That’s right – distance learning has a long history. In fact, college level distance education in the USA is more than 100 years old. What’s new about distance learning is not the idea, but the type of student it serves and the number and type of higher education institutions that are using it to reach new types of students.
In the 1880s, publicly-funded land-grant universities operating in rural areas of the United States decided to help farmers master more scientific and efficient farming techniques. However, it wasn’t easy—or in many cases even possible—for farmers to leave their fields to go study.
History of Distance Learning and Online Education
In 1998, Penn State opened a new online campus, known as the World Campus. The World Campus now offers more than 50 online degrees and certificates at both the graduate and undergraduate level. The World Campus’ distance learners live in every corner of the globe.
Penn State’s motto, “A century of commitment to distance learning,” affirms how established and long-standing distance higher education is in the United States.
It’s All About Access
Single mothers who work full time have historically relied on distance higher education as a way to access education without having to leave their children alone in the evenings or on weekends.
In fact, a 2007-08 survey of distance learners by Primary Research Group found that almost 60 percent of college-level distance learners in the United States are female.
The Distance Learning ‘College Kid’ – Getting Younger
The MBA is the most popular and prevalent distance online degree earned in the United States.
But, according to the Sloan Foundation’s report, “Online Nation: Five Years of Growth in Online Learning,” the typical online college kid may be getting younger—and seeking more entry level, career-specific education.
The associate degree is materializing as the prime growth area for online education development in the coming decade. More than half the growth in distance higher education in the last five years of the Sloan survey came from two-year colleges, which focus on delivering associate degrees and career certificates in high-demand job areas such as business, IT, justice and healthcare.