Home study courses are not a novel concept; they have been around for decades, offering students greater options in their educational experience. But like with nearly everything, technology has evolved the process, making the learning experience easier and more convenient for students and teachers.

These days, laptops have replaced overhead projectors and the Internet is revolutionizing 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 when a student orders a course in a particular subject and submits materials for an instructor review.

The courses utilized books, study guides and exams that were mailed between teachers and students through mail. The correspondence courses were typically self-driven with little to no interaction between the teacher and student.

For those living in rural areas at the time, it was a way to get an education or learn a trade without having to travel long distances.

Telephone-based study

The invention of the telephone brought about a technological advance for home study and correspondence courses.

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 was the next technological jump in home study courses. With this new advancement, teachers could broadcast their classes and lectures through the TV.

Many colleges and universities offered broadcasts of live lectures, 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

While few could figure out how to set the blinking 12:00 to the correct time on their VHS recorders, teachers and instructors quickly utilized 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.

–Jeremy Maready