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History and Future of Distance Learning

Not too long ago I stumbled on an infographic of the history of distance learning. I was amazed to find out people have been learning “remotely” since 1728. The first recorded distance learning reportedly was an advert in a Boston paper that very year.

The infographic (see below) seems to be made from an American point of view. Though Sir Isaac Pitman gets appropriate credit (with a misspelled name) for inventing shorthand and offering correspondence courses, Open University only gets a passing mention. Take a look at the infographic at the end of this blog to see if you agree.

But first, I wanted to  use this rich history as a basis for looking at the possible future. The infographic ends in 2012, but there have been some great strides in distance learning even in 2012 that didn’t make it onto the infographic.

EdX.org, founded by American universities Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offers university courses free online to anyone with an internet connection. Since edX launched in 2012, the organisation has grown to 32 universities around the world.

Though all courses are provided free of charge, you can’t get a degree by taking these classes. EdX only provides certificates of completion. So you can’t get a formal university degree, but you can get an education. Money no longer needs to be a deciding factor in getting the education you need to be successful. Perhaps free access to education will lead to some wonderful things where what we know is more important than where we got our degree. Maybe.

distance learning - future and history

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Oliver Burt

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