From Post to Postings: A Brief History of ‘Arms Length’ Learning

I worked with Professor David Hawkridge at the University of Leicester and I was interested to see he’s hosting a seminar (webinar) for the ELKS project on 21 Aug 2009 at 1.30pm.

“From Post to Postings: A Brief History of ‘Arms Length’ Learning”
Professor David Hawkridge, BDRA, University of Leicester.

“‘Arms length’ learning, otherwise known as distance learning or distance education, has been going on for a long time. Although Plato spoke to his students face to face, St Paul wrote letters to his, keeping them at arms length for most of his life.

I shall start looking at the roots of today’s Internet-based arms length learning by first discussing formal education by post, widely available in many countries from the nineteenth century onwards. Tutors and their students depended on being linked by the postal services in what was known as correspondence education. The role of text was paramount in the students’ studying.

Multi-media arms length learning began in the twentieth century, with the Open University, one of the most notable examples, starting as late as 1969. I shall mention a few earlier examples of students learning via audio-visual instruction as well as text.

Internet-based arms length learning arrived in the 1990s, with computer-conferencing, virtual learning environments and Web resources. In the 2000s social networking tools such as Twitter and FaceBook became available, and now podcasing, e-books and Second Life may change arms length learning yet again.

In this one-hour brief history I shall discuss how roles of students and their tutors have changed, and I shall point to research questions that need answering.”

Contact Dr Pal Edirisingha for more information