The History of Distance Learning

Douglas Wallace, Staff Reporter

Distance learning, although its new a new way of learning for most teenagers, learning from home is not a new concept.

Distance learning has existed long before the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020, although it is debated historically whether it started in the 18th or 19th century. The first iteration of distance learning was called Correspondence Education. The process was very slow and involved students getting their work through the mail and responding through the mail.  Even though the process of Correspondence Education was slow, it ironically spread quickly through other countries with the development of the mail service.

Correspondence Education evolved with technology with the invention of the radio. Students would tune in from the comfort of their homes to learn which would help students continue their education during the polio epidemic of 1937.  During this  outbreak, teachers had the idea of a school via radio.

Newspapers would print the class schedules for each morning of school. Classes were even shorter than they are now, being only 15 minutes. Their objective was to keep the information informative and entertaining which is very similar to the approach teachers are taking now with the current form of distance learning.

In the 1980’s with the constant evolution of technology distance learning had to adapt. Teachers decided to combine the already known phone communication with the television. Now students could see their teachers and call in when they needed help. This form of distance learning even got bigger brands involved like HP and IBM which would later go on to develop computers.

The next major evolution with distance learning was with the development of the home computer in the 1990’s. The University of Phoenix was the first college to fully launch an online college, where students were able to obtain a bachelors degree and a masters through an online program.

Distance learning certainly isn’t a trend as many students use it to learn and many leaders see it as a great form of learning. In 2012, 69% of academic leaders stated that distance learning was essential to their long term strategy.

Between the years of 2010 and 2012, Americans saw a leveled out rate of students using distance learning.  As of the fall of 2012 with 20.6 million college level students enrolled, 6.7 million of students chose online learning.

It seems no matter what situation teachers find themselves in, the education system has been able to adapt and overcome any problem thrown its way to keep its students informed.