News Flash: Distance learning has been around for decades

All this talk about MOOCs has led people to believe that online learning is a new phenomenon, a disruptor to the way we deliver education. News flash, distance learning has been around for decades, albeit in different forms based on the available technology.

I began working in the field of online learning in 2000 when I became an instructional designer at Florida Atlantic University. FAU, which opened its doors in 1964, “was aimed to be a whole new kind of university, one that would harness broadcast technology to beam classes to students wherever they might be, thus swinging the door of higher education open wider than ever before. In a very real sense, FAU was the first Information Age university.”

The first university buildings to rise among the abandoned wooden structures of the old airbase were the Library, the Learning Resources Building, the Sanson Science Building and General Classrooms South, which featured classrooms shaped like slices of pie arranged around a core containing the most advanced audio-visual resources available in the early 1960s. A few steps away, in Learning Resources, four fully equipped television studios stood ready to broadcast classroom lectures across campus or around the world. The Library featured a technologically sophisticated Media Center, an automatic check-out system and a computer-generated catalog instead of the familiar Dewey Decimal System manual card index.

While the hype surrounding MOOCs has led to interesting conversation around changing delivery models, no one advancement or technology is going to radically alter our education system. It will take a lot more effort than that.