What is the history of online education

When we talk about online education the first thing that comes to mind is the Internet. But, in actuality,  there is a great history behind the concept of distance education. The whole idea of distance learning is almost as old as 200 years going back to the 1840’s. It takes its roots in Great Britain where it was first offered by a licensed instructor, Isaac Pitman. He used to teach a shorthand correspondence course exchanging written assignments back and forth with his students by mail. Back then it was a rather novice approach that demonstrated effectiveness from a start.

The history of online education

Of course, after that was the testing machine (invented back in 1924) that would let students test themselves. There was also a teaching machine created by the Harvard professor, BF Skinner. This teaching machine was used by schools to assign educational programs to pupils. All these inventions were greatly appreciated until the 1960s came with the first bulky computers and the whole world was introduced to computer-based learning programs.

The dramatic expansion of the online education delivery methods started in the 1980s with the introduction of the first MAC. These computers became available for any family to keep in households and enabled them to learn skills in the comfort of home settings. Today, with the constant growth of technology, online learning approaches and techniques just keep on advancing and becoming even more effective. In 2020, online education is extremely popular not just amongst people who are chasing after constant learning for expanding knowledge but also widely used by many industries and businesses for delivering employees updates on skills and teaching new staff job procedures.

Want to know more about this topic? Let’s get down to the details and talk about online education capabilities. Give this blog post a quick read, if you want to know more about the history of online learning and what it has to offer in 2020.

Online education definition

Online education definition

If you wonder how online learning can be defined, the answer is – synchronous and asynchronous method of education delivered on the Internet. Basically, this flexible system allows students to take classes online either in real-time face-to-face with the instructor or watch and listen to recorded learning materials. Speaking about the 1-on-1 online learning experience, this method requires to set up a digital classroom with access to consultations organized in real-time by the eLearning platforms. Here is a brief list of other resources that are commonly used for online learning classes:

  • live Q&A sessions
  • interviews
  • discussion forums
  • eBooks
  • journals
  • quizzes

This list doesn’t exclude actual printed materials, such as paperback tutorials and textbooks. Whether you’ll need them or not will totally depend on the program of the school or organization you take online classes from. However, at the present time more and more educational or professional establishments try to shift from using physical books to switching to digital materials 100% of the time. This is another advantage of online learning and using digital books – it saves lots of trees and is eco friendly. It matters. 

The history of online education

Learning History Timeline Facts Concept

We’ve already touched lightly upon the history of distance education at the very beginning of this blog post. Let’s talk about the factual timeline and history of the development of online education now. So, let go over some facts talking about how it all started its evolution up to the present days.

  • 1960 – the Internet was developed at Illinois University as a system for providing access to students to study materials and recorded audio lectures. It became so popular that it advanced further and evolved into a program called PLATO or Programmed Logic for Testing Operations which was designed for managing thousands of terminals across the country. This system was a prototype of all modern social networks.
  • 1979 –  this year made a huge impact on the newly developed computer game called Lemonade Stand. This game was initially designed for Apple II and introduces the whole generation of the 80s to the concept of learning in the virtual space and interacting with computers.
  • 1984 was highlighted by the establishment of the Electronic University Network (EUN) that was created for support of universities and online teaching. This network delivered its first online course back in 1986 on 64 computer stations run on a DOS system.
  • 1994 – a starting point for many Internet providers that exploded with massive Internet usage as access became more available. That was a time when many stationary computers were getting access to the global net and opening the door to the whole world. Also, during this time the first online course was organized in real-time by the computer-assisted Learning Center and finally conducted.
  • 1997 – a further development of online resources with the establishment of the California Virtual University. This was organized with the purpose of sharing information regarding accredited colleges and universities in California state. Through this online resource, students were provided with information about opportunities in online education. Even though it was completely shut down in 1999, still, an actual concept spurred many similar online resources for supporting students online.
  • 2002 – Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched an online program called OpenCourseWare project offering lectures and course information to anybody worldwide and free of charge.
  • 2009 – this year was marked by nearly 6 million people taking courses online on a global scale. Online learning was on the pick of its popularity and gained recognition among accredited universities. A big number of colleges started offering online degree programs suggesting to receive academic degrees through online education.
  • 2019 – a big boom in the popularity of eLearning platforms. A big part of this popularity explosion was caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic but it did prove that online learning works for lots of folks despite their age or level of skills.

So, what about the nearest future opportunities out there for online learning? If to come up with a prediction that it will fully replace traditional education, this would be the wrong statement. But it seems like online courses have already become an integral part of the curriculum and most learners (especially in the US) have taken a course or two at least once in their lifetime. However, the choice will always be there letting students decide which way they want to go – either on campus or in the virtual learning space.

How higher education benefits from the Internet

How higher education benefits from the Internet

Higher education has been catching the wave riding in the vast ocean of opportunities offered by the Internet. If we take a glance at modern-day computer technologies, we’ll see that the evolution of online technologies comes in stages. Since mainframe computers made a splash in the 1960s, it spawned an initial first wave: one computer – lots of users. This was followed by PCs in the second wave: one computer – one person. The year of 1988 initiated the third wave. It was the time when Mark Weiser stated that personal computers entrenched into everyday objects that surround us everywhere. He called it “ubiquitous computing”, which basically meant – more computers for each user.

The Internet has become a useful tool that unlocks a range of exciting benefits utilized by academic faculty and students. With the help of online resources, students are able to sign up for any class at any time and from any device. This provides more flexibility to consume and acquire content and knowledge to learn instantly. It’s already a proven fact that the Internet is able to get rid of some outdated barriers still used in teaching. Academic staff and instructors are also delivered with the same amount of flexibility to render the best educational experiences for learners. Online resources also will let you create robust learning environments by connecting with experts from all over the globe.

But probably one of the biggest potential benefits enabled by the Internet is a 1-on-1 learning journey, which delivers a unique and personalized ongoing engagement to each student. Learners can receive personal recommendations regarding courses and corresponding topics, which they might consider taking. Students can be quickly informed about interesting and exciting events taking place in the academic community. And more importantly about any internship opportunities which can suit their academic necessities to the fullest extent.

Another question is – what widespread higher education problems can be resolved urgently with Internet technologies? An online interaction from the students point of view can become a significant factor. It becomes especially important when students wonder about the best options on where and how to spend their time on learning and how to utilize educational resources. Basically, the more data we capture about lots of different interactions happening continuously, the more aspects of the engagement in online learning can be improved practically. And this makes it an even more exciting prospect of the Internet for higher education.

Best online learning platforms

Today, one of the most effective strategies used for innovative studies is blended or hybrid learning. This type of learning allows students to experience, if they study online, to diversify and mix online and on-campus resources. This also makes the whole process much more effective. Of course, right now we have to obey the new regulations and restrictions in terms of social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic. So, when trying to balance both – online and in-person classes, we face a real challenge and new learning demands. No secret, online education is able to balance effective accessibility to educational resources and libraries, engage in active communication with instructors, teachers, and your fellow classmates on eLearning platforms.

For those students (either young or adults), who struggle with finding the right educational path and learn skills for future careers, we would recommend trying e-learning platforms.

If talking about one e-learning platform, in particular, consider such a virtual learning place as Grinfer, for example. Here is an outline of the reasons why this platform is innovative:

  • Provides full access to self-service systems – video and audio materials, as well as 1-on-1 consultations;
  • Most projects and work assignments are delivered by licensed or highly experienced mentors who provide assignments like art portfolios, mock data analytics exercises, app-building projects, etc.
  • The Grinfer platform is delivering full career transitions and has started offering more offline mixed with online live support for project completion, including career path planning, resume editing, mock interviewing, and networking/referrals.

Team’s feedback is provided whenever is really needed – either for project or career mentorship.


Face to face human interaction is extremely crucial for the best learning experience. Even though we experience lots of restrictions in terms of social isolation because of COVID-19, new technologies and e-learning platforms made it possible to still be connected with everybody. Grinfer came close to the best interactive engagement for learning online with virtual boot camps, 1-on-1 consultations, and video-based education. Also, you can join our author’s community and deliver your message through teaching and consultations with the support of the Grinfer learning platform. Stay tuned for more information and more posts in the Grinfer’s blog!

Learn Online with Grinfer elearning platform

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