MET:Rapid E-Learning

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Rapid e-learning (REL) uses computer technology to provide fast, inexpensive, and high impact training to learners.

Rapid e-Learning or REL is one of the three types of e-learning: rapid, traditional, and strategic (De Vries and Bersin, 2004). It is “emerging as the fastest-growing category of online training” (Bersin, 2005, p. 21). Organizations recognize the incredible impact REL has on their training efforts. It is an easy, cost effective solution for training small or large groups. REL uses traditional training software. Programs are developed in-house by learning professionals and subject matter experts (SMEs) or outsourced to companies such as kineo or Prometheus Training Corporation.


The word “rapid” suggests that programs are created and delivered quickly. This is not always the case. REL does not mean rapid development. It can take anywhere from two hours to two months to create a comprehensive learning experience. Bersin & Associates define REL by the following criteria:

  • Courseware that can be developed in less than three weeks
  • SMEs are the primary resource for development
  • PowerPoint or pre-designed templates are used for the foundation
  • Assessment, feedback, and tracking tools are included
  • Media elements which enhance learning but do not create technology barriers may be included (e.g. voice)
  • Learning experience is less than one hour, preferably less than 30 minutes
  • Synchronous and asynchronous programs are used (De Vries and Bersin, 2004)


REL relies on the use of technology, software, and the Internet. There are different tools used for synchronous and asynchronous training. However, the dominant software for both is PowerPoint. It can be used to deliver a slideshow over the Internet using a service like WebEx; or transformed into Flash content using a tool like Articulate Presenter. REL products include more than just delivery tools. Also, they include tools for assessment and evaluation. Most of the REL products on the market are AICC and SCORM compliant for learning management systems. This allows the organization and the learner to track progress, successes, and areas for improvement. Some examples of REL products include:




Benefits to an Organization

REL offers several benefits. It can be developed and delivered in a variety of ways. It offers synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities, rapid development, assessment and tracking, and overall cost effectiveness.

Rapid e-learning (REL) allows one trainer to reach a high volume of learners.

Organizations can allow their SMEs to dump information into pre-designed templates. This speeds up the development and approval process for training materials by side-stepping learning professionals and instructional designers. This does not mean learning professionals and instructional designers are not essential to REL development. In fact, as Josh Bersin points out, they actually become more important because they set the standards, establish the guidelines, and coach the SMEs through the development process (Bersin, 2005). Allowing SMEs to create the REL programs reduces development costs by one-third to one half (The Institute of Management & Administration [IOMA], 2004).

Another benefit of REL is creating cost effective training for high volumes of learners; as well as remote and rural learners. Virtual classrooms require one trainer providing a consistent message to a predetermined or unlimited amount of learners. Self-directed programs can be placed on organization Intranet sites or made available via web link, e-mail, or hard copy (CD-ROM).

Benefits to the Learner

REL programs are typically shorter than traditional training programs. This means less time commitment and more flexibility for the learner. Self-directed programs allow learners to take programs when they want to, at their own pace, and repeat a program if necessary. Employees are busy throughout their work day and REL programs provide them the opportunities to schedule their own learning opportunities.

REL programs provide a consistent message from a single or a few sources. In most cases these sources are SMEs. The learner gets accurate information straight from an expert. The information is not diluted because of a lengthy development phase including SMEs, instructional designers, and learning professionals.


Critics of REL argue that organizations misuse it because they focus on quick and inexpensive training, not developing meaningful learning experiences. As Dave Madden points out, most SMEs do not know a great deal about teaching (Madden, 2008). They do not understand adult learning principles, learning cycles, or appropriate assessment tools. For this reason it is important to remember that the role of the instructional designer and learning professional is not eliminated. Rather, it shifts from developer to coach.

File:REL when to use.png
This chart outlines when rapid e-learning is an appripriate solution for training needs.

REL is not a solution for all training needs. It is only one of three components of e-learning. An organization needs to understand the specific goals it can achieve and how to use it appropriately. This is where the role of the instructional designers and learning professionals becomes important. They can assess training needs and decide if REL is the appropriate choice.

An organization needs to recognize the importance of learning support services. A learner cannot feel abandoned by their learning experince. It is important to establish support services such as follow up e-mails, blogs, fourms, or wikis. If the learner is not continuously supported he/she will be less likely to succeed with the application of knowledge.

Rapid e-Learning as Constructivist Learning

REL programs require learners to be self-motivated. This aligns with social constructivist ideas that there should be a shift from teacher-focused to learner-focused learning experiences. Learners take responsibility for their own learning, what they get out of the learning, and how they will apply their learning. They are able to use their previous knowledge to build new ideas and then apply them in the workplace. Learners are also part of support networking. People are able to question, answer, and collaborate with fellow learners via web 2.0 applications like wikis, blogs, and forums.

External Links

Rapid e-Learning Blog

eLearning Guild2007 - Rapid eLearning Panel

See Also

Challenges for E-Learning

Corporate E-Learning

Stop Motion Video


Bersin, J. (2005). Making Rapid e-Learning Work. Retrieved February 21, 2009, from

Bezovski, Z. & Poorani, S. (2016, March). The Evolution of E-Learning and New Trends. In Information and Knowledge Management (Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 50-57). IISTE.

De Vries, J., & Bersin, J. (2004). Rapid e-Learning: What Works. Retrieved February 20, 2009, from Macromedia:

Institute of Management & Administration. (2004). Using Rapid e-Learning to Deliver Training Now!. IOMA's Report on Managing Training & Development. 4(6). Retreived from

Kidd, T. (2010). A brief history of eLearning. In T. Kidd (ed.), Online education and adult learning: New frontiers for teaching practices (pp. 46-53). Hershey PA: Information Science Reference.

Madden, D. (2008, October). The Limits of Rapid e-Learning. e.learning age, 25.

Pandey, A. (2017). 6 facts about rapid elearning development that will impress your boss. Retrieved from Pappas, C. (2016). Rapid elearning authoring tools: 7 benefits for elearning professionals. Retrieved from

Piave, Nicolo A. (2008). Rapid e-Learning, as an informal educational tool for advanced students. Retreived February 20, 2009, from