A guide to authentic elearning - blog header image with older male worker using a VR headset

A Guide to Authentic eLearning

In Instructional Design by Eoin O'Neill

Our Word of the Day… ‘Authenticity’

Welcome to a world where online learning isn’t just about ticking boxes or passing tests; it’s about bringing real-life experiences into the digital realm. Today, we’re looking at the heart of effective eLearning—authenticity.

In a sea of virtual classrooms and online modules, standing out means more than just slick graphics or flashy animations. It’s about creating an experience that resonates, that feels as real and relatable as the situations learners encounter in their everyday lives. So, how do we infuse authenticity into eLearning? Let’s take a look around a guide to authentic eLearning.

Embracing Real-World Scenarios

Authentic eLearning doesn’t just tell learners how to solve a problem; it immerses them in real-life decision-making scenarios. Picture this: instead of theoretical scenarios, learners engage in simulations mirroring actual challenges they might face. Whether it’s a customer service interaction or a managerial decision, these scenarios foster critical thinking and active participation.

Example: Gamified learning can reflect real-world challenges like this Pen Game we developed for one of our customers. To show young farmers how to properly use cattle pens.

Example of gamified learning for Farm Family CPD where learners have to go through the actual process of maneuvering cattle

Beyond Text: Utilising Multimodal Elements

We’re in an age where a picture speaks a thousand words, and a video even more. Authentic eLearning leverages imagery, videos, and interactive elements to captivate learners. Imagine a training module with a mix of explanatory videos, infographics, and VR simulations—it’s not just informative; it’s an experience.

Example: Using Virtual Reality to provide learners with an authentic eLearning experience. Allowing for true to life practice in a safe space.

Example of VR simulation for eLearning - real situational learning

The Role of Language in Authenticity

Ever been in a training where the language felt robotic? Authentic eLearning speaks the learners’ language. It’s conversational, relatable, and devoid of jargon overload. The tone isn’t just informative; it’s engaging. It’s like having a conversation with an expert who understands and connects with you.

The Impact of Authenticity

When learners feel connected to the material, they’re more engaged, motivated, and likely to retain information. Authentic eLearning isn’t just about completing a course; it’s about empowering individuals with skills they can immediately apply.

In a nutshell, authentic eLearning is the difference between a mere course completion and real learning. It’s about preparing individuals for the challenges waiting for them outside the digital walls. So, let’s create eLearning experiences that aren’t just informative but transformative, mirroring the richness of real life.


  • Mayer, R. E. (Ed.). (2014). The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning. Cambridge University Press.
  • Plass, J. L., & Jones, L. (2019). The Impact of Language and Culture in eLearning. Springer.
  • Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2013). Lessons from the Virtual Classroom: The Realities of Online Teaching. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Lombardi, M. M. (2008). Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview. Educause Learning Initiative.