Last time, we discussed how the evolution of technology over the past 60 years has benefited home study education programs. While technology has greatly enhanced classroom education in all types of school settings, including massage school, many students lack the ability to attend live classes and must rely primarily on home study programs for their primary and continuing education. Fortunately, these advances in technology have enhanced home study courses just as much, and maybe even more, than classroom learning.

Communication is key
All education is fundamentally a form of communication between teacher and student, and by its very definition distance education is hampered by the fact teachers and students are not located in the same venue. However, the technological innovations in communication we covered in Part One, such as the telephone, television and VCR, opened up the door for rapid advance in home-based learning.
As we reached the dawn of the new millennium and the coming of the digital age, home study evolved even further, as new technology, such as the Internet, expanded levels of communication between teachers and students to amazing new heights. Home study courses now allow for real-time communication between teachers and students, and the need for classroom walls seems to be fading more every day.

Digital video
As the 1990s began, the popularity of VCRs reached its peak. Nearly every home in America had a VCR, and video rentals were a booming business. Although these devices were used primarily for entertainment, the VCR had been a great boon for home study as well. By the late 90s, however, a new, digital video system began to make headway into the market. The DVD, or digital video disc, used optical storage technology and laser diodes, similar to audio compact discs, to read and play video, as opposed to the analog magnetic tape used in VCRs.

DVDs not only provided for higher definition video and better data storage, but it also no longer required users to rewind and fast-forward through the video to reach desired segments of the film. As with CDs, viewers could jump from one section of the video to the next at the push of a button, which was extremely beneficial for home study courses, which are often divided into multiple chapters. With such technology, students could watch and review their home study videos over and over again with ease.

Another benefit of the DVD for home study was the advance of inexpensive handheld video recorders that allowed teachers to record classes digitally and then write multiple copies of the video onto disc without degradation of the picture quality. Moreover, the small discs were extremely portable, and several of them could be mailed or included with books and other study materials with little added weight or postage. By the middle of this decade, DVDs had completely replaced VCRs as the media of choice for both entertainment and education.

The Internet revolution
At about the same time the DVD was being mass marketed, the Internet was also rapidly gaining ground. The Internet and its system for global communication, known as the World Wide Web, have revolutionized our society in monumental ways. By using phone lines, broadband cable and wireless technology, those with access to the Web were able communicate with anyone around the world in real time. This advance allowed for the transmission and storage of volumes of information, whether text, video or audio, in a rapid and secure fashion.

This enhanced form of communication has equally revolutionized home study. E-mail, streaming video, instant messaging, discussion boards, blogs, digital animation and even face-to-face video communication systems bring nearly all of the elements of the classroom into one’s home. Lessons can be taped and replayed later, or students can tune into streaming video of live classes as with podcasts. Additionally, students can use special Web-based programs, such as Blackboard, to communicate and interact directly with instructors and other students.
The Internet opened up a whole new world for many students, not only for those who are remotely located, but also those who may find interacting in person to be intimidating. With the Web, students can discuss material in detail with teachers or fellow students at any time and from anywhere with Internet access. Students no longer have to feel embarrassed or shy to ask a question or make a comment, because the pressure and intimidation of crowded live classrooms no longer exist. Moreover, the anytime, anywhere convenience of the Web allows for longer and more detailed interactions, which gives home study an advantage over in-person education.

The evolution continues
The Internet and World Wide Web offer the ultimate advance in communication technology, and in doing so, the two systems have rapidly transformed home study education into a highly viable alternative to in-person learning. But this technology is still rapidly evolving, and some day, technology may advance to the point where home study’s convenience and portability will replace live classroom experience altogether.

Chris Towery is the former associate editor of MASSAGE Magazine and is currently a full-time freelance journalist. He has written hundreds of articles for more than 20 different magazines, newspapers and custom publishers. Much of his recent writing has been for the complementary and alternative health-care industry. To contact Towery, e-mail