Distance learning is not a new concept. This type of learning has been in existence since the early eighteenth century. However, technology has caused distance learning to undergo a dramatic transformation during the last three decades. Sending correspondence by mail had always been the core of distance learning programs. However, near the start of the 1980s, distance learning programs began using cable television to help with the delivery of their courses. As the Internet rose to prominence near the end of the 1990s, it started to have a significant impact on distance learning that has continued to this day.
The Internet has given more people than ever before the ability to improve their life with distance learning. Whether they are a young student who doesn’t have the financial resources to pay for a traditional college experience or a busy professional with a career and family to manage, distance learning over the Internet gives people much more control over their academic experience. The widespread nature of online distance learning has also given a boost to the reputation of distance learning. In addition to for-profit online learning institutions like the University of Phoenix, online distance learning courses are offered by nearly every major university in the US.
Another significant trend in distance learning and the full scope of the educational field is a shift from simply completing courses to increasing competency. In the past, a large percentage of academic programs were primarily focused on getting students through one course after another. This was done by creating curriculum that was centered around students regurgitating information. However, students and employers eventually realized that this did not provide an adequate level of preparation for the challenges presented by the real word. Distance learning and other academic programs are now focused on delivering curriculum that emphasizes the benefits of pursuing a deeper understanding of a course’s subject matter.
Distance learning currently offers an unprecedented number of options. As the demand for distance learning continues to grow, so will the number of options that are available. The reason for this significant and continued growth is that the Internet has increased the number of people who view higher education as a realistic goal to achieve. The demand for distance learning has also benefited from the unstable global economy and highly competitive job market. People’s difficulty in obtaining desirable jobs has caused them to place more value on obtaining a degree or other form of professional certification.
The growing popularity of distance learning is also blurring the line between distance and traditional education. There is no longer a single profile of people who are interested in this type of learning. In the past, distance learning was considered an alternative to receiving a traditional college education. However, many young students are now using online distance learning to save money by completing their basics before attending a traditional college institution. Additionally, many adult students are now able to use distance learning to quickly complete prerequisites they need in order to pursue an advanced degree.