SolveYourProblem Article Series: Online Degrees
Is An Online Degree Program For Me?


     Online Degrees: A History

An historical timeline of long distance education will tell you that civilization has been inching towards ultimate convenience with every passing year.

Despite online education being frowned upon by some sticklers, the basic concept of it is nothing new. Long distance education as opposed to “online” has been around in some form for 250 years. An online school would be virtually the same thing as a national school, one that offers classes through correspondence courses as opposed to a physical classroom, and recruits students from all over the country. The “online” factor has only recently begun to be discussed with the advent of the Internet. However, long distance schools have always offered the latest innovations in learning.

Many years ago, correspondence was done only through postal deliveries. Consider an historical timeline of long distance education.

The first subject taught by a correspondence was the “Pitman Shorthand”, a tool of stenography, and was first introduced in 1837 by Isaac Pitman.

In the United States, the idea of an all-in-one curriculum, or home education for youths, first began in 1906 when the Calvert Day School of Baltimore, Maryland made school textbooks available in a local bookstore and ran an advertisement in National Geographic Magazine. From those humble beginnings came the format for the “school-at-home” primary education, and today millions of children are home schooled.

As far as universities go, one of the oldest long distance universities is the University of South Africa, which has offered home courses since 1946. In the United Kingdom, the Open University, another correspondence school, was founded in 1969. These universities pioneered the idea of a national teaching facility, thereby eliminating the need to physically attend a college.

As years progressed, the teaching became more sophisticated. Whereas originally only textbooks were offered, soon VHS tapes, audiotapes and telephones were used as tools of learning to provide the student a more interactive experience.

Radio broadcasts have been used in the past, and continue to be used not only in college education, but also in science education, and agricultural education for farmers.

With the advent of the home computer, new technologies were explored. CD-ROMs along with video and audio software were offered with pricier courses.

When the Internet became popular, that is when long distance learning truly changed and begun its most successful venture. Thanks to Email and the World Wide Web, students would no longer have to wait weeks to correspond with their instructors; progress and reports could be given instantaneous.

The next level of technology came when broadband network connections, both wired and wireless (meaning a connection without a physical phone line attached) allowed learning not only to be instantaneous, but mobile and nearly flawless.

The next generation of technology that seems to be affecting long distance learning (now commonly referred to as online education) seems to be pocket PCs and pod casts. A mobile student has access to his schooling virtually anywhere in the world at any given time.

Another feature currently being explored is live conferencing, in which through video cameras and broadband connections, students and teachers are able to physically see each other through the computer screen and speak and listen to each other’s comments. A “virtual learning environment” is such a powerful tool, not only are online schools using the technology, even traditional colleges use live conferencing when necessary.

But with new technology also comes new ways to scheme and exploit others for material gain. While many long distance universities are legitimate places of learning, and their history is long-standing, the new century has also seen the rise of phony universities, or “diploma mills.”

One can see a historical timeline of falling scruples when one looks at what college education originally represented and what some companies make it today. Unlike accredited long distance learning courses and traditional colleges, these companies offer to sell student degrees based on the buyer’s life experience. These phony degrees are not valid, nor do the majority of employers and educators recognize them.

There is a great variety in “online educational programs” and the curriculum they offer. Some online programs offer fair to average training on a particular subject, only offering a diploma of achievement. Others can offer a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree online. Not only are long distance learning courses using Internet technology; now many regional colleges—traditional schools—are offering their curriculum online, allowing students the convenience of home education but with the same depth of an authentic on-campus education.

The historical timeline of online colleges, once called long distance schools, has progressed a lot through the centuries. Now nearly three million people are pursuing their degrees online, and there are nearly 700 (properly) accredited schools offering online degrees.

The online and technological era has not only changed long distance learning forever; it has altered the educational system itself, from elementary to high school learning, from online universities to national trade schools.

A new era of convenience has arrived.

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