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History of Distance Learning

Aug 17, 2007
The history of distance learning can be traced back to the 1890's. Distance education was then known as correspondence course. The University of Wisconsin was the pioneer in this venture supported by other universities. This was the era when there was no concept of "media". There was no television, and the internet was too distant a dream. Sending paper through regular mail was the only "medium" of instruction. Correspondence courses ruled the roost until the time television came to life. Television was perceived to be an excellent medium for spreading education. Even today, this has remained a dream.

Post World War II

World war II brought major changes to the lives and styles of citizens. The history of distance learning got a shot in the arm when extension courses became popular. While this idea had been popular in the UK for over 50 years, the USA did not discover it until the early 50's. American universities borrowed the concept from the universities of Cambridge and Oxford in the UK. This included developing an off-campus system for university programs.

The mid 60's also saw the launch of what was then the largest classroom for physicians. This was set up through telephone networks in Wisconsin. In the late 60's, a Carnegie funded program termed AIM, Articulated Instructional Media, was developed. The early 70's were witness to many telecourses developed by various universities. Telecourses, as the name suggests, used to be delivered through television with the program being beamed into the households where the students would take the courses. The assignments were sent by regular mail, and returned by the same mode. It was a time-consuming process.

Arrival of Cable TV

Cable TV changed the way Americans lived. The year 1987 saw the launch of an education channel called M/EU. This was an abbreviated form of Mind Extension University. Hendricks brought in the Discovery Channel as a mode of spreading education through entertainment. The history of distance learning is littered with experiments done by enthusiasts and educationist of various hues. The distance learning world changed dramatically with the entry of the internet.

The internet is responsible for changing the way people perceived life, it brought in the element of interaction for the first time in the history of distance learning. Earlier attempts in distance education were limited to one-way monologues. The internet changed this to a dialogue between two or more people simultaneously. Earlier versions of the internet were restricted to text only message exchanges. These modes are slowly being replaced with hi definition and hi resolution video streams. The internet, it seems, was made for distance learning.
About the Author
Jim Zorn is web master of the Guide to Distance Learning. Please visit to learn more about online colleges and universities, distance learning degrees, majors and courses offered.
http://www.guide-to-distance-learning.com/index.html
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