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A history of distance education and online learning

I am currently studying at home with The Open University for a degree and this has led me to think about the history of distance and online learning.

Distance Education and online learning have long played a big part in adult education. Years back many people went to the evening institutes to gain qualifications because they had to leave school and get what jobs they could at the earliest opportunity because their family needed the money, years back this mean leaving school at 14. When I left school in the 70’s many went in the evenings or indeed in the day, to adult education classes for academic classes and hobbies such as pottery and macramé, many of these adult education classes, often called adult institute were based in schools such as my primary school, on the top floor, though this did of course make access difficult for many. 

As the years went on, it was adult education that suffered some of the biggest cuts to their budget and many centres where there were classes no longer operate or have far fewer classes and charge fees when the courses used to be free.

The Open University used to offer free study to many, especially those in receipt of benefits but now unless a student was studying before this came into being and have transitional funding, students must along with all other students, apply for a student loan to fund their study, I opted to just pay for my course as I do not want to have to eventually pay back a loan and felt that I may as well pay for my module now.

However, adult education and distance and online learning have offered many a chance to pursue an education that they maybe had not been able to continue when they were younger, or to update skills. It has often meant being able to study while keeping up with responsibilities in the home and family and earning an income at work. The discipline involved does not suit everyone, but in various forms it has stood the test of time, here are some examples ~ 

             1840 – Isaac Pitman begins teaching shorthand by correspondence in the UK.
             1858 – The University of London creates its External Program.
             1883 – New York State authorizes the Chautauqua Institute to award degrees earned via correspondence.
             1891 – The Colliery Engineer School of Mines renames itself International Correspondence Schools.
             1892 – The University of Chicago starts administering the first university courses by mail.
             1906 – The Calvert School of Baltimore becomes the first primary school in the United States to offer correspondence courses.
             1916 – The National University Continuing Education Association is created in the United States.
             1921 – Pennsylvania State College begins broadcasting courses on the radio.
             1933 – The University of Iowa begins broadcasting courses on television.
             1950 – The Ford Foundation begins offering grants to create and develop educational programs for television broadcasting.
             1967 – The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is created.
             1970 – Walden University is established.
             1974 – California State University offers a Masters degree via correspondence.
             1982 – The National University Teleconferencing Network is established.
             1984 – The personal computer is named "man of the year" by Time Magazine.

With the increase in the use of home computers and the growth of the internet, distance education has become a very important part of and has a big role in the modern education system, indeed many children are now home schooled. There are countless courses available online, many are free and it is wonderful that unlike education in the classroom, online students, once online can all access the same opportunities often worldwide. Online and distance learning have improved and widened opportunities for so many.

Valerie Hedges

This post first appeared on Job Hunting Over 50?, please read the originial post: here

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A history of distance education and online learning


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