History of Distance Education

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The development of distance education has resulted from so-called push and pull factors: the technological advances created user demand, while extensive usage of technologies led to further development in technology. (Lewis et al, 1999). One can distinguish between four generations of distance education technologies. The timeframe of the first generation is from 1850s to1960 and the technologies employed are print (correspondence classes), radio and instructional television. The second generation (1960-1985) is characterised by use of multiple technologies, but not yet computers (print, fax, television, video and audio cassettes). Further advances in computer technology in the 1980s and in telecommunication technology in the 1990s (Beller et al, 1998) have introduced new forms for distance learning, like computer-based training on CD-ROM, Internet and Web-based classes in the 1990's. We can divide this period into two generations: 1985-1995 and 1995-2005. Both generations are characterised by extensive use of computer technology together with more traditional tools like fax and print. Electronic mail, chat, bulletin boards, computer resources on disks and CD, audio conferencing, asynchronous and synchronous communication between class participants, Internet are the common features for these two periods. The difference is the emergence of high-bandwidth computer technologies in the late 90s. The 4th generation is characterised by two-way interactive real-time capabilities of audio and video, desktop conferencing and video available on demand (Sherron et al, 1997). More and more universities are now re-evaluating their traditional educational methods. Over 2500 college courses from about 100 universities were available online in 1998 (LaRose et al, 1998). According to other sources (Lewis et al, 1999), 54,470 different distance education sources were offered in 1997-1998 academic year in USA by postsecondary education institutions. We have good reasons to believe...
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