Educational home-study courses are by no means an unproven learning method. The courses, in various forms, have been around for decades offering students more options to learn educational material.

Through the decades, technology has expanded, which has forced the evolution of home-study courses. That evolution has made the learning experience easier and more convenient for students and teachers.

These days, smart phones, tablets and laptop computers have replaced overhead projectors. The advent of the Internet also has revolutionized the way students learn through video streaming and other online learning modules.

Long gone are the days of distance learning with little-to-no interaction with instructors. A high-speed Internet connection puts you in the classroom.

Correspondence learning

The history of correspondence learning dates back nearly three centuries. The way most recognize the process is where a student orders a course in a particular subject and submits the materials for an instructor review. The courses, which utilized books, study guides and exams, were mailed between teachers and students.

The courses, much like today’s courses, were completely self-driven. But unlike today’s capabilities and connectivity, there was little-to-no interaction between the teacher and student. For students who lived in rural areas, that translated into a way to get an education or learn a trade without having to travel long distances.

Telephone-based study

The next significant evolution of home-study courses was the telephone.

The new way of taking classes was typically aimed at teaching the sick, who could not attend classes at a given institution. The telephone allowed homebound students to interact with teachers and their peers through an early form of conference call, where the students and teacher were all on one line and could speak with one another.

Television broadcasts

Television provided a new technological jump in home-study courses. Here, teachers could broadcast their classes and lectures through the TV.

Live lecture broadcasts at many colleges and universities were offered, so working students could catch their classes at home during the evening and weekends. While some of the courses offered required students to be physically present for their exams, others continued to allow students to do their coursework at home and mail in their completed materials for credit.

Learning through VHS

In the 1980s, teachers and instructors quickly learned to utilize taped classes for students who wanted to study at home. Colleges also began stockpiling copies of these classes on campus where students could check them out of the school library.

One of the advantages of the taped classes was that students could pause and rewind the lectures to review the material they might not have understood.

Read Part 2.

–Jeremy Maready