Believe it or not, there was a form of “online education” before the internet was even a thing. This guide will teach you about the past, present, and future of online education and help you determine if it’s the right fit for your college experience.
Correspondence courses were the first form of “online education” and have been around since the 19th century. Correspondence courses involved students getting mailed lessons from professors and writing back with their assignments and questions. There were both singular and university created correspondence courses for students to utilize as they work to increase their skills and knowledge.
Fast forward to the 1920’s, some universities began airing their lectures over the radio and in newspapers to help more people learn. And as the television was invented, some lectures and courses were broadcast on TV for even more people to see and enjoy. In the 1960’s, some schools began entire programs that were over the telephone so students could participate around the country.
Then the internet exploded. More people had personal computers and the internet was more widely accessible by everyone. The 1980’s saw the first full online programs and entire online universities for students all around the United States. These programs spurred more software development and new applications for program management, assignment submissions, and more.
In the 1990’s, the internet became mainstream in most American households. In 1997, a group of U.S. governors came together to try and address a growing concern. They were worried about access to college for students in the 21st century, for students who needed an education that worked within their schedule.
Western Governors University was then born.
As more and more Americans were able to get online, the possibility of an “anywhere, anytime” education became a reality. And more than simply delivering traditional, lecture-based learning via modem and monitor, our founders recognized that technology could be used to fundamentally change the way college students learn. Harnessing the power of the internet and our innovative new learning model—competency-based education—WGU revolutionized the way students learn, master concepts, and progress to a degree.
The great history of online education has helped create a movement that is impacting students around the world every single day. The past has turned into an exciting present when it comes to distance learning.
The growth of online education is evident in the numbers. In 2016 over 6 million students took an online course, and over 30% of students did entire online degree programs. As the internet has continued to grow and boom, so has the options for online education. Entire online degree programs like WGU are not only possible, but technologically advanced and rigorous for students. They also provide needed flexibility for many students, so even more people than ever have the options to get a college education.
Online education is fostering changes in how students learn as well. Things like competency-based education take online learning to a new level, allowing students to move through material at a pace that works for them and their schedule. Instead of sitting down at certain times to listen to lectures, students have the control and freedom to work on their degree in the best possible way for them. This caters to all kinds of learning styles, schedules, and individuals.
The online education of today is empowering more students to earn degrees, pursue dream jobs, and get the credentials and skills they need to succeed in the world today.
So what does the future hold for online education? The reality is that WGU is already living a bit in the future of online education. Competency-based education hasn’t been widely adopted by most online institutions, so it’s likely that more will move away from lecture-based learning and into competency based models.
Technology will continue to advance giving online education more options for helping with hands-on learning, more game-based options of learning, and easier communication methods within an online education setting.
It’s also expected that online education of the future will continue to grow, with even more students wanting an online degree vs. a traditional one. As online degrees continue to gain respect and credibility, more students will turn to that option. This will allow them to connect with people all around the world as part of their learning, utilize technology, and empower themselves to become self-motivated learners.
The past, present, and future of online education all shine brightly as a unique and valuable way to help more people get the education they deserve. WGU is one of the institutions focused on helping more people get the skills and credentials they need to succeed. Online education is built around the idea that more people can learn when unique options are available. From the 19th century to the future, online education is here to stay.