"As we enter the Information Age, more and more adults from various economic and cultural backgrounds, already in the workplace, and with families are seeking to educate themselves to keep up in their careers" (Duderstadt, J., 1999). Whether that is through Higher Education, the university system, or their company's Intranet is usually dependent upon the learner. The ways that they seek to educate and re-educate themselves to stay abreast with current trends in their jobs is the topic of this paper, Distance Learning. Many of these non-traditional students are looking to advance their careers through education by non-traditional means. They may have constraints that keep them from attending a structured classroom environment. It is this population that forces Higher Education and the corporate Educational Services to rethink their approach and delivery of instruction. For example, a few days ago I was in the Securities and Loan office of Fidelity National Bank conducting a Needs Assessment on a young SPA Loan Officer Trainee. The young man, a recent graduate in Finance and Economics from Kennesaw State University, planned to enroll in the MBA program at Harvard University. That of course prompted me to ask, "How do you plan to complete a MBA at Harvard and continue your work here in Atlanta?" His reply, "I would take these courses online and meet at the school the second Saturday of every month." He then went on to say that a MBA from Harvard carries a lot of weight in this town's financial community.
With new technologies and the Web, more and more Universities as distinguished as Harvard, are putting Masters and Doctorate programs online. Not only are these Universities using the Internet to put courses online but also so are many corporations. So what is Distance Learning? What kind of impact has Distance Learning made in Higher Education and Corporate Institutions? In this paper, I will define the term Distance Learning, give a brief history of distance learning, note the benefits and the disadvantages of this type of instruction, and explain how Instructional Technology plays a role in this learning program.
Definition and History of Distance Learning
In order to discuss the history of Distance Learning it is important to briefly define it. Distance Learning is teaching and learning without the constraints of time and space. Distance Learning is not a new concept; it has been around since the 1840's when Sir Isaac Pitman delivered instruction on shorthand via correspondence courses by mail. "By the early 1900's the first department of correspondence teaching was established at the University of Chicago. In Australia, the University of Queensland established a Department of External Studies in 1911" (Matthews, 1999). In 1969, the United Kingdom established Open University. This institution had a tremendous impact on distance education because it used a multi-media approach to teaching. The...