There is a learning revolution taking place thanks to a concept that allows students to learn a range of topics without ever having set foot in the a classroom. However, the revolution began as early as 1728 and what makes it most interesting is the way in which it has evolved.
In 1921, for example, this approach, called Distance Learning, first went digital when the initial educational radio licenses were granted to the University of Salt Lake City, University of Wisconsin, and University of Minnesota. Between 1918 and 1946, 200 colleges received these licenses. Eventually, this type of learning was expanded to a low-cost, subscriber-based-system that made it possible for educational institutions to broadcast courses over TV. The California State University system is the first to apply this.
In Canada, meanwhile, Queens University offered its first correspondence courses in 1889 and overcame geographical challenges by employing the North West Mounted Police (now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) to deliver material for these courses, in regions without access to the postal service.
The entire time this revolution was taking place, students were receiving material by mail, a practice that still exists. At Centennial College in Toronto, for example, students can still complete a range of courses through print-based correspondence, which is facilitated through the School of Continuing Education. In this option, students register and then receive a registration confirmation letter, proctor information form, student guide and all of the educational materials required to complete the course. Print-based courses are typically completed within a six-month period during which students finish written assignments and study with the help of a tutor who is assigned to them. Among Distance Learning print-based correspondence are: Business Management – International, Business Management – Marketing, Cosmetics by Correspondence, Ophthalmic Medical Personnel – Phases 1 and 2 and SmartServe.
In 1991, with the creation of the Internet, this education form began to change. In 1993, Jones International University becomes the first fully online university accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. However, it wasn’t until 2005 that online learning became mainstream when WebCT and Blackboard merged under the Blackboard brand. And the trend continued when, in 2009, Eduventures reported for-profits’ share of the online education market rose to 42 percent in 2009 from 39 percent in 2008. The Chronicle of Higher Education noted this is a large increase, since for-profits’ share of the entire higher education market is nine percent.
At Centennial College, online classes include 24-hour access. Qualified instructors lead the courses and online communication tools such as discussion boards and forums, and digital assignments are employed. There is also a sense of classroom thanks to students exchanging emails with their classmates. Among the 40 online programs at Centennial College are Professional Writing, Logistics Management, Event Planning/Meeting Management, Business Writing, Effective Project Management, Food Service Worker, Legal Office Assistant, and more.
Both print-based correspondence and online classes require students to attend a final exam on the first Saturday following the course end date. It is their responsibility to book the correct exam date within the time constraints of their course. Students who fail to write their exam by the due date receive a zero on their exam.