History of Distance Education

"Distance Education is not a new phenomenon, it has been practiced since the turn of the century" (6). One of the first forms of distance education was the correspondence course, which took advantage of the then new rural free delivery of mail. Distance education adopted other technologies as they were developed to expand the media available to deliver educational materials to students. Other media used for instructional delivery included radio, television, audio, and video. The goal of this section of the documentary is to examine the historical purpose, mediums for delivery, early pioneers, and advantages and disadvantages of distance education. For the purpose of this documentary, the history will include the origins of distance education before the widespread use of digital technologies (1840's to mid 1980's).


Historical Timeline

1840 - Sir Issac Pitman is credited with inventing correspondence courses by mail, which represented the first phase of distance education.
- 1st University distance learning program offered through the University of Chicago.
1911 - University of Queensland in Australia established a Department of External Studies, which supported distance learning programs.
- Federal government issues the first educational radio licenses to deliver distance education courses. Distance teaching is introduced in universities in the Soviet Union.
The world's first educational television programs were broadcast from the University of Iowa.
1950 - Iowa State University became the first educational television broadcaster in the world.
1969 - United Kingdom's Open University was founded. The OU introduced a mixed-media approach to teaching distance learning courses.
1971 - PEACENET Founded - 1st to use satellites in distance education.
(5, 6 & 12)


Historical Synonyms for Distance Education

  • Correspondence Courses
  • Extension Courses
  • Distance Learning
  • Extended Studies
  • External Studies
  • Home Study
  • Continuing Education