eLearning is a means of learning using technology to enhance the traditional approach to learning. It is commonly accepted that the real route to eLearning success is via a blended delivery approach which combines both traditional and new delivery methods.

eLearning has advantages over traditional classroom training for a number of reasons, including:

  • just-in-time learning *
  • standardised learning
  • self-paced learning
  • flexible means of assessment
  • no travel costs
  • no need for a classroom
  • cost-effective.

There are, however, drawbacks that users should be alert to:

  • requires computer access
  • may need access to the Internet (or wide area network)
  • requires basis computer skills
  • does not suit all learners
  • materials vary in quality
  • development costs of good quality bespoke material can be high
  • not all material is compatible with underlying learning management systems.

The decision to use eLearning should be based on a sound business case, with criteria including:

  • cost/practicality of getting learners engaged
  • availability of computers
  • literacy of learners
  • purchase/development costs
  • numbers to be trained.

The NHS has done a lot of work on eLearning over the past decade, much of this taking place at local and regional level. Now, the NHS is investing in national eLearning capability through the Electronic Staff Record (ESR).

This is possible through the National Learning Management System (NLMS) that will make eLearning available to all NHS employees in England with a staff record on ESR.


  • Microsoft NHS Resource Centre: an interactive web portal provided by Microsoft for NHS staff, sharing best practice and experience across healthcare and IT through articles, events, tips, user groups and discussion forums. Includes access to eLearning on Office 2003, Office 2007, Project, SharePoint and Windows Vista.
  • Specific eLearning modules: a number of local, regional and national eLearning products are in use, a few of these relating to health informatics (note that access may be restricted and/or costs apply):
    • Summary Care Record (SCR): an eLearning course that explains the role of the Summary Care Record (SCR) application in the NHS CRS (the Spine) and introduces the user interface and navigation. It explains the functionality by following a user journey through the process of finding a patient and accessing their Summary Care Record.
    • Information Governance: an eLearning training tool from NHS Connecting for Health, providing introductory training (all staff), foundation training (for those processing personal information in their role) and practitioner training (for those in Information Governance roles).
    • Clinical coding: modules in the 'Four-step coding process for ICD-10' & 'Anatomy and physiolog' are available from NHS Connecting for Health
    • SNOMED CT: SNOMED CT is the chosen clinical terminology for the NHS in England; anyone who works with systems that use SNOMED CT can gain a good understanding of this terming and coding standard by completing this e-learning module.
    • Virtual College eLearning NHS series: an example of eLearning developed for the NHS and available commercially, addressing subjects such as Confidentiality, Data Protection, Freedom of Information, Risk Assessment. See also Health eLearning, offering a similar commercial service. 
    • Auto Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) eLearning course: this course has been created to provide a high level introduction of AIDC, how it is used and what it will mean to NHS staff.
    • Spine eKnowledge Tool: this is a user-friendly, high level theoretical overview of the national application technology employed by NHS Connecting for Health. The module may be helpful for non-technical NHS staff and other users of the National Programme for IT, and potentially suppliers or students-in-training.
    • Personal Demographics Service: this has been created to provide a high level theoretical awareness of what PDS is and how it is used.
    • National Application Service Provider applications training (NHS staff only, N3 connection required)
    • The e-Skills IT Professional Foundation Programme: this is a modular programme delivered by employers, training partners and universities and includes e-learning.
  • NHS Microsoft IT Academies: these are accredited training and examination centres for NHS staff wishing to complete Microsoft Office and technical certifications, with access to e-learning.
  • IT Professional training is now available for NHS staff through the Microsoft NHS Resource Centre in conjunction with the NHS Microsoft IT Academies. Over 800 online courses can be used for accredited certifications via the academies.
  • A paper outlining the findings from an NHS CFH research project on the use of Learning Management Systems (LMS) within the NHS (PDF, 833Kb).
  • This paper demonstrates the central importance of elearning (PDF, 729Kb) to the success of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) and to provides an introduction to the activities, projects and products already in existence or under development at a national level.

Further information

  • European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) has been augmented by the Essential IT Skills Programme (EITS). The EITS programme is managed and funded by DH Informatics, and offers essential IT learning materials and testing to NHS employees across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Some Trusts are continuing with ECDL by funding it themselves: see Health eLearning. The new ECDL Syllabus 5 is now directly fundable as a level 2 qualifcation.
  • National Learning Management System: as part of a joint initiative between the Department of Health, NHS Connecting for Health and the Electronic Staff Record (ESR) project, the learning management functionality through the ESR also provides elearning capability.
  • Interview with National Director of eLearning: audio interview with Julia Moore, National Director of eLearning for Healthcare in the NHS, looking at the use of eLearning in training Radiologists.
  • NHS Learning Academy: access to a variety of learning packages and associated reference materials in a number of priority areas, including statutory and core skills together with user guide, case studies, strategies and sharing of best practice.

* Just-in-time learning is learning that is accessed when and where they need it. Rather than sitting through hours of traditional classroom training, users can tap into Web-based tutorials, interactive CD-ROMs and other tools to zero in on just the information they need to solve problems, perform specific tasks or quickly update their skills.