The term “elearning” has only been in existence since 1999, when the word was first utilized at a CBT systems seminar. Other words also began to spring up in search of an accurate description such as “online learning” and “virtual learning”. However, the principles behind elearning have been well documented throughout history, and there is even evidence which suggests that early forms of elearning existed as far back as the 19th century.
An elearning timeline
Long before the internet was launched, distance courses were being offered to provide students with education on particular subjects or skills. In the 1840’s Isaac Pitman taught his pupils shorthand via correspondence. This form of symbolic writing was designed to improve writing speed and was popular amongst secretaries, journalists, and other individuals who did a great deal of note taking or writing. Pitman, who was a qualified teacher, was sent completed assignments by his students via the mail system and he would then send them more work to be finished.
In 1924, the first testing machine was invented. This device allowed students to tests themselves. Then, in 1954, BF Skinner, a Harvard Professor, invented the “teaching machine”, which enabled schools to administer programmed instruction to their students. It wasn’t until 1960 however that the first computer based training program was introduced to the world.
This computer based training program (or CBT program) was known as PLATO-Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations. It was originally designed for students attending the University of Illinois, but ended up being used in schools throughout the area.
Online learning today
With the introduction of the computer and internet in the late 20th century, elearning tools and delivery methods expanded. The first MAC in the 1980’s enabled individuals to have computers in their homes, making it easier for them to learn about particular subjects and develop certain skill sets. Then, in the following decade, virtual learning environments began to truly thrive, with people gaining access to a wealth of online information and elearning opportunities.
In the 2000’s, businesses began using elearning to train their employees. New and experienced workers alike now had the opportunity to improve upon their industry knowledge base and expand their skill sets. At home individuals were granted access to programs that offered them the ability to earn online degrees and enrich their lives through expanded knowledge. Today, elearning is more popular than ever, with countless individuals realizing the benefits that online learning can offer.
Roberta Gogos is a Social Media & Content Marketing Consultant and eFront Learning’s Community Manager, she is contributing author to a number of blogs and focuses on social media, culture-specific communication, technology, and elearning. She can be contacted @rgogos or via LinkedIn.