Open and Distance Education/Technologies in Open and Distance Education: A Timeline

We believe that subscribing to just one timeline for describing how technologies used for Open and Distance Education evolved would be very limiting. However, in this section we present a general timeline that can serve as a reference point in discussing the evolution of technologies for Open and Distance Education. It will be supplemented by the implicit categorizations of technologies into old school or traditional technologies and modern or, in our nomenclature, emerging technologies.[1]

Correspondence Learning TechnologiesEdit

The late 19th century marked its beginning with correspondence learning as a delivery method to learners. Paper-based technologies were thus used in this era because modules were print-based. These technologies include typewriters and mimeographs were the main technologies used in these times. This trend was maintained up until the 1980s.

Broadcast TechnologiesEdit

Teachers started using broadcast technologies like the analog radio for classroom use in the 1920s. This was also adopted in many Distance Education (DE) institutions. The first television (TV) appeared in the classroom in 1939. It is also during this time that DE institutions adopted the use of TVs in course delivery.

Computer-based Learning TechnologiesEdit

It was in 1980 that distance learning institutions started using computers for content delivery. With the advent of the internet and the world wide web, some DE institutions also went online, such as the University of Phoenix. With this, the proliferation of e-Learning and internet based technologies became a phenomenon among DE institutions, especially among open universities. This continued to grow with the open source movement enabling the faster development of free to use and modify relevant software such as learning management systems, virtual learning environments and online communication software. Voice over IP (VOIP) also made synchonous voice and video communication possible and economical for DE.

Emerging Technologies in the 21st CenturyEdit

Traditional technologies can refer to those that were used in correspondence learning and broadcast education, towards the earlier years of computer-based learning. Some technologies can be debatable depending on the perspective of the teacher or learner. Most teachers would still consider the CD-ROM as modern. However, digital natives would probably now consider storage devices that predate the Universal Serial Bus (USB)-based and flash memory devices as traditional or old-school.

It can be agreed though that laptop computers, which are used for online learning as well as smart phones, which are now becoming the device of choice for mobile augmented and virtual-reality based learning, are considered to be modern or emerging technologies in the present century.  Such technologies are considered as hardware equipment and infrastructure, with the except ion of cloud computing, which includes software and hardware. In the section about common Open and Distance Education technologies, we shall enumerate on some emerging technologies that can be considered as significant.

  1. Jung, I. 2009. Open and Distance Learning.