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The Evolution of Distance Learning

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In the millennia it has existed, education has undergone a number of major transformations, including distance learning. While distance learning may seem like a modern, internet-based invention, the reality is that it has existed in many forms for over three centuries.

Humble Beginnings

The first traces of distance learning date back as far as the 1700s. In fact, it was in Boston, Massachusetts in 1728 when a teacher by the name of Caleb Phillips advertised the first shorthand correspondence lessons ever to be offered by mail. But it wasn't until the 1800s when the U.S. postal system bloomed that correspondence learning really took off.

A Universal Need

Distance learning isn't simply part of American history. In 1833, Swedish newspapers across the nation offered correspondence composition courses, which soon developed around Europe. 1840 saw shorthand courses offered via mail in Great Britain, and instructors Charles Toussaint and Gustav Langenscheidt offered language classes via the mail from Germany in 1856, according to the International Museum of Distance Education and Technology.

University Status

It wasn't long before universities began to recognize the need for students to receive an education no matter where they lived. In 1922, Pennsylvania State College broadcasted courses across radio networks. In 1953, the University of Houston even offered courses by television! By the late 1960s, distance learning was becoming accepted under the moniker "independent study." Simultaneously, the first versions of the internet were invented, soon to revolutionize distance learning.

Learning in an Internet Age

Although there were skeptics in the early internet age, educators soon realized what a valuable role it would play in distance and online learning. As such, the University of Phoenix was established as the first-ever "virtual college" in 1976. Universities including CALcampus, the first online-only curriculum, and Regent University, which offered the first online Ph.D. in communications, paved the way for the revolution of online and remote educations. As online education grew, it was innovated by professors and students who communicated using online seminars, discussion boards, and virtual advising.

Modern Distance Learning

As of 2017, distance learning has taken hold of modern education. More than a quarter of students (29.7 percent) take at least one distance education course, according to the Online Learning Consortium. This totals out to more than 6 million students! Many students are even taking advantage of remote learning opportunities by earning their degrees or professional certificates entirely online.

Although it may seem modern, educators have seen the value of distance learning for centuries—and the Tulane School of Professional Advancement sees it, too. For more information about our distance and campus learning opportunities, view our admissions requirements online or learn more by calling us at 504-865-5555 today.

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