Distance Education Means Online Education

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To most people in the 21st century, distance education means online education, the use of the Internet to create a computer-based learning connection between instructor and student (Larreamendy-Joerns & Leinhardt, 2006). In today’s increasingly technological world, nearly 70% of top academic leaders agree that online learning is part of the academic world’s future, and as of 2013, nearly 1/3 of higher education students were enrolled in an online course (Kentnor, 2015). Although distance education’s rapid evolution began alongside the growth of technology in the late 1990s, the history of distance learning goes back much farther than modern technology.

First distance learning

The first educational occurrence that can be viewed as distance learning occurred in the 18th century. Caleb Phillips took out an advertisement in the Boston Gazette that offered shorthand lessons. Phillips’s idea was to send lessons via the Postal Service, which some view not as actual distance education because a lack of two-way communication. Regardless, the basic principle of distance learning was present (Kentnor, 2015). As cited in Kentnor (2015), according to Verduin and Clark (1991), the first real distance educator was Issac Pitman, who taught shorthand by correspondence via mailed postcards in 1840. Students mailed their work back to Pitman, thus establishing the first true distance education. This method continued from the 19th to the early 20th century, as desire for a college
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