Students had to attend classes at a university to get credit once upon a time. If you had a time conflict, or the university was far away, you missed out. Now distance education has changed all of this. Distance education is also sometimes called distance learning, and it involves getting educational materials to students who aren’t physically attending a course. The education is offered via technology or correspondence.
Students in far-flung corners of the globe can now get an education thanks to distance learning. In fact, the University of South Africa, established in 1946, is one of the oldest distance education universities.
Individual distance education classes and programs have been around for far longer. Distance education can be traced back to Sir Issac Pitman, who also invented shorthand. Pittman thought it might be useful to offer courses via the mail. The idea was adapted by the University of Chicago in the early 1900s; they began what is likely the first department for correspondence courses. It was not the last such department. The idea caught on and other universities followed suit.
There were only a few countries where distance learning was a major component of the educational system, however, until 1969. This changed when the United Kingdom started the Open University. This changed distance education radically and encouraged other similar universities to be founded.
Today, we have distance education that would have seemed like a dream to these earlier departments. Students can get materials via podcast, webcast, videoconferencing, satellite broadcast, email, CD-ROM, and broadband to name just a few.
We can even use a virtual classroom to deliver materials. This means that a teacher gives a lecture in one classroom and it is broadcast via teleconference to students in other classrooms as well. Students benefit from remote technology in many ways. They can also get online video materials and course materials, chat with tutors online, email instructors, and so on.
Distance learning programs are thriving in the United States. You can find them now in nonprofit and for-profit businesses of both private and public sectors.
It is still quite expensive to offer distance learning, however. Still, with technology becoming more reasonable over time, the possibilities for this type of learning to be used more widely are quite good.