History of Educational Technology

Helping people and children learn in ways that are easier, faster, more accurate, or less expensive can be traced back to the emergence of very early tools, such as paintings on cave walls. Various types of abacus have been used. Writing slates and blackboards have been used for at least a millennium. From their introduction, books and pamphlets have held a prominent role in education. From the early twentieth century, duplicating machines such as the mimeograph and Gestetner stencil devices were used to produce short copy runs (typically 10-50 copies) for classroom or home use. The use of media for instructional purposes is generally traced back to the first decade of the 20th century with the introduction of educational films (1900s) and Sidney Pressey's mechanical teaching machines (1920s). The first all multiple choice, large-scale assessment was the Army Alpha, used to assess the intelligence and more specifically the aptitudes of World War I military recruits. Further large-scale use of technologies was employed in training soldiers during and after WWII using films and other mediated materials, such as overhead projectors. The concept of hypertext is traced to the description of memex by Vannevar Bush in 1945.

Slide projectors were widely used during the 1950s in educational institutional settings. Cuisenaire rods were devised in the 1920s and saw widespread use from the late 1950s.

In the mid 1960s Stanford University psychology professors Patrick Suppes and Richard C. Atkinson experimented with using computers to teach arithmetic and spelling via Teletypes to elementary school students in the Palo Alto Unified School District in California. Stanford's Education Program for Gifted Youth is descended from those early experiments.

Online education originated from the University of Illinois in 1960. Although internet would not be created for another nine years, students were able to access class information with linked computer terminals. The first online course was offered in 1986 by the Electronic University Network for DOS and Commodore 64 computers. Computer Assisted Learning eventually offered the first online courses with real interaction. In 2002, MIT began providing online classes free of charge. As of 2009, approximately 5.5 millions students were taking at least one class online. Currently, one out of three college students takes at least one online course while in college. At DeVry University, out of all students that are earning a bachelor's degree, 80% earn two-thirds of their requirements online. Also in 2014, 2.85 millions students out of 5.8 million students that took courses online, took all of their courses online. From this information, it can be concluded that the number of students taking classes online is on the steady increase.

In 1971, Ivan Illich published a hugely influential book called, Deschooling Society, in which he envisioned "learning webs" as a model for people to network the learning they needed. The 1970s and 1980s saw notable contributions in computer-based learning by Murray Turoff and Starr Roxanne Hiltz at the New Jersey Institute of Technology as well as developments at the University of Guelph in Canada. In the UK, the Council for Educational Technology supported the use of educational technology, in particular administering the government's National Development Programme in Computer Aided Learning (1973-77) and the Microelectronics Education Programme (1980-86).

By the mid-1980s, accessing course content became possible at many college libraries. In computer-based training (CBT) or computer-based learning (CBL), the learning interaction was between the student and computer drills or micro-world simulations.

Digitized communication and networking in education started in the mid-1980s. Educational institutions began to take advantage of the new medium by offering distance learning courses using computer networking for information. Early e-learning systems, based on computer-based learning/training often replicated autocratic teaching styles whereby the role of the e-learning system was assumed to be for transferring knowledge, as opposed to systems developed later based on computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL), which encouraged the shared development of knowledge.

Videoconferencing was an important forerunner to the educational technologies known today. This work was especially popular with museum education. Even in recent years, videoconferencing has risen in popularity to reach over 20,000 students across the United States and Canada in 2008-2009. Disadvantages of this form of educational technology are readily apparent: image and sound quality is often grainy or pixelated; videoconferencing requires setting up a type of mini-television studio within the museum for broadcast, space becomes an issue; and specialised equipment is required for both the provider and the participant.

The Open University in Britain and the University of British Columbia (where Web CT, now incorporated into Blackboard Inc., was first developed) began a revolution of using the Internet to deliver learning, making heavy use of web-based training, online distance learning and online discussion between students. Practitioners such as Harasim (1995) put heavy emphasis on the use of learning networks.

With the advent of World Wide Web in the 1990s, teachers embarked on the method using emerging technologies to employ multi-object oriented sites, which are text-based online virtual reality systems, to create course websites along with simple sets of instructions for its students.

By 1994, the first online high school had been founded. In 1997, Graziadei described criteria for evaluating products and developing technology-based courses that include being portable, replicable, scalable, affordable, and having a high probability of long-term cost-effectiveness.

Improved Internet functionality enabled new schemes of communication with multimedia or webcams. The National Center for Education Statistics estimate the number of K-12 students enrolled in online distance learning programs increased by 65 percent from 2002 to 2005, with greater flexibility, ease of communication between teacher and student, and quick lecture and assignment feedback.

According to a 2008 study conducted by the U.S Department of Education, during the 2006-2007 academic year about 66% of postsecondary public and private schools participating in student financial aid programs offered some distance learning courses; records show 77% of enrollment in for-credit courses with an online component. In 2008, the Council of Europe passed a statement endorsing e-learning's potential to drive equality and education improvements across the EU.

Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is between learners and instructors, mediated by the computer. In contrast, CBT/CBL usually means individualized (self-study) learning, while CMC involves educator/tutor facilitation and requires scenarization of flexible learning activities. In addition, modern ICT provides education with tools for sustaining learning communities and associated knowledge management tasks.

Students growing up in this digital age have extensive exposure to a variety of media. Major high-tech companies have funded schools to provide them the ability to teach their students through technology.

2015 was the first year that private nonprofit organizations enrolled more online students than for-profits, although public universities still enrolled the highest number of online students. In the fall of 2015, more than 6 million students enrolled in at least one online course.