Distance Learning: The New Frontier in Education

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Distance learning has started to become more visible in today’s society. It has been recognized as an integral part of the education system. While still not being utilized in all places, it’s spreading and gaining ground as one of the more popular ways to deliver information. As a means of educating students, distant learning helps plug holes that have been created by a lack of a certified teacher being available. Through distance learning, technology has become an intricate part of how students are educated. Early Beginnings

Distance Learning has been considered somewhat of a new idea. However, some of the key concepts that shape distance learning have been around for quite some time. Distance learning has a large portion of its roots in what’s known as correspondence study. According to Webster’s’ Dictionary, correspondence is defined as, “a course offered by a correspondence school.” Correspondence is defined as, “1 a: the agreement of things with one another b: a particular similarity c: a relation between sets in which each member of one set is associated with one or more members of the other — compare FUNCTION 5a.” This information explains to us that two different parties are engaging in a form of communication with one another. “The roots of distance learning are at least 160 years old. An advertisement in a Swedish newspaper in 1833 touted, the opportunity to study ‘Composition through the medium of the Post.’ In 1840, England’s newly established penny post allowed Isaac Pitman to offer shorthand instruction via correspondence.” This information is very important because it helps in shaping some of the reasons and purpose of why correspondence was necessary. The power of correspondence began to develop even further. Because its advantage was in its ability to send information via the postal service, correspondence created opportunities for people to gain knowledge without physically being present. Not all scholars believe that form information transferrence marked the beginning of distance learning. “The history of distance education could be tracked back to the early 1700s in the form of correspondence education, but technology-based distance education might be best linked to the introduction of audiovisual devices into the schools in the early 1900s.” This is an interesting point because it shows that different reference points are used according to a different set of criteria. As correspondence study continued to evolve, the implementation of correspondence schools began to expand. Several different correspondence schools were opened inside and outside of the United States: In 1891, Thomas J. Foster, editor of the Mining Herald, a daily newspaper in eastern Pennsylvania, began offering a correspondence course in mining and the prevention of mine accidents. His business developed into the International Correspondence Schools, a commercial school whose enrollment exploded in the first two decades of the 20th Century, from 225,000 in 1900 to more than 2 million in 1920.

In Britain, we are informed that correspondence began to progress, “with the founding of a number of correspondence institutions, such as Skerry’s College in Edinburgh in 1878 and University Correspondence College in London in 1887.” As time progressed, distance learning received more support with the development of different communication mediums. Radio began to find its way into the mix of distance education. “In the 1920’s, at least 176 radio stations were constructed at educational institutions, although most were gone by the end of the decade.” The development of televised courses began to receive a major push as well: In the early 1930’s experimental television teaching programs were produced at the University of Iowa, Purdue University and Kansas State College. However, it was not until the 1950’s that college credit courses were offered via broadcast television: Western Reserve University was the first to offer a continuous...
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