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The History of Online Education – Decade by Decade

Online education may seem like “the next big thing,” but its history actually stretches back nearly a century. Here is a quick decade-by-decade look at how “distance learning” evolved into the online colleges and universities we know today.

“Correspondence courses” had already been around for more than 50 years. Inventor Thomas Edison decided to take the idea “high tech” by offering the world’s first catalog of educational motion pictures. They were, of course, silent.

Several local broadcasters experiment with “educational radio” programming. But radio is in its infancy, and no one listens.

Radio explodes in popularity. Again, several broadcasters attempt “educational radio.” They still fail to find an audience.

The University of Iowa launches America’s first educational TV station.

Educational TV expands. Several studies conclude that learning via TV is just as effective as learning in a classroom. Of course, communication is still just one-way.

Various colleges and universities, mostly in the Midwest, begin teaching courses via TV. Some add computers linked via teletype-style terminals to the mix, allowing student-teacher interactivity. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) begins to construct what will become the Internet.

Several universities begin to use satellites to beam courses to off-campus students.

The Computer Assisted Learning Center (CALC) is founded in Rindge, N.H., as a small, offline computer-based, adult learning center.

The World Wide Web is born. Colleges nationwide begin to offer interactive, computer-based courses as part of their curriculums. Jones International University becomes the first regionally accredited online university.

The number of colleges and universities offering online programs expands exponentially. Many institutions create entire divisions devoted exclusively to online education.

A 2010 survey of more than 2,500 colleges by the Sloan Consortium, which represents the online education industry, found that approximately 5.6 million college students studied party or fully online in 2009, up almost one million from the year before.*

Learn Online with Everest University

Everest University Online, a division of Everest University, brings the convenience of online education to you through a variety of associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in some of America’s most popular occupational fields. Featuring small classes and instruction by industry professionals, Everest University Online offers programs in the fields of:

  • Accounting
  • Business
  • Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Investigations
  • Homeland Security
  • Paralegal

Upon graduation, students can take advantage of Everest’s Career Service department, which helps transition them from school into the workforce.

Financial aid is available for those who qualify.

For more information about Everest University Online, contact Everest today!

For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program and other important information, please visit our website at

*Source: The Sloan Consortium/Survey Reports:

Tagged with: Articles, Everest University Online

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