Distance Education Timeline

This Distance Education Timeline is a continual work in progress. If you have an event that should be added, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


1840

  • In Great Britain, thanks to the Penny Post, Isaac Pitman teaches shorthand by correspondence

1856
  • In Europe, Charles Toussaint and Gustav Langenscheidt teach languages by correspondence

1858
  • The University of London establishes its External Programme

1873
  • The Society to Encourage Studies at Home founded by Anna Eliot Ticknor

  • University of the Cape of Good Hope established

1883
  • Chautauqua Institute authorized by New York state to award degrees by correspondence

1890
  • The Colliery Engineer School of Mines in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, begins a home study course in mining under the direction of Thomas J. Foster

1891
  • The Colliery Engineer School of Mines becomes the International Correspondence Schools (ICS)

1892
  • Pennsylvania State College begins a correspondence program in agricultural studies

  • The University of Chicago offers the first university courses by mail thanks to the efforts of university president William Rainey Harper

1901
  • The Moody Bible Institute starts offering independent study courses

1906
  • The Calvert School of Baltimore becomes the first primary school in the United States to offer correspondence courses

  • The University of Wisconsin offers extension courses in engineering

1915
  • The National University Continuing Education Association is formed

1916
  • University of the Cape of Good Hope changes its name to the University of South Africa

1922
  • Pennsylvania State College broadcasts courses over the radio

1925
  • The State University of Iowa offers five radio courses for credit

1926
  • The National Home Study Council formed

1934
  • The State University of Iowa begins televised course broadcasts in subjects including oral hygiene and identifying star constellations

1946
  • The University of South Africa begins a nationwide distance education program

1950
  • The Ford Foundation begins offering grants to develop televised educational programs

1964
  • Nova University is established

  • The Carnegie Corporation funds the Articulated Instructional Media Project to explore using various communication media (e.g., radio, television, study guides, audiotapes, etc.) for teaching off-campus students

  • The Union for Research and Experimentation in Higher Education is established by ten liberal arts colleges

1965
  • The University of Wisconsin begins a statewide telephone-based distance education program for physicians

1967
  • The Corporation for Public Broadcasting created to promote non-commercial television use

1968
  • Stanford University creates the Stanford Instructional Television Network

  • The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Independent Study High School becomes the first university-based correspondence school to offer an accredited high school diploma

1969
  • The Union for Research and Experimentation in Higher Education becomes the Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities and features a University Without Walls undergraduate program and the Union Graduate School.

1970
  • Walden University opens, specializing in modular and limited residency graduate studies

1971
  • Regents College founded by the New York State Board of Regents as the External Degree Program of The University of the State of New York.

1974
  • John Bear authors the first edition of Bear's Guide, educating consumers about the opportunities available in non-traditional and distance education

  • California State University Dominguez Hills offers an M.A. in Humanities through external education

1975
  • The University of Mid-America, a consortium of nine midwestern universities, formed to produce and deliver course via video

1976
  • The University of Phoenix, a for-profit institution, opens

1979
  • The California College For Health Sciences offers the correspondence program for healthcare professionals

1982
  • The National University Teleconferencing Network, a consortium of 66 universities and the Smithsonian Institution, was established

1983
  • Control Data opens Plato Homelink, an online educational service

  • IBM creates the Interactive Satellite Education Network, a corporate training network using satellite television

  • Time names the computer as the "Man of the Year"

1984
  • National Technological University opens, offering videotape and satellite graduate engineering courses

  • The Electronic University Network, founded in 1983, offers its first online courses using proprietary software for DOS and Commodore 64 computers

1985
  • After many years of difficulty, including going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, The Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities earns North Central Accreditation

  • Paul Levinson and Tina Vozick create Connected Education, a program of online graduate courses taught by professors at The New School for Social Research

1987
  • Glenn Jones starts Mind Extension University, a cable network broadcasting courses and full degree programs (such as Colorado State University MBA) developed by community colleges and universities

  • The International School of Information Management is begun as a distance degree-granting institution offering a Master of Science Degree in Information Resources Management.

1989
  • The Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities is renamed The Union Institute

  • University of Phoenix starts its online program

1992
  • The Electronic University Network changes its focus to assisting universities develop online virtual campuses on America Online. Programs include a Ph.D. in Integral Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies.

  • The George Washington University starts its distance M.A. in Educational Technology Leadership using ME/U cable television and a computer bulletin board system

1993
  • International University College founded by Glenn Jones (known for his Mind Extension University cable network). IUC will be a true virtual university offering exclusively online courses and degrees.

  • The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation begins offering grants to develop asynchronous learning networks

  • The New School for Social Research receives a grant to begin development of Distance Instruction for Adult Learners

  • The Union Institute opens its undergraduate Center for Distance Learning

  • The University of Nebraska-Lincoln begins an online doctoral program in Educational Leadership and Higher Education

  • The Graduate School of America, a for-profit distance education institution, was founded.

  • ISIM (formerly The International School of Information Management) earns accreditation from The National Home Study Council.

1994
  • Nova University merges with the Southeastern University of the Health Sciences to form Nova Southeastern University.

  • The National Home Study Council renamed to the Distance Education and Training Council

1995
  • Regent University offers the first online Ph.D. in Communication

  • Stanford University starts its Asynchronous Distance Education Project

1996
  • Duke University begins its Global Executive M.B.A. program which combines online technology and sessions on-campus and at various locations throughout Europe, Asia, and Latin America

  • The governors of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming commit to the creation of an online institution called Western Governors University

  • The New School for Social Research offers 90 online courses

1997
  • California Virtual University, a consortium of nearly 100 California colleges and universities, opens with over 1500 online courses

  • Johns Hopkins University offers its Business of Medicine certificate program in conjunction with Caliber Learning Network

  • The Graduate School of America receives North Central accreditation.
1998
  • Regent University School of Law, and ABA accredited program, announces the first online LL.M. program in International Taxation

  • The Coalition for Christian Colleges and Universities forms Christian University GlobalNet with the goal of serving at least one million learners in one year prior to New Years Day 2003

  • Western Governors University and the British Open University announce the creation of a distance education consortium called the Governors Open University System

  • Western Governors University enrolls its first students

  • Regents College of the University of the State of New York granted an independent charter and becomes simply Regents College.

1999
  • Britain's Open University opens a new sister institution in America -- The United States Open University.

  • Jones International University (formerly International University, originally International University College) receives North Central Accreditation. This is a significant milestone in the acceptance of vitual universities.

  • Touro University International receives Middle States Accreditation of the first accredited, American, 100% no-residency Ph.D. program -- a Ph.D. in Business Administration.

  • Reformed Theological Seminary receives approval from the Association of Theological Schools to offer an M.A.R. by distance with only two weeks of on-campus residency.

  • The Graduate School of America changes its name to Capella University.

  • The U.S. Department of Education establishes the Distance Learning Education Demonstration Program which will serve as a pilot program of 15 post-secondary schools, systems and consortia permitted to offer federal financial aid for distance learning programs.

  • The University of Maryland University College (UMUC) and Temple University announce for-profit ventures to market their online courses.

  • Learning portals, including HungryMinds, Click2Learn, Learn2, eCollege, Blackboard, and others emerge on the landscape.

  • California Virtual University shuts down, although the combined online catalog remains online.

  • In his Comdex keynote, John Chambers, Cisco CEO, declares, "Education over the Internet is going to be so big it is going to make e-mail usage look like a rounding error"
2000
  • eLearning emerges as the dot-com term for distance education.

  • ICI University and Berean University combine efforts to form one united entity known as Global University of the Assemblies of God.

  • Concord University School of Law, the nation?s first online law school and a division of Kaplan, Inc., receives accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council.
  • Baptist Bible Seminary (Clarks Summit, PA) launches a "Web-enhanced" Ph.D. in Biblical Studies featuring a twelve-week "external residency" and a one-week "internal residency" for each course.

  • Billionaire Michael Saylor announces that he has donated $100 million toward the creation of an online university that will offer an Ivy League level of education for free.

  • The National Education Association (NEA) and Blackboard Inc. releases a research study examining quality benchmarks for distance learning in higher education entitled "Quality On the Line."

  • The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities announces the Jesuit Distance Education Network.

  • Regents College renamed Excelsior College.



Selected Bibliography

Arenson, K.W. (1998, November 2). More Colleges Plunging Into Uncharted Waters of On-Line Courses. The New York Times, p. A16.

Blumenstyk, G. (1997, June 20). Elite Private Universities Get Serious About Distance Learning. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 43, A23.

McCollum, K. (1998, November 27). Western Governors U. Forms Consortium With Britain's Open University. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 45, A23.

Moore, M.G., & Kearsley, G. (1996). Distance Education: A Systems View. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Stone, M.D. (1994, May 1). Getting Online for Education. PC Magazine, 3, 215-222.

Withrow, F.B. (1997, June). Technology in Education and the Next Twenty-Five Years. T.H.E. Journal, 24, 59-61.

New Christian Online Degrees

Popular College & Seminary Degrees

Discover Christian Online Learning