Distance education as phenomenon and term appeared when education without physical presence in a classroom became popular. Distance education depends on information transmitting and receiving methods.
Initially beginnings and expansion of distance education was fostered by standardized means of communication. For instance, the very first distance course in short handing created by British professor Sir Isaak Pitman in the 1840s gained overwhelming popularity not only due to professor’s talents but also owing to implementation of uniform postage rates.
Nowadays distance education uses all channels of information transmission and receiving: either correspondence education via postal service, or educational TV and radio programs. Surely, the widest possibilities are given by Internet: sharing in real time text files, audio, video, graphical images and schemes.
Therefore, the first and the most important principle of distance education is accessibility of all information transmission channels and their unified standard.
New impulse in distance education development was in England as well, in Queen Victoria times, when there arose immense demand for knowledge free of any religious background. Then almost all universities were supported by this or that church, all religions competed fiercely for congregation, still the majority of students needed just knowledge.
The University of London (earlier known as University College London and King's College London) was then the most democratic educational institution; open for students regardless their gender, social status, origin, religious and political beliefs. Therefore, the University of London was the first to launch a distance education program, which was called External Program and approved by Queen Victoria personally (she used to protect the college from aggressive threats of competing universities, blaming UL of being “godless”). In nineteenth century the trend became popular, followed by many other universities in Europe.
Thus, second main principle of distance education is its democratic character.
Along with the first distance education program there arose a discussion of exams recognition – and as a result there was taken a decision to establish independent examining body for testing and confirming knowledge and giving grades. Exams required personal presence, by testing results students were given degrees of bachelors and masters, notwithstanding their home university.
Every successful course has its own transparent and coherent test system – either for self-checking during learning process, or for final qualification.
The third important principle of distance education is independent testing system.
Still only great learning materials – colourful videos, plain schemes, captivating tests – remain nothing but white noise without daily routine of hard and persistent work of student himself. Self-organization, determination, personal involvement in the studied theme make a formula for success either in standard or in distance education.
The fourth and the most fateful principle of distance education is self-guided work of student with a course.
Distance education in Internet era allows receiving knowledge from the best professionals in the field regardless time and location. Daily growth of Internet audience of open universities and online courses increases – and the trend will soon become the leading one in the world.
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