Distance Learning Has Been Around Since 1892, You Big MOOC

Tim Goral's picture

As noted in my pieces on MITx, edX, Udacity and other Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platforms, online education is driving today’s higher education revolution. Though the flurry of attention around MOOCs may lead one to conclude that distance learning is a recent phenomenon, it actually dates back over 120 years.

According to a team of Ph.D’s and NASA scientists assembled by Post University, distance learning began in 1892 when the University of Chicago created the first college-level distance learning program. Expanding from this initial use of the U.S. Postal Service for course correspondence, distance education moved towards live radio shows in 1921 and then televised broadcasts in 1963.

In 1970, Coastline Community College became the first college without a physical campus, offering exclusively televised college courses. Many other schools followed Coastline’s lead with televised courses of their own. And, in 1985, National Technological University became the first school to offer online degree courses via satellite transmission.

In the 1990s and 2000s, distance learning over the Internet became the dominant remote learning craze. As more schools embraced online education, smaller, less well-known colleges and for-profit universities drove further innovation in the online education space. For instance, in 1993, Jones International University became the first fully online university accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. And, in 2002, MIT launched its popular OpenCourseWare initiative.

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