding comes in. With the scaffolding technique, learning becomes easier and makes the teacher appear like a grandmaster of the topic. This boosts learners’ confidence in the material, encouraging them to engage with the content.

The Transfer Learning Principle

This principle states that learning should be designed to aid learners in transferring their accumulated knowledge to new situations. With eLearning in the picture, this principle encourages creating courses that are relevant and applicable to real-life situations. Learners can relate better to content default designed with this principle because they can connect the content to everyday happenings around them, aiding assimilation.

Benefits Of The Transfer Learning Principle

  1. Reflection of training on work: The transfer learning principle makes it easier for learners to transfer the knowledge obtained from the learning content to their job delivery. Since the content is designed to be relatable and applicable, it is bound to influence the employees’ productivity and job performance positively.
  1. Reduced training cost: Due to the transferable knowledge and skills tapped from the learning content, this eLearning strategy can help organizations to cut off the substantial cost of additional training, improving efficiency. Learners can apply lessons learned in one context to diverse situations, reducing the need for new training to combat new challenges. In other words, this principle allows people to resolve new challenges with previous knowledge and skills.

The Individual Differences Learning Principle

This principle recognizes that learners have different strengths and weaknesses. It acknowledges that a content format that might appeal to learner A may be repulsive or difficult for learner B. Therefore, they require a diverse form of instruction and support to maximize their learning potential.

Benefits Of Individual Differences Learning Principle

  1. Personalized learning: It enables eLearning designers to develop personalized learning experiences that accommodate every learner’s unique needs. It allows learners to customize their learning path, permitting them to adopt their preferred learning pace.
  1. Reduced Frustration: eLearning designers help eliminate learners’ frustration and anxiety by recognizing their differences when developing their courses. When learners have a deep insight into the course content and can relate, they become more confident and less frustrated.

Yes, eLearning, particularly in a traditional workplace like the manufacturing industry can seem like a novel idea, and while it does rely on utilizing new technology to teach concepts and train employees, much of eLearning is based on basic principles that have been explored for decades or more.

The key to successfully incorporating eLearning into your workplace or organization really relies on grasping timeless concepts of learning, and then using those to derive effective, efficient, and technologically-advanced eLearning materials.

Provide Context

Providing a context for why an employee is learning something is one of the most important components of making sure the learner is focused, and retains information being presented.


It’s imperative to help learners understand not just the how, but also the why of what’s being presented. For example, directly lay out the way in which particular training materials are going to impact their job and be utilized in the very near future. Employees are more likely to pay attention to and retain information they see as being useful right away, versus in the distant future.

Along the same lines, motivation is key to effective learning. The more motivated the learner, the more likely they are to comprehend and retain the information being given to them. Motivation is increased by giving the learner more autonomy over the experience, and also showing how the material is going to have a positive impact on their life, whether it’s personal or professional.

Create a Hierarchy

Evidence shows information is better understood and retained when it’s presented in a logical hierarchy.

Information needs to be presented in a way where primary materials come first, and then supporting and secondary materials follow. Similarly, when designing a course, concepts should logically build on one another, rather than skipping around or being ordered in a way that doesn’t seem logical.

Research shows presenting information in a hierarchy style can actually improve understanding by as much as 40 percent.

Active Versus Passive

The brain works best when it’s actively learning, as opposed to taking a passive role in the process. Work to include components of active learning in an eLearning course—examples include quizzes and polls, discussion forums, or opportunities to provide feedback.

Active learning tends to be more effective than passive learning because the employee is required to not only take in a set of information, but also decide immediately how to best apply the information they’ve been given, and this often includes the receipt of immediate feedback as well.

Active learning doesn’t have to account for an entire training or eLearning course, but it’s always a good idea to include at least some active learning modules within a course, based on classic learning theories.

The Transfer Effect

The Transfer Effect is a common learning theory that can be harnessed to build more effective eLearning courses.

Essentially what it means is that we learn better when we’re able to build connections between new material and what we’ve learned in the past.

The more easily a learner is able to build connections between old and new, the more likely they are to really learn the new material. When your employee is able to connect the dots between what they already know and what they’re being asked to learn, they’re more likely to not just remember the larger concepts, but also the details.

When creating coursework, keep this in mind and try to include materials that lead the student to access their past knowledge before progressing to new concepts.

These are just a few of the many ways neuroscience has a big impact on eLearning. It’s important when developing a course to think about not just the ways new technology is going to impact learning, but also how tried and true concepts of learning are going to play a role.

Final Thoughts

Classic learning principles have a significant impact on eLearning. By understanding these principles, eLearning designers and developers can create more engaging and effective courses that cater to the needs of learners. Incorporating principles such as reinforcement, feedback, and active learning into eLearning courses can enhance the learning experience and lead to better retention of information. With the increasing demand for online education, it is crucial to remember these principles when designing eLearning courses to ensure learners are motivated and engaged in the learning process. By utilizing classic learning principles, eLearning has the potential to transform education and provide learners with a more effective and enjoyable way to learn.