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Getting Connected: A Brief History of Online Education

Enrollment numbers for online universities continue to climb, and traditional colleges across the nation continue to add digital courses to their catalog. Let’s take a look at the past, present and future of online education in the U.S.

The Past

Here’s a quick look at the past and development of online education in the U.S. (1,2)


The University of Chicago becomes the first school to offer “correspondence” courses.


Pennsylvania State College broadcasts some of its courses over the radio.


The University of Houston offers the first televised college courses.


The University of Wisconsin starts a telephone-based distance learning program for physicians.


Coastline Community College becomes the first “virtual college,” with no campus and all courses broadcast.


Various online programs begin popping up all over the U.S. due to a higher percentage of personal Internet access.


The University of Phoenix is founded and will soon become one of the most popular online schools across the U.S.


The Interactive Learning Network (ILN) is created and released to multiple schools as the first eLearning platform to be used at universities like Yale, Cornell and the University of Pittsburgh.

Blackboard Inc., a content management system, is founded and still used today at many universities to manage online courses.


Most major universities begin adding online courses to their curriculum, including some degrees offered entirely online.


Apple introduces iTunes U, offering lectures on a long list of topics available to anyone willing to buy them.


Udacity and EdX, two massive online education websites, open and offer hundreds of university-level MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

The Present


Percentage of students who have taken at least one distance learning course (3)


Number of students in 2013 who exclusively took online courses (3)

$107 billion

2015 revenue for the global eLearning market (4)

$8.7 billion

Market value of the mobile learning market, including many self-paced learning apps (4)


Percentage of companies that use MOOCs to train their employees (4)


Percentage of U.S. companies that offer online professional development for their employees (4)

The Future

Higher education may look like this in the future: (5)

No more majors, just goal- and career-oriented learning

No more lectures, all information from class available online for self-paced learning

No more small classrooms, just digital learning, large spaces and open labs

More gamification of learning to make it fun and app-like

Digital field trips using virtual reality

Classrooms that interact with others around the world




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One Response to Getting Connected: A Brief History of Online Education

  1. Online Education is also suitable for the students.

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