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History of E-learning

E-learning is an acronym for electronic learning which is the same as online learning. It involves learning and teaching through a computer and network. Lessons can be delivered directly over the web, by satellite television, CD-ROM, video tape, intranet/extranet and audio or any combination of these. E-learning can be self-paced where you study on your own schedule as long as you complete the studies within a certain amount of time. Or e-learning can be instructor-led where you listen to lectures at a set time from your home and complete assignments by certain dates. Sometimes you're given some flexibility as to when to listen to a lecture and the lecture can be available for viewing several times a week at different times.

Acronyms for e-learning include WBT (Web-based training), CBT (computer-based training) and IBT (Internet-based training)

Early E-learning

Early e-learning dates back to around the early 1960s and was more of a transfer of knowledge instead of the current shared development of knowledge referred to as CSCL or Computer Supported Collaborative Learning.

In 1960 PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations) was created, six years before the official launch of the Internet, as the first computer assisted instruction system. It offered coursework for four decades over many thousands of terminals worldwide. PLATO is credited with establishing key online concepts we take for granted including e-mail, message boards, instant messaging, forums, remote screen sharing and even multi-player games. It was shut down in 2006.

1982 saw the birth of the Computer Assisted Learning Center (CALC) in New Hampshire. It was a very small computer-based adult learning center available to a select few local students.

The Growth of Online Learning

In 1993 William D. Graziadei , professor at Plattsburg State University of New York in the United States, created a Virtual Instructional Classroom Environment in Science (VICES) in Research, Education, Service and Teaching (REST). The first online lesson was a computer-delivered lecture provided to students using e-mail. There were also two VAX Notes conferences. These were conferences allowing several users to share opinion, ideas and questions which was a faster method than sending individual emails. Using VAX Notes also cut down on the disk space used on a computer because only one copy of each message was sent instead of many copies.

The following year a Virtual Summer School for Open University students in Cognitive Psychology allowed students to study in summer school from their own homes uses a modem and a computer. Lessons included group discussion and allowed participants to browse online journal publications, complete literature searches, work on team projects and submit well-formatted individual or joint work. Students could also volunteer as subjects in experiments and socialize all without leaving their homes.

An article published in 1997 by Graziadei and company stated that e-learning had to be portable, replicable, scalable, easy to use and maintain and affordable. Since then e-learning or online learning has grown to include blogs, virtual classrooms, digital portfolios and collaborative software that allows a group of people to work on the same project.


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