The Power of E-Learning (by the Numbers)

Claude Harrington 03.15.2016

A few weeks ago, we looked at how animated video can be leveraged for e-learning. In that post, we cited a couple of research papers (which taught us that animation has an “intrinsically motivating appeal” and “animated graphics include additional information and the ability to convey more comprehensive content that static graphics alone”) and discussed a handful of techniques that leveraged this information. In light of these findings, as well as evolving technological trends, it’s no surprise that so many organizations are using e-learning for professional development; to educate and train employees. But how many organizations are implementing e-learning courses and what kind of results are they experiencing?

When it comes to e-learning, there are a lot of facts and figures out there. But unfortunately many of them are out-dated or misleading. So today, to help clear up that confusion and paint a picture of the landscape, we’ll take a closer look at some of those most meaningful e-learning statistics out there.


As referenced above, our research yielded all sorts of outdated and misleading figures. Here’s a good example:

  • By implementing e-learning, Ernst and Young reduced its costs by 35% and reduced its training time by about 52%.

That’s an interesting fact, right? Until you realize that it comes from a paper published in April 2002. Given how much the infrastructure of e-learning has changed in the last few years alone, it’s hard to make any sense of a stat like that. With increased efficiency, what that cost reduction be even higher today? Or, paradoxically, was that implementation successful because it was so dramatically different from other types of content being produced at the time?

Along those same lines, here was another popular stat:

  • Corporations save between 50% and 70% when they replace instructor-­based training with e-learning

Again, another interesting tidbit…that comes from a survey conducted in 2002 (by a small business management publisher called IOMA). Once again, this figure–while intriguing–spurs more questions than it answers: What costs were alleviated? On what scale? How would the e-learning implemented by those corporations compare to the courses of today?

Who knows? Especially not when it comes to e-learning, which evolves at such an accelerated pace. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), 59% of talent development leaders predicted that in 2020, “learning will take place in ways we can’t imagine today.”

If the not-so-distant future of e-learning is such an uncertainty, than it seems foolish to rely on stats from the distant past. So to help shed light on the current landscape and understand the value of e-learning for professional development, we’ve compiled a list of the most interesting, compelling and relatively recent (!!) e-learning facts and figures:

  • In 2015, companies spent over $300 billion on corporate training; $161 billion of that was just in the United States (via Training Industry Magazine)
  • Employees are 75% more likely to watch a video than to read documents, emails or web articles (via Forrester Research)
  • 41.7% of the global Fortune 500 use e-learning tools as part of their education program (via IBIS Capital)
  • Within companies that utilized some form of e-learning, 31.9% of training hours were delivered with blended learning techniques and 26.4% were delivered exclusively through the computer (via Training‘s 2015 Industry Report)
  • Online learning earns companies a positive return on investment (ROI) in less than a year (via The ROI of eLearning by Claire Schooley)
  • In a survey conducted by the Association for Talent Development and the Institute for Corporate Productivity, 49% of business and learning professionals stated that gamification improved learning to a high extent (via Playing to Win: Gamification and Serious Games in Organizational Learning)
  • CASE STUDY: At Microsoft, internal analysis revealed that substituting “virtual events for formal in-person classroom training” provided substantial cost savings. The study calculated the costs for classroom training at approximately $320 per hour per participant whereas the cost of conducting a webcast was estimated at $17 per person (via a report entitled How Microsoft Academy facilitated peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, improved learning, and enabled virtual events while reducing costs)

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