pp 1–2 | Cite as

The Father of Distance Learning

  • Douglas ArchibaldEmail author
  • Sean Worsley
Column: History Corner

When a person thinks about distance learning, what do they tend to imagine? They probably think of students using computers to browse through learning modules and communicate with teachers and peers online. One might imagine second language learners being tutored by a native speaking instructor through video chat. They may even think of a rural high schooler filling out his online AP Calculus homework offered by a high school 100 miles away. It is nothing short of remarkable to witness classes like these where teachers and learners are interacting worlds away. When a person thinks of the technology that made this possible, it is hard not to imagine lightning-fast Internet connections and laptops. But distance learning has its origins in a much simpler and humbler technology: mail.

Most history articles or essays that discuss distance learning will mention mail, but often immediately dive into how radio, television, and computers have revolutionized the format (Phipps and Merisotis 1999...



  1. Baker, A. (1919). The life of sir Isaac Pitman (inventor of phonography). New York: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, LTD. Retrieved from Accessed 30 Sept 2018.
  2. CincyHistoryLuvr. (2013). The Benn Pitman house [blog post]. Retrieved from Accessed 3 Oct 2018.
  3. Lotha, G. (1998). Sir Isaac Pitman. In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from Accessed 3 Oct 2018.
  4. Phipps, R., & Merisotis, J. (1999). What's the difference? A review of contemporary research on the effectiveness of distance learning in higher education. Institute for Higher Education Policy. Retrieved from Accessed 29 Sept 2018.
  5. Pitman, I. (2017). Preface. In Pitman's shorthand instructor: A complete exposition of Sir Isaac Pitman's system of shorthand (classic reprint). London: Forgotten Books.Google Scholar
  6. Reamer, F. G. (2013). Distance and Online Social Work Education: Novel Ethical Challenges. Faculty Publications, 392.Google Scholar
  7. Rockwell, J. E. (1893). Shorthand instruction and practice. Washington: Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  8. Sherry, L. (1995). Issues in Distance Learning. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 1(4), 339 & 345. Charlottesville, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved September 29, 2018 from Accessed 29 Sept 2018.
  9. Simmons, J., & Biddle, G. (1997). The Oxford companion to British railway history from 1603 to the 1990s (1st edition) (pp. 303–304). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. M. (2011). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (Vol. 36, pp. 75–76). London: Pearson.Google Scholar
  11. Tait, A. (2003). Guest editorial - reflections on student support in open and distance learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 4(1) Retrieved from Accessed 3 Oct 2018.

Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications & Technology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Brigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

Personalised recommendations