A Brief History of Online and Hybrid Schools
In-person learning was the standard before the COVID-19 pandemic. Many grade schools, high schools, and universities worldwide are currently offering purely online or hybrid course catalogs to ensure the safety of their students and faculty. Continuous learning has also been highly encouraged during unprecedented times. It appears that the trend will continue even after the pandemic crisis is over.
Enrollment in online education has continued to grow, with traditional schools adding digital courses to their catalog. Let’s dive into a brief history of online and hybrid schools.
The History of Online and Hybrid Schools
The Origins of Online Schools
When distance learning started, the most widely accessible technology to support learning was letter writing. As such, correspondence courses allowed students to increase their knowledge. The first well-documented example of a correspondence course was an ad in the Boston Gazette in 1728. Caleb Phillips offered to teach shorthand to students through the exchange of letters.
One hundred and fifty years later, in 1873, Ana Eliot Ticknor founded the Society to Encourage Studies at Home to establish correspondence schools in the US. The schools encouraged students to gain an education from dispersed locations.
The University of Chicago became the first school to offer correspondence courses a short while later in 1892. Primary schools started adopting the trend in 1906.
The emergence of new technologies in the early 20th century led to innovations in distance learning. Radio broadcasting became a learning tool starting from 1922 at the Pennsylvania State College. In 1953, the University of Houston offered the first televised course. More colleges started offering televised courses for credits after that.
By 1968, a student could receive an accredited high school diploma through distance learning from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Independent Study High School.
The first virtual college in the US was established in 1976. The college’s ability to provide remote learning was a significant achievement in the education sector.
Internet adoption helped revolutionize learning, with many institutions in the 1990s using both real-time and online technologies. Various pilot programs emerged, and independent companies also contributed by developing ready-made templates for online course content delivery.
Many institutions adopted the Interactive Learning Network in 1997; an e-learning system developed using a relational database. The same year saw the foundation of Blackboard Inc. Blackboard developed a standardized platform to manage and deliver course content effectively.
The virtual learning environment Moodle 1.0 emerged in 2002. This platform provided an alternative method of online teaching.
There was an explosion of online technologies to deliver educational content during the 2000s. As internet usage increased, the number of institutions adopting distance learning also grew.
In 2012, Udacity started offering MOOCs (massive open online courses), followed by Harvard and MIT establishing their MOOC platform edX.
The first online-only public university, UF Online, was established in 2014. Since then, the growth of online schools has been massive. Online learning has become a familiar and valued learning experience that allows students and faculty to utilize various resources across different geographical locations.
By 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had forced nearly all institutions to adopt online learning rather than teach in physical classrooms.
76% of education leaders believe that online education is equivalent to or higher than that of traditional education.
The Origins of Hybrid Schools
A hybrid school integrates online and traditional school attendance. Teachers provide the primary instruction and assign grades. Parents are actively involved because they facilitate learning when the students are at home. Additionally, some students can be in the classroom while others join remotely from another location. There is no requirement for students to attend in-person or online classes as the teaching and learning methods are primarily technology-based.
After the advent of correspondence courses, teachers interacted with their students through shorthand texts to gauge students’ understanding of subject matter. Even though there was no internet, the teachers developed effective assessment and feedback systems that allowed their correspondence students to excel in their studies.
In the 1970s and 1980s, firms started using video networks to train employees. Instructors did not have to be physically present to onboard new hires or help current employees in training programs. Rather, the videos provided an engaging and interactive learning experience, allowing learners to communicate with peers, watch the instructor on video, and send questions or feedback through the mail.
The Stanford University Interactive TV Network is an example of a successful hybrid learning strategy. The university developed its video network in the 1970s and 1980s to enable its professors to hold multiple sessions across San Francisco at once. This program is still in use today. Rather than sending feedback and questions to lecturers by courier or mail, the students nowadays submit their work for review online.
As the technology evolved in the 80s and 90s, schools and institutions of higher learning started using CD-ROMs to deliver instruction. The CDs could hold more content than videos and provide more interactive and comprehensive lessons more suitable for distance education.
Learning management systems (LMS) was introduced around this time. They allowed organizations to track trainees, improve online training courses, monitor enrollment data, and track eLearning course participation and completion.
Web-based instruction was first developed in 1998. More firms and families were able to access computers, which offered even more interactivity. Rather than using CD-ROMs, instructors could now upload learning materials and assessments so that learners could access them quickly via the web. Consequently, CD-ROM developers were forced to fine-tune their eLearning courses. Materials such as large video files needed to be downloaded quickly to increase user satisfaction.
Starting from 2000 until today, the hybrid learning environment has rapidly evolved. There are now video conferencing tools, online tutorials, and webinars that provide an interactive learning experience. Learners can participate in classroom activities from anywhere in the world and learn from their peers.
Ultimately, merging traditional and technology-based learning has helped establish creative learning strategies that ensure students enjoy their studies.
In the US, approximately 52% of students prefer the online learning experience to their local classroom learning.
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