Historical perspectives on the global view

The early years of distance education in United States began with the teaching of adults by correspondence through the mail. The first institution program, the Chautauqua Correspondence College was founded in 1881. Later in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1915, the first meeting of National University Extension Association announced the world’s first adult university distance program. Among the pioneers of distance education, the University of Chicago and State University of Iowa ( Iowa State University), The Ohio State university ( Pennsylvania State University), and the University of Wisconsin provided distance education in coming decades. Their claim was to provide college access to the children of farmers and to support the state’s economic development. The first distance program for women was organized by Martha Van Rensselaer who joined Cornell to teach home economics to rural women. In 1926, some of the more responsible schools set up the National Home Study Council (NHSC). By the end of 1960s, members of the National University Extension Association had correspondence study departments. In 1968, the university correspondence educator decided to call their method “independent study”. Experimenting with radio and television began during 1910s and 1920s. In 1934, the University of Iowa became the first university to broadcast educational television program. After World War II some television networks such as NBC and CBS started to broadcast educational programs. As a result of the funding provided by the Ford Foundation the attention turned to public broadcasting which led to the passage of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.

Comparatively, a commission was formed in England in the late 1960s to identify the expansion of higher education system for working class which later formed the idea of Open University. The Open University had a huge impact on education worldwide including the United Sates, however, United States never joined to this system, but some institutions in the late 60s and 70s showed some characteristics of open universities such as Nova University of Advanced technology. The Open Universities emphasis on learner support led to an increased attention by U.S institutions such as Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Texas Tech. In contrast to Open University system, the United States higher distance education system offered hybrid courses. Although the United States was left behind in 1970s in not establishing an Open University, but, on the other hand the country significantly focused on direct broadcasting by satellite.

The World Wide Web was conceptualized by Tim Berners-Lee, and the first Browser Mosaic (1993) revolutionized the way educators faced textual material through WWW.

Although, there are differences in history of distance education between United Sates and elsewhere but it seems one common idea serves as a basis to shape distance education organizations, that is, democratization of education.


Moore, M. G. (2003). From Chautauqua to the Virtual University: A Century of Distance Education in the United States. Information Series. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/recordDetail?accno=ED482357