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A Brief History of Distance Education

Distance education has afforded generations of students the opportunity pursue their educational goals outside of the traditional school system. It has allowed countless students the ability to further their education, while allowing them to maintain their obligations to their families and employers. While distance education is not for everyone, it has certainly stood the test of time. The following is a brief timeline of events related to distance education.



  • 1840 Isaac Pitman begins teaching shorthand by correspondence in the UK.
  • 1858 The University of London creates its External Program.
  • 1883 New York State authorizes the Chautauqua Institute to award degrees earned via correspondence.
  • 1891 The Colliery Engineer School of Mines renames itself International Correspondence Schools.
  • 1892 The University of Chicago starts administering the first university courses by mail.
  • 1906 The Calvert School of Baltimore becomes the first primary school in the United States to offer correspondence courses.
  • 1916 The National University Continuing Education Association is created in the United States.
  • 1921 Pennsylvania State College begins broadcasting courses on the radio.
  • 1933 The University of Iowa begins broadcasting courses on television.
  • 1950 The Ford Foundation begins offering grants to create and develop educational programs for television broadcasting.
  • 1967 The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is created.
  • 1970 Walden University is established.
  • 1974 California State University offers a Masters degree via correspondence.
  • 1982 The National University Teleconferencing Network is established.
  • 1984 The personal computer is named "man of the year" by Time Magazine.


With the advent of the personal computer and the development of the internet, distance education has evolved into an extremely important element of modern education. Most every university in North America offers courses online, while an entire cottage industry has formed around the concept of online education. There are countless online courses available to members of the general public. The wonderful thing about online education is that there are no borders, and prospective students worldwide now have access to the same opportunities. Online learning has the ability to make the world a better place. In some ways, it already has.


About the Author: David Madison is a regular contributor to onlinelearning101.com a highly informative and authoritative website specializing in online educational resources, such as Online Associate Degrees, Criminal Justice Degrees, information about studying abroad and more.




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