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The Evolution of Distance Education

Since the development, and wide-spread adoption of the internet, distance learning has taken a tremendous step forward. This technological advance has led to a fast-paced evolution in online learning. Along with the adoption of technology has come the increased popularity of this learning medium. This article will explore the progression of distance learning and the advancements in distance learning that brought us to the online education we take for granted today.

Education by Mail

Distance learning made its debut when, in the Boston Gazette, one Mr. Phillips placed an ad seeking students for his mail-based shorthand course. This system evolved in the 1840s when Sir Isaac Pitman offered a comparable course with postcards. He would send them, written in shorthand, and receive them back from students, correct them, and send them back. The presence of student feedback was previously missing from Mr. Phillips, or anyone else’s courses. As distance learning rose in popularity, the Phonographic Correspondence Society was founded, and all of these things eventually paved the way for Sir Pitman’s colleges to expand across Europe.

Formal Distance Programs

The first official distance learning program was pioneered by The University of London. Chartered by Queen Victoria, this London institution was the first recognized educational program to offer distance learning options to their students. With this major university as an outlet, formalized education was now more available than ever, and accessible to the less affluent members of society. The adoption of these programs gained popularity throughout the 20th century with institutions like Columbia University and enrolling students en masse, reaching 900,000 students by 1906.

Radio and T.V. Broadcast

With development of radio technology in the 1930s, distance education took a tremendous step forward. By 1938, more than 200 city education systems, twenty five education boards, and several universities were broadcasting instructional programming to public schools. As radio was overtaken by television, educational programming followed suit. Universities implemented this technology to offer satellite and cable courses, which are still utilized today by some programs.

Online Learning

E-Learning is characterized by the utilization of technology and communications mechanisms to distribute relevant education materials. With today’s technology, the level of interaction possible in distance learning is unprecedented. This medium allows students to experience something close to the traditional classroom experience, but is much more widely accessible and flexible. With lectures, videos, course materials and the like available at the push of a button, access to quality engaging education is at an all-time high. With the obvious advantages of online education programs, traditional universities are attempting to capitalize on the online trend. Almost 50% of all students today are taking courses online. With the rapid development of technology, the popularity and interactivity of e-learning is likely to continue its development. Some programs used artificial environments like the popular virtual reality game Second Life as a tool for interaction in digital education.

Increasing Popularity of Online Graduates

Along with the growth of online education has come an increasing demand for online graduates. Certain fields have blossomed more than others. The Development of technology has led to new specializations in healthcare such as medication therapy management and a tremendous demand for medical professionals equipped to handle these advances. The development of technology and the availability of education will likely lead to a higher overall level of education of professionals in years to come. We have already witnessed increase demand for advanced degrees, as top companies seek MBA grads and other graduate degrees. With the demand from employers for highly educated individuals and the corresponding demand of students for these degrees, many universities are scrambling for the digital education dollar.

 

Kirk Kerr

About Kirk Kerr

Kirk Kerr is a recent alumnus of the College of Idaho and a lifelong learner and lover of education. When he’s not pushing his nose into a great fiction novel, he is developing his writing portfolio.

Kirk Kerr

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