Self-paced e-learning has become a common feature of corporate training around the world, with an estimated global market value of USD 12 billion in 2015 (Business Wire, 2016). This type of e-learning tends to be provided via a central library, or Learning Management System, that employees can access whenever they want to update their skills or are asked to complete mandatory training. However, the ease of measuring cost savings and difficulty of measuring educational outcomes raises questions about how well corporate e-learning is designed for how people learn (see Strother, 2002), and may have contributed to some commentators arguing that: ‘most instructional procedures were developed without any consideration or knowledge of the structure of information or cognitive architecture’ (Paas, Renkl and Sweller, 2003, p 2).
Isolation in online learning environments
From the outset, the internet has had a complicated relationship with isolation. In 1998, Kraut et al highlighted what they termed the ‘Internet paradox’: that this technology, with the capacity to connect people all over the world, seemed to have a negative impact on users’ ‘social involvement and psychological well-being’ (cited in Kraut et al 2002).