Over the last decade e-learning or online learning has grown by leaps and bounds and

all of us have in some or the other way experienced e-learning. E-learning in its current avatar is more learner centric and uses AI and other technologies to constantly align with the learner’s requirements.

However as instructional designers or L&D professionals it’s always worthwhile to revisit the fundamentals of designing an e-learning course and it starts with identifying the levels of e-learning. Before we delve deep into these levels of e-learning, let’s understand why do we need different levels in the first place.

Why do we need levels of e-learning?

Levels are differentiators that help the instructional designers and the stakeholders to differentiate how much of knowledge, information and data like low, medium, high or less, more etc needs to be presented to the learner while designing an e-learning course.

Some of the factors that help us in understanding the levels of an e-learning module are:

  1. Interactivity – The amount of interaction that the learner has with the e-learning. Some of the ways in which interactivity is in built in the e-learning course are:
  • Page turners – Learners can choose to view the next slide when they are ready eg.click next to continue
  • Click to reveal/ drag-drop – Clickable text or images that  reveal information or objects that can be dragged and dropped in order to proceed through the module.
  • Branched scenarios– Interactions created around learners making choices by clicking/dragging/typing leading to the respective scenarios
  • Advanced programmed interactions-mainly e-learning games,  gamification, advanced quizzes, etc.
  1. Multimedia – The amount of multimedia-graphics (infographics, stock images, vectors, icons), animations, voice, videos that can be placed ine-learning
  2. Budget – The budget sanctioned to develop an e-learning course
  3. Learning Objectives – Retention/Recall/Application – This is the most important factor as the focus should be on learning, which is supported by the other three factors. The most used model in determining the learning objectives is Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Basis the above factors, e-learning can be categorized into three different levels which are :

1.  Level I (The Basic level which focuses on imparting information or knowledge to the learners)

2. Level II (The Intermediate level which focuses on the understanding of the information and its demonstration on the job)

3. Level III (The Highest level which focuses on the application of the acquired knowledge in a new situation)


  • Ideal for facts based learningas it presents limited information on the screen at a time.
  • Simple visuals mainly stock images or vectors with voice over
  • MCQ types quizzes at the end of each topic
  • Comprehensive question bank based assessment at the end of the module
  • Run time of about 15 mins per module

Eg. Computer hardware, installing a software, Dos & Don’ts or even for imparting the basics of a soft skill.

Here are a few examples to demonstrate level-I of e-learning:



The level I of e-learning is best suited when your learning objective is to just inform the learners on the topic. For example, if you want to tell the learners on a new policy update to your information security policy or a product update, you can use level I of e-learning.

Level-II: Understanding

  • Focuses on creating an understanding  of the subject matter with examplesby answering questions like ‘How’ and ‘Why’
  • Includes engaging multimedia like graphic scenarios, whiteboard explainer videos as well as characters and avatars.
  • Can also include branched scenariosand scenario based assessments to gauge the understanding of the learner.

Eg.POSH, Information security



Referring to the same example of information security  if your learning objective is to ensure that the employees do not make any mistake by opening an email from an unknown source or download a spear phishing mail etc then Level II, e-learning can better serve the purpose as it focuses on understanding and demonstration of the particular behaviour on the job.

Level-III: Application

  • Focus is on creating learner experience and subconsciousengagement aimed towards application of learning
  • Uses situations and simulations to drive the application
  • Designed for consistency of actions
  • High multimedia and interactivity

Eg. Application software usage, operating on equipment


The Level III of e-learning is often used when the learner is required to apply the concepts or the information to achieve a certain objective. For example incase of safety training, how to lift a heavy object or how to deal with safety incidents like collapse of an excavation site or a fire at factory premises or leakage of gas at one of the fuel stations etc. are all examples where the learner is required to apply the learning in a real situation and Level III of e-learning can best suit the requirement.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the three levels of e-learning:

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
Learning Objective When the objective is to distribute information quickly or when a client wants to simply present their rules, terms and conditions or procedures, etc. The objective is to help the learner not only know but understand the subject matter. This type of learning is recommended for more advanced training, demonstrations and experiential learning on any topic.

Contents are presented in the context of real business problems (problem-based approach).

Interactivity and Assessments In Level I, there is multiple choice exercises, pop-ups, rollovers or simple animations with static images and texts Level II adds a component of scenario-based and some interactive animations where the learner has the ability to  understand and practice Include complex simulations where the learner must enter actual data into fields and experience the results.In addition, scenario-based branching logic is also used.
Multimedia Limited multimedia mainly consisting of basic images-feel of a powerpoint presentation Medium level of multimedia is used.
There is more graphics, audio and video and smaller animations like whiteboard animations or explainer videos in the module
Moving animations, game based templates etc are used