Characteristics of distance education
Finally, distance education, like any education, establishes a learning group, sometimes called a learning community, which is composed of students, a teacher, and instructional resources—i.e., the books, audio, video, and graphic displays that allow the student to access the content of instruction. on the Internet promotes the idea of community building. On sites such as and , users construct profiles, identify members (“friends”) with whom they share a connection, and build new communities of like-minded persons. In the distance learning setting, such networking can enable students’ connections with each other and thereby reduce their sense of isolation.
Correspondence schools in the 19th century
Geographical isolation from schools and dispersed religious congregations spurred the development of religious correspondence education in the United States in the 19th century. For example, the Chautauqua Lake Sunday School Assembly in western New York state began in 1874 as a program for training teachers and church workers. From its religious origins, the program gradually expanded to include a nondenominational course of directed home reading and correspondence study. Its success led to the founding of many similar schools throughout the United States in the .
It was the demand by industry, government, and the military for , however, that pushed distance learning to new levels. In Europe, mail-order courses had been established by the middle of the 19th century, when the Society of Modern Languages in Berlin offered correspondence courses in French, German, and English. In the United States, companies such as Strayer’s Business College of Baltimore City (now Strayer University), which was founded in Maryland in 1892 and included mail-order correspondence courses, were opened to serve the needs of business employers, especially in the training of women for secretarial duties. Most nonreligious mail-order correspondence courses emphasized instruction in spelling, grammar, business letter composition, and bookkeeping, but others taught everything from developing esoteric mental powers to operating a beauty salon. The clear leader in correspondence course instruction in American higher education at the end of the 19th century was the , where employed methods that he had used as director of the Chautauqua educational system for several years starting in 1883.
Behaviourism and constructivism
During the first half of the 20th century, the use of educational technology in the United States was heavily influenced by two developing schools of . , led by the American psychologist and later by , discounted all subjective mental phenomena (e.g., and mental images) in favour of objective and measurable behaviour. The constructive approach arose from ideas on advanced by the American philosopher and others, who emphasized the education of the “whole child” to achieve intellectual, physical, and emotional growth and argued that learning is best accomplished by having children perform tasks rather than memorize facts. Constructivism, whose leading figure was the French developmental psychologist , asserted that learning arises from building mental models based on experience. These theories led to different techniques for the use of media in the classroom, with behaviourism concentrating on altering student behaviour and constructivism focusing on process- and experience-based learning.