History of E-learning

21 June 2021

E-learning refers to any type of learning or training conducted through an electronic medium such as a computer or phone. Before the advent to the internet and the computer, there were rudimentary forms of distance learning that were popular amongst educations during the 19th century.  These techniques included sending correspondence through the mail and was mainly used to improve upon peoples written skills. In the early to mid-20th century (1924-1954) researchers invented and began to test machines with testing and teaching capabilities. In 1960, PLATO-Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations was created. This was the world’s first computer-based learning program. It was originally tested on students and the University of Illinois, but it quickly gained popularity for its advanced capabilities and began being implemented at national schools. 

Between the 1960’s and the 1990’s, computer technology started to become smaller and more accessible, and the first home computers began to make their way to the market, making it possible for learning to be done at a distance utilizing an electronic device. However, during this time, the Internet was still in its infancy, and broadband networks had yet to be built to service the general public. E-learning was limited to those who had access to a computer and was mainly conducted using CD-ROMS. The rise of the internet as well as the popularization of personalized computers helped lead to the growth of e-learning platforms online.

During the late 20th century, computer hardware and software companies experienced a dramatic improvement in their technological capabilities. Personalized home computers became more common place and computer hardware companies like MAC and Microsoft began to offer software options with their hardware. These options included e-learning platforms that could be accessed at home using the internet and an electronic device. This new form of “virtual learning” became extremely popular amongst those in the working public, as distance learning on a virtual platform allowed them to study and train in their own time and in a. way that worked with their schedules. The Internet also began to provide a treasure trove of resources that were easier to access as well as built in software that could facilitate online learning.

E-learning has advanced significantly since the start of the millennium until now. During the 2000’s computer hardware and software companies began to invent more affordable mobile options such as laptops and cellphones. Mobile devices with internet accessibility helped to facilitate e-learning from anywhere with an internet connection. E-learning companies began to build learning management systems (LMS), which were highly sophisticated versions of their software predecessors of the 1990’s. These LMS were cloud-based, meaning they could be accessed and downloaded directly form the internet. The most modern form of theses LMS include open-source cloud-based LMS that can support advanced authorization as well as utilize Artificial Intelligence to deliver insights and updates to the system automatically. Cloud-based LMS allows end-users to individually tailor their courses to meet their specific need and can easily be downloaded and installed on most mobile devices. They offer easy enrolment as well as project management features that allow administrators to track and manage learning outcomes and expectations. They also offer testing and grading. Many LMS also utilize user data and surveys to help to improve their services overtime.

Maria is a writer at Enki Tech, a Downtown Santa Monica technology company that specializes in the development of high-quality, user friendly software, web platforms and mobile apps.