Objectives:  To systematically review the UK published literature on e-learning in the health workplace and to apply the findings to one of the most prolific UK e-learning initiatives in the health sector—the National Library for Health Facilitated Online Learning Interactive Opportunity (FOLIO) Programme.

Methods:  Sensitive searches were conducted across assia, Australian Education Index, British Education Index, cinahl, CSA Abstracts, Dissertation Abstracts, Emerald, eric, ibss, Index to Theses, lisa, medline, PsycInfo and Social Science Citation Index. Additional citations were identified from reference lists of included studies and of relevant reviews; citation tracking and contact with experts. Twenty-nine studies met the inclusion criteria and were coded and analysed using thematic analysis as described by Miles & Huberman (Qualitative Data Analysis: A Sourcebook of New Methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1984).

Results:  Five broad themes were identified from the 29 included studies: (i) peer communication; (ii) flexibility; (iii) support; (iv) knowledge validation; and (v) course presentation and design. These broad themes were supported by a total of eleven sub-themes. Components from the FOLIO Programme were analysed and existing and proposed developments were mapped against each sub-theme. This provides a valuable framework for ongoing course development.

Conclusion:  Librarians involved in delivering and supporting e-learning can benefit from applying the findings from the systematic review to existing programmes, exemplified by the FOLIO Programme. The resultant framework can also be used in developing new e-learning programmes.