Distance learning has evolved from a small offering of correspondence courses to entire universities offering complete degree programs online. Modern online degree programs continue to evolve at a rapid pace and offer a variety of students the opportunity to receive a college education and career training. Now, students don’t have to decide between on-campus or online learning, because some schools are offering hybrid programs which include both in-class and online instruction.
While both campus-based and online programs offer strengths and limitations, it’s important to note that online education offers the same solid access to research and intellectual discourse as on-campus education does. So much so, in fact, that even on-campus courses integrate online multimedia and video chat.
Beginnings of the online learning model
The earliest distance learning students received and submitted lessons via snail mail, but computer learning has been around longer than you might think. The PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) system is the first recorded campus communication system from 1960, connecting thousands of University of Illinois terminals together. New Hampshire's Computer Assisted Learning Center (CALC) began offering instruction by computer in 1982. CALC became the true first online campus in 1995, providing real-time instruction, online registration and communications. Finally, when Cornell University, Yale Medical School and University of Pittsburgh created the Interactive Learning Network in 1997, online training was already commonplace in corporate settings.
The first true private online colleges hit stride in the early 2000's, drawing a huge student population from overseas seeking online degree programs in the U.S. Now they provide economically viable alternatives to students too committed elsewhere to move to campus. The same is true for businesses expanding nationally and internationally with demands to train employees. Today companies are able to join in remote offices around the world and efficiently conduct online training for various offices.
Online training today includes a range of methods including Video on Demand (VOD), interactive VOD, webinars and live mentoring. Human resource staffs with companies also employ Learning Management Systems (LMS) that schedule and track staff training and development. One company, KnowledgeWave, has developed "Log on to Learn," a program that matches individual learners with live, interactive instruction designed to meet their specific needs.
Is online learning right for you?
Online learning offers people of all walks of life, and in a variety of situations, the opportunity to learn on their own schedules, at just about any location. To be a successful with online education and training, students should be self-motivated, able to learn independently and good time managers. Those who tend to procrastinate or require prodding to complete tasks may find online learning difficult. But even a hybrid or blended program can offer the opportunity for those who need a more traditional learning environment the chance to benefit from online training.
However you decide to approach online learning, you should know it’s become widely accepted as a viable education choice. The Sloan Consortium reports that 65 percent of colleges and universities now say online learning is vital to their long-term strategy. It's also growing in popularity among professionals who are returning to school for certifications or looking to build specialized creative or technical skills. When it comes to online training and education, school is always in session, live from your desktop.
About the Author Woodrow Aames has written articles and profiles for Yahoo, Microsoft Network, Microsoft Encarta, and other websites and print magazines around the world. He holds an MFA degree, has taught English abroad, and is currently enrolled at one of the renowned computer schools studying web design.
KnowledgeWave is a South Burlington, Vermont based company that provides traditional instructor-led training for Microsoft Office applications and other technologies in both in-house and remote Live From Your Desk formats. Log on to Learn is an online on-demand training resource owned and managed by KnowledgeWave and provides on-demand content allowing for a blended training solution that meets today’s multigenerational workforce needs.