Learning From a Distance

Many of us here at OmniBiz Services are Xennials, the micro-generation born between the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. We grew up with an analog childhood and a digital adulthood, and are also known as the Oregon Trail generation.

While watching Saturday morning cartoons or TGIF, we were inundated with commercials like these, for at-home learning courses. Most notably the commercials with Sally Struthers and her giant hair that encouraged us to call a toll-free number to get information about at-home courses in TV/VCR repair, computer programming, and yes, even gun repair. The face of distance learning has changed dramatically since then. Did you know that correspondence courses have existed in many different forms since the 1700’s? From snail mail to high speed internet, distance learning has evolved drastically over the past 250+ years. 

Snail Mail 

The first known example of a correspondence course was by a man named Caleb Phillips in 1728. He ran an ad in the Boston Gazette offering to teach people shorthand by exchanging letters. Others followed suit, but it wasn’t until 1873 that the first correspondence school was opened. The school was called The Society to Encourage Studies at Home, and was founded by Anna Eliot Ticknor. Ticknor was a daughter of a Harvard professor. She opened the school with the goal “to induce among ladies the habit of devoting some part of every day to study of a systematic and thorough kind.” Teachers and students corresponded by letter. The first traditional school to offer correspondence courses was The University in Chicago, beginning in 1892.

Radio, TV, and Phone Classes 

The radio was relatively new technology in the early 20th century, and colleges and universities began to take advantage of this technology by using it for instruction. In 1922, Penn State started offering courses broadcast over the radio. Iowa State soon followed in 1925. With the advent of television, The University of Houston began offering televised courses for credit in 1953. In 1965, The University of Nebraska began offering telecourses. This learning medium eventually led to the nation’s first distance learning university, Coastline Community College, in 1976. 

World Wide Web

Distance learning first utilized the Internet in 1981, even though it existed in some form since 1969. The Western Behavioral Sciences Institute’s School of Management and Strategic Studies started an online program that year, and other schools began to jump on the Internet bandwagon. Over the next 30+ years, the field of online learning made several notable advances. These advances made it more accessible for a greater number of people. 

  • Blackboard launched in 1997
  • YouTube, and later, YouTube EDU came into existence in 2006 and 2009, respectively. 
  • iTunes U began in 2006 
  • Udemy was founded in 2009

The world of online learning is open to anyone who wants to learn. On the flip side, it’s also open to anyone who wants to teach! Choosing a platform for your course, or an LMS (Learning Management System), is crucial so that your learners get the best experience possible. Next week, we will dive into Learning Management Systems.

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