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Posted by on Jun 3, 2015 in E-learning | 3 comments

The History of Online Learning

The History of Online Learning


1728 does not only historically mark the year in which Captain Cook was born but also the introduction of the world’ s first distance learning course.  The first lessons that were sent via mail were initiated in Boston when a man named Caleb Phillips took upon himself to conduct distance learning by means of letters.  This period of time became known as the written era which was followed by the radio era, as the name states, education was facilitated by means of radios.  To enable this method of learning colleges as well as universities were granted broadcasting rights to spread a wide coverage.  I have not personally witnessed the prior online eras but was fortunate to grow up in the era of online learning that was made possible by means of television.  This era began in 1968 and still persists in present day.  I recall being glued-up to the television in preparation for my matric examination with my different Study & Master study guides.  As for how far the trend has come to the current period I am not certain as technology has become dominant in the way in which I learn.  Yes, television is a form of technology I used to learn, but the kind of technology I diverted to is much more portable, it fits in pocket.  My final year of my undergraduate degree marked my reliance on my Blackberry. I did not use textbooks much and when I did I would search for content pages of relevant books on my phone and Google just the page I am interested in. My trips to the library were limited and I enjoyed the freedom that came with my very much beloved Blackberry.  80% of my sources were journals and articles accessed and downloaded on my handheld device.

The introduction of computer-based learning was from the year 1976 and this era was openly introduced as the era of online learning.  The progression made by computer-based learning has increasingly been supported by different technologies which are constantly refined to bring about innovative ways of teaching and learning.   To briefly introduce one to the modern day ways of using technology in learning typical examples are; the above-mentioned explanation of how I stopped visiting the library, the usage of cell-phones and gadgets such as tablets to gather information from the internet and to engage in their online courses via these gadgets.  It would take one quiet a large amount of time to document the changes and improvements encompassed within this era, it will do both you and me justice for me to leave the topic here as the modern usage of technology in learning is a massive topic to cover.



  1. I found this article interesting. It is amazing that distance education already started in 1728.

    When I did my masters I hardly used the library. One would think that for a masters you need a library. I bought a few books and then used the internet for my research. Although many people are using the internet instead of a library there will always be a place (a purpose) for a library.

  2. It would make more sense if libraries are partially modified to house more technologies which would enable the less fortunate to have easy access to such mediums. I am however, not completely ruling out the future existence of libraries because some publishes would not agree to have their publications digitalised.


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