The earliest form of distance education was the correspondence education that was offered in Europe and the United States in the early 1800s. British educator Sir Isaac Pitman is considered by many an early founder of the distance education course. In 1840, he taught a class in shorthand by mailing assignments to students and having students mail their completed work back to him. This education method soon caught on with schools and in 1858, the University of London was the first to offer degrees through distance learning correspondence courses.
The development of radio in the 1920s and 1930s brought with it distance education courses that were broadcast to students. Pennsylvania State College aired education courses on radio networks. In the 1950s, television became another medium through which education courses were shared. For example, New York University collaborated with CBS to broadcast the TV series Sunrise Semester, which featured college-level courses for credit toward a degree.
Virtual classrooms were created starting in the late 1980s and 1990s, with the growth of computers, e-mail, and the Internet. In 1985, the New School in New York City was among the first colleges to offer online courses for graduate degree credit. By the end of the 1990s, many schools had been established that were completely online education institutions.
Distance education institutions are accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. This organization was established in 1926 as the National Home Study Council, with the mission of promoting educational quality and ethical business practices for correspondence education programs. The Accrediting Commission was founded in 1955 to create and implement accreditation standards and procedures to examine and approve distance learning institutions. The federal government recognized the commission in 1959 when it was listed as an institutional accreditor. In 2015, the name of the organization was changed to Distance Education Accrediting Commission.
Distance learning coordinators today work for online-only colleges and universities and also for colleges, universities, and academic institutions with distance education programs. They use various computer systems and software programs to coordinate education programs and share information with faculty, students, and distance education staff.
- Adaptive Physical Education Specialists
- Adult and Vocational Education Teachers
- Art Teachers
- Athletic Directors
- Book Editors
- Career and Employment Counselors and Technicians
- College Administrators
- College Professors
- Computer Trainers
- Cooking Instructors
- Dance School Owners and Managers
- Education Directors and Museum Teachers
- Elementary School Teachers
- English as a Second Language (ESL) Teachers
- Environmental Education Program Directors
- Guidance Counselors
- Instructional Coordinators
- Instructional Designers
- Journalism Teachers
- Library and Information Science Instructors
- Mathematics Teachers
- Music Teachers
- Nursing Instructors
- Physical Education Teachers
- Preschool Teachers
- School Administrators
- School Nurses
- Secondary School Teachers
- Special Education Teachers
- Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists
- Speech-Language Pathology Assistants
- Teacher Aides
- Tutors and Trainers