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On The Origin Of Online Education

By Expert Author: Karen McDonagh

The learning approach through distance education has been around for more than a century. The origin to this method of teaching and learning is attributed to Sir Isaac Pitman, an English instructor, who taught shorthand writing through postal mail correspondence during the early nineteenth century. Years later, people attempted to use the concept of distance learning towards setting up home schools and similar opportunities for education outside the traditional classroom setting. The purposes for these attempts were to enable all persons a chance for education, no matter what gender, race, social standing or class.

In the late nineteenth century, renowned universities in London and America would participate in offering correspondence education. Eventually, an organization was dutifully formed to ensure and manage the quality and credibility of lessons, which made the concept of distance education more acceptable. Soon, other countries such as Australia and China adapted the concept of this teaching style.

The expansion and improvement of the postal system allowed instructors and students to communicate and correspond faster. As technology progressed, people found other ways to enhance teaching beyond the confines of paper-and-pen instruction. The development of the telephone allowed students to speak with instructors regarding lessons. The development of radio and film gave teachers the chance to send audio and video study aids. Eventually, satellite technology allowed further reach for distance education. Today, the existence of the internet breaks more walls and barriers for the promulgation of distance education, also commonly known now as Online Education.

Online education began also through the model of correspondence. Instructors and students would exchange electronic mail (e-mail) as early as when this technology was made available. Written lectures were studied by the students and then the instructor would be available to clarify if there were any questions. Discussions could take place quickly through the exchange of e-mails. Soon enough, audio and video materials could be attached to the e-mails and the student would have more study aids to help in understanding topics. Furthermore, computers and the internet developed to be a storage facility of data. Information about everything including scientific studies and research, works of art and literature, business strategies and economics were saved and made accessible to persons with a thirst for knowledge. This evolved into the formation of online study portals, such as online universities and online CPD (continuing professional development) courses.

Similar to when the concept of distance education first started, online education is still surrounded by skepticism and scrutiny. Although there had been a study sometime during the 1950s that showed distance education as a credible means of learning, the idea of online education is still crude to some people today. There are, however, surveys from recent years that show more people, especially employers, accepting online degrees as valid. Thus, there is a noticeable increase on the internet for sources of online study. It should be remembered though that, just like it happened for the old universities, there are organizations today that manage and offer accreditation to legitimate sources for distance learning, and students should be diligent in checking up on such prior to enrolling.

The continuing progress of the internet, technology and information is expected to also further the reach of distance learning. People should not be surprised at this evolution. There are a lot of opportunities and benefits that come with taking online education, hence it would be wise to accept or be open to this method of study.


Karen McDonagh is a proud contributing author and write articles on several subjects including Dental CPD. To gather more information please see Courses Available for Dental Students .

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