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Corporate eLearning vs. Academic eLearning: Bridging the Differences

People often regard academic and corporate spheres as two opposing worlds. And they think about the learning processes in the academic and corporate environments in the same manner. However, since remote work initiatives started two years ago, both spheres have had to adopt digital, or eLearning, technologies on a greater scale than ever before.

That gave a new impetus to the two branches of eLearning: corporate and academic.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to corporate eLearning, explain the way in which it differs from remote learning in academia, and highlight their possible commonalities.

What Is Corporate eLearning?

Corporate eLearning is comprised of the ways that a company uses online technologies for corporate training. The main goal of any corporate training is to provide learners (employees, partners, and even customers) with the knowledge and skills needed to help the company succeed. Depending on the company’s size, corporate eLearning, together with other training activities, is the responsibility of either the Human Resources department or the Learning and Development team.

What Do Corporate and Academic eLearning Have in Common?

The main feature that is common between these two realms is the use of the Internet and technologies for learning. For instance, during the past two years, you most likely prepared numerous slide-based lectures, right? Or mastered Microsoft Teams from zero to hero? Or felt relieved each time you managed to get your learners to turn on their cameras in Zoom? Chances are that your colleagues from the corporate sphere did pretty much the same.

That brings us to some other common traits of corporate and academic eLearning:

  • Learning delivery methods. Both schools and companies have not only traditional face-to-face training but also use online courses, conduct virtual classrooms, and combine offline and online activities in blended learning programs.
  • Use of authoring tools. University instructors and corporate trainers can utilize this special type of software to create eLearning content (lessons, courses, quizzes, videos, etc.)
  • Learning management systems. Both enterprises and educational institutions use LMSs to deliver training/educational content, manage course assignments, and track learner progress.
  • System approach. As with college and university students, corporate learners also have their ‘majors’ and need to get job-specific knowledge, like negotiation training for salespeople or accounting software tutorials for accountants.
  • Both these realms of eLearning evaluate knowledge with quizzes during formative and summative assessments.
  • The need for engagement. Corporate instructors also have to come up with engagement strategies and find ways to keep remote learners interested. 31% of companies even deem learner engagement to be the biggest training challenge during the pandemic.

What Differentiates Corporate eLearning from Academic eLearning?

Now, let’s take a look at the distinctive features of corporate eLearning:

  • For companies, training has to be aligned with business goals and add value. For learners, it addresses their professional goals and can be career-making.
  • Speed. Corporate training is fast-paced because companies want to realize its results as soon as possible. This affects the length of training modules, as they should be suitable for rapid passage.
  • Training in companies is strongly practice- and skill-oriented, whereas higher education primarily aims to build understanding and teach students about making connections across subjects.
  • The corporate training audience is broader and includes both young, middle age, and older adults. They tend to have busier schedules and expect training to bring solutions for their work and daily life.
  • Value for money. For companies, payback is everything, and training should also bring a good return on investment.
  • Tracking and reporting. Corporate eLearning strives to measure the effectiveness of training in hard numbers and actively utilizes the reporting features of learning management systems.


Indeed, the corporate and academic worlds are different but interrelated. One clear example: it’s the schools that actually teach people how to retrieve and retain knowledge, and they keep using this skill their entire life, in the workplace too.

Likewise, we can learn a lot from the differences between corporate and academic eLearning. Below are a few helpful ideas to boost online training effectiveness in both realms.

What Can the Academic Sphere Teach Corporate Training?

The great merit of the academic realm is the bond between students and their instructors. Schools cultivate extensive feedback, foster in-classroom interactions, and create a collaborative environment. Blending online and video courses with discussions in break-out rooms, fun quizzes, polls, and group assignments, helps keep this human touch and lively aspect in academic eLearning.

The same can be applied to corporate training. Social learning elements, like peer-to-peer learning, mentorship, and meaningful feedback, will help employees retain new knowledge better and break down silos. For its corporate eLearning program, a company can implement these elements through interactive role-plays and other scenario-based activities that imply customizable feedback.

Another thing that the corporate sphere can learn from academia is its well-elaborated curriculums and programs. Some companies may still lack an understanding of training as a serious endeavor. Corporate eLearning will be more effective if it is planned carefully before being launched.

What Can the Academic Sphere Learn from Corporate Training?

Corporate eLearning is scalable, replicable, and efficient. It aims to save as much effort, time, and money as possible and streamline training-related processes. In fact, you can bring this approach to remote learning and reach a larger number of students. Check out the success stories below and get a few ideas on how you can lighten your workload!

For example, you can enable self-paced online learning with engaging quizzes, as they did at Middlesex University. As a result, the team of library liaisons managed to replicate various in-classroom activities in the online environment and reinforce students’ understanding of the training materials.

Or, you can adopt a pragmatic approach in choosing authoring software. As a teacher, you have little time available for mastering complex tools. Like the Danish adult education school Daghøjskolenand, you can opt for the tools that won’t need IT skills and launch a remote learning program in short order.

Final Thoughts

People don’t stop learning after graduation, and those who continue their careers in the corporate sphere have workplace training. Since the rise of digital technologies and remote work, eLearning is present in both the academic and corporate worlds. Although these two realms have differences in approaches, with robust software and interactive content, both academic and corporate eLearning will be successful!

Helen Colman

Corporate eLearning vs. Academic eLearning: Bridging the Differences

Helen is an editor and content strategist at iSpring. She enjoys combining in-depth research with expert knowledge of the eLearning industry.