The History of Distance Learning and Online Education

Online education has become one of the main avenues through which people receive their education. Many educational institutions now market specifically to students who are seeking online degree programs.

Online education has become one of the main ways that people all around the world obtain their degrees and move on to rewarding careers.

How It All Started

The history of online education stretches back half a century to the 1960s. This was not the online education that we know today, but a system where students and teachers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign could interact with one another. This was much more limited and only allowed students to read required material and communicate with the teachers who could examine the students’ progress.

The 70s and 80s

Through the 1970s and ’80s there were more advancements in the realm of distance education. More schools and employers began to implement computer assisted training and classwork. These courses required people to use the computers within a school or place of employment, so they were still a far cry from the expansive online programs people use today.

The 90s

The online education with which most people are familiar truly began to take form in the late 1980s when private universities, like the University of Phoenix, began to offer full academic degree programs online. This was a major turning point in the world of education as people began to have the option of earning their degrees without actually having their professors present.

Through the 1990s, more strides were made as educational institutions began to rely more on computer technology to deliver study materials and coursework to their students. As the new millennium dawned, there were more gains made in online education and they began to become a viable alternative for working adults or students living in remote areas. This growth has not been exclusive to colleges and universities.

Present Day

Some high schools now offer the chance for students to earn their diploma via a virtual classroom. While most of these virtual high schools require tuition, there are now some that offer classes for free. The amount of virtual high schools is gradually increasing and may one day shape the way people earn their High School Diploma. The number of individuals earning online degrees has risen consistently as this method of instruction has been refined and perfected.

One report states that 6.1 million students took at least one online course in 2010. This is only part of a growing trend among students who seek their degree online.

Every year since online classes have become available, there has been an increase in the number of students utilizing this new technology. Distance education has seen dramatic increase since it was first introduced in the 1960s.

People who would otherwise not have time for classes, have come to see this new method of instruction as a way to realize those dreams in a way that works around their schedule and life.

Online learning will likely continue to grow as the Internet expands and companies look to create the newest and best way to educate students online.


  1. poojamittal

    September 7, 2012 at 5:55 am

    Distance education brings together students and teachers separated by geographical distance. Punjab Technical University also provides Best distance education for students in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.

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  4. poojamittal

    September 22, 2012 at 5:06 am

    I really like the concept of Distance Education thats y i am a student of Punjab Technical University.

  5. Joshef

    September 26, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Adding to these information, a 2009 meta-analysis of over 1000 studies of online learning, conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, found that students participating in either fully or partially online courses scored higher on average than 59 percent of their traditionally educated peers on performance tests.