White Paper on E-Learning

White Paper on E-Learning

Author: Eleanor Hermon (2015) by TokBox

TokBox, a wholly owned subsidiary of Telefonica, develops and operates OpenTok, a global cloud platform for embedding real-time communications. The scalable, customizable platform gives users the creative freedom to develop any interaction, from one to-one chats to large-scale broadcasts.

Where e-learning platforms have traditionally relied on third party applications, OpenTok allows companies to harness WebRTC to directly embed live video, voice, messaging and screen sharing into web and mobile applications. This creates a seamless learning experience where students and teachers can connect and collaborate in the context of their learning space.

TokBox is trusted by leading educational organizations like Duolingo, Chegg, Minerva Project, University of Washington, and more to provide reliable, scalable, and secure real-time communications experiences. With zero infrastructure setup required, simple documentation and development tools, integration is quick and easy.

The education sector has undergone an accelerated pace of change in recent years, and, as with many traditional industries, technology has been a major force in driving innovation. In recent years, developments in technology have given way to an increase of e-Learning services. Such as, digitization of content, access to internet and devices have been leveraged to enable on-demand learning, where students can access information, consume content and watch pre-recorded lectures. This has given way to a wave of passive learning online. Moreover, new technologies, such as real-time communications, are forecast to revolutionize the e-Learning landscape once more. When implemented effectively, these technologies have the potential not just to match but to surpass the effectiveness of traditional learning methods.

Ambient Insight (2013) highlights that by 2019 50% of all higher education classes will be delivered online. Therefore, there’s no doubt that education, both in and outside of the classroom, is entering a whole new era.

There are a number of factors behind the demand for e-Learning. While technology is a key enabler, mass demand and adoption only take place if there is a link of a number of factors:

  1. New Technologies – e-Learning is being driven by a range of technological innovations e.g. content digitization, reliable Internet access, HD video, smartphones, and embedded communications at the touch of a button. These are enabling a range of new learning methodologies: online courses, real-time video tutoring, virtual exams and more.
  1. New Attitudes – New trends drive new attitudes and mind-sets, which in turn drive new, innovative behaviours. Growing up with new technologies has impacted today’s students. Due to more efficient content distribution, information is available through more channels than ever. The amount of time spent online has created higher expectations among today’s students for interaction, collaboration and visual stimulation. As a response to students habituated to screens and online content, new teaching methods are on the rise.
  1. Rising Demand – One of the key factors in the adoption of e-Learning is the rising global demand for education, for a number of reasons including: a more challenging and competitive job market, economic growth in developing nations and access to the Internet.

The Benefits of e-Learning

  1. E-Learning has the power to increase information retention rates by up to 60%
  2. 77% of academic leaders rate the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face classes
  3. E-Learning can help companies boost productivity by 50%. Every $1 spent in e-Learning results in $30 of productivity

The Power of E-Learning

Cost saving – E-Learning provides cost saving opportunities for academic institutions, allowing them to distribute and scale their learning resources to reach a greater number of geographically dispersed students. Savings through e-Learning provides an important antidote for a future of cutbacks. Moreover, students who are facing their own funding challenges, e-Learning can offer more affordable access to education.

Convenience – E-Learning can be more convenient as it offers students the opportunity to learn wherever and whenever they want. Especially in many rural and developing locations, it is a must-have, providing educational opportunities for many people who have not had access to them previously.

Increased productivity – Research shows that e-Learning can help companies boost their productivity by 50%, with every $1 spent in eLearning resulting in $30 of productivity. Ultimately, e-Learning is also driving better results. Academic studies advise that the use of e-Learning enables students to increase performance, retain more knowledge and engage more in the classroom. It has the power to increase information retention rates by up to 60%

The Role of Real-Time Communications

Despite initial interest in e-Learning services that emphasized on-demand, in-your-own-time leaning anywhere in the world, use of online courses has declined as their hands-off approach resulted in high drop-off rates. One explanation is the rush to transfer learning from one medium to another without taking into account the psychology of learning, the importance of instruction, interactivity and the role of the teacher-student relationship. Use of new technologies is reversing this trend.  Real-time communications are revolutionizing e-Learning by powering true to life, engaging experiences.


Early e-Learning services focused mainly on the migration of content onto digital platforms, fostering a ‘passive’ learning approach. This delivered some cost, time and resource savings, but brought its own problems, such as lack of engagement.

Successful teaching has always been an interactive process. The chemistry between teacher and student is one of the key drivers of retention rates and positive teaching outcomes. The need for interaction has not declined with the rise of the Internet. If anything, with such a growth in available content and information white noise, and a lowering of attention spans, the role of the teacher is even more important today.

Interaction helps improve: instruction, collaboration, support, socialisation and information exchange. Synchronous interaction has been shown to raise student satisfaction.

Contextual e-Learning

As students become comfortable with screen-based and video learning, educators can experiment more with new on-screen formats. The most common and most effective of these is shared screens. This could be two-way interactive video, in which teacher and student share a screen as they talk. For instance, presentations, screen grabs or other video feeds can be included alongside the conversation, creating a rich interactive learning environment.

In scientific education in particular, embedding a real time live video feed of a real world experience: anything from an operation to a hurricane – enables the teacher and pupil to discuss the experience as it happens.

“There are many options for pulling real-time data into your e-Learning. For example, if you are putting together e-Learning courses for stockbrokers, imagine how engaging and relevant you could make your course by pulling in a live feed of the day’s trades from CNN or Yahoo Stock Quotes. Learners in other finance or international business fields might also benefit from a website that shows real-time rates of currency conversion globally and daily market analyses.” Stephanie Ivec, e-Learning Industry


There is a correlation between the rapid growth of online video consumption and habits for video communications. Today’s young students have grown up with a greater visual and less text-based culture. Learning from computers as well as books when they were young has typically improved their pattern recognition and visual segmentation skills. Video is a natural medium for them.

It is not just its popularity as a medium that makes video such a powerful learning tool. Adding visual elements to e-Learning courses enhances knowledge retention. According to neuroscientific research, participants in studies only remember approximately 10% of information presented orally when they’re tested 72 hours after instruction. However, that number jumps by about 65% when an image/video is added to the learning process.

Video is clearly a powerful medium, whether viewed in real time or on demand. However, the use of synchronous, real-time, embedded video offers by far the most exciting opportunities. It combines many of the benefits of face-to face interaction (engagement & knowledge retention) and distance learning (reduction of geographical barriers).

“Seamless real-time chats and video discussions can facilitate peer-to-peer, and educator-to-student(s) exchanges that foster social connections, learning support, feedback or create a space for discussion of concepts and ideas in a way the asynchronous communication cannot.” Online Learning Insights, March 2014

Blended learning

Recent approaches suggest that a combination of methodologies, ‘blended learning’, works best. Combining the MOOC approach with interactive, real-time video learning increases engagement rates, and subsequent course completion rates. Blended learning methods incorporate video as well as text, informal and social learning as well as formal teaching. They use traditional, online and mobile channels. They vary the pace and intensity between real time and on demand content.

“Technology is transforming the way children and young people play, access information, communicate with each other and learn – and yet so far it has largely failed to transform most schools or universities or most teaching and learning in many classrooms and lecture halls. [The only places it is doing so is] through some form of blended learning – where teachers, students and data work together to create an active learning environment.” John Fallon, CEO, Pearson

The Use Cases

Online Tutoring

Real-time communications allow students to connect instantly for face to face tutorials, no matter where they are.  In these sessions, participants have the ability to share documents in real time and collaborate with an online whiteboard. The use of embedded synchronous video means that, for the first time, online learning can deliver seamless real-time interactions, feedback, learning support and genuine social connections.

 Virtual Classrooms

Leveraging real-time communication technologies to build interactive online classrooms, educators can extend their reach and students have the opportunity to attend classes remotely and collaborate with their peers wherever and whenever they need. Enhanced and collaborative features like audio detection, screen sharing, and whiteboard capabilities, ensure that everyone stays connected.

Virtual Exams

Distance learning enables convenient and more affordable education but often these benefits are negated by the necessity of physical attendance at exams. New services, powered by real-time video, connect students with remote proctors so that they can sit a controlled and regulated exam from wherever they are.

Online Collaboration

Online collaboration is increasingly adopted by today’s learners. 66% of business organizations have already adopted social learning techniques, such as discussion forums, blogs, instant messaging, video channels, and other collaboration tools. Asynchronous informal sources such as YouTube play host to a huge range of ‘how to’ videos, from simple to professional but synchronous, shared screen, video services offer the biggest opportunities.

Expert Knowledge

Real-time video technologies can help students connect and collaborate synchronously with tutors, researchers and peers from different campuses or even countries.  Leveraging these technologies, geographical barriers are broken down enabling access to more and a greater variety of information and input.

Conclusions: The Way Ahead

The first wave of e-Learning impacted education. But the second wave – active real-time e-Learning using technologies is set to revolutionize it.

The first push of online education moved resources online, freeing up providers and making education available to anyone, anywhere in the world, all with the click of a mouse. However, effective online education is about more than digitizing learning materials. The fundamentals of education including collaboration, communication and interaction are, and always will be, integral to the learning experience.

Now, thanks to advances in technology, active e-Learning is enabling more effective online education. Both content and the essential human elements of teaching and learning can all be experienced in the same place from a computer or mobile device anywhere in the world.  Innovative companies are creating entirely new learning platforms that draw on content, but most importantly enable rich, real-time and contextual communication, enhancing both the learning experience and outcomes.

Communication technology providers, not only enable real-time communication, but can be seamlessly embedded into the learning experience, maintaining the context that is so crucial for effective learning.

Key Takeaways:

  • e-Learning is the future of education – by 2019 it is predicted that 50% of all classes will be delivered online.
  • The demand for interactive e-Learning continues to increase at an unprecedented rate and needs an innovative solution.
  • WebRTC is the ideal answer, enabling cost-effective and engaging educational experiences at scale.
  • The benefits of leveraging new technologies will be huge – saving money, promoting inclusivity and boosting productivity.

The global market for education is bigger than ever, and is constantly expanding.