Reality Check: Distance Learning Around Long Before MOOCs

by Julia Lawrence, Education News

You might have never heard of massive online open courses – also known as MOOCs – until last year, but that doesn’t mean this is the first time that distance learning has entered the mainstream. Although the spread of internet access to all parts of the globe have made mass education online a reality for the first time, those who wished to learn without traveling to a school or a university have been doing so since at least 1892 – receiving materials and sending assignments using the postal system. University of Chicago was the first school in America to offer learning by correspondence, which opened its doors in the last decade of the 19th century. The U.S. Postal Service did its part to shuttle information between the school and the student until radio broadcasts came into wide usage in the early 1920s and were then usurped by the television in 1963. Making the leap from the college campus entirely was Coastline Community College, which became the first campus-less school when it opened its – virtual – doors in 1970.

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