© Online Colleges, 2012

Lepi, K. (2012) Who actually started online education? Edudemic, November 12

No – it wasn’t Sebastian Thrun or Daphne Koller or any of the other MOOC aficionados.

This very brief history posted by Katie Lepi has a decidedly Canadian bias, but is still pretty informative, all the same. In fact it goes back as far as 1959 with the design of PLATO.

I was pleased to see it referred to CYCLOPS, a teleconferencing system I helped to pilot at the UK Open University in 1976.

Given the Canadian slant, I thought it might have referred to CoSy, an online computer-mediated communication system developed by the University of Guelph, and used by the Open University for its first course using online learning, DT 200, with over 1,300 students, in 1988.

I was a faculty member who designed and taught the block of four week’s work on information technology in education and training on DT200. As part of the assessment students had to write an evaluation of computer-mediated communication. My wife was a student taking this course, so her informal feedback (mainly in the form of curses and slammed books) helped shaped my views as well! Conversations went something like this: ‘How do you set the dip switches on the printer?’. ‘Sorry, I can’t help you with that – it’s part of your assessment.’ ‘I don’t want to be assessed – I just want to get the !@x%$ thing to work!’  (If you are old enough to remember dip switches, you’ll appreciate her difficulties.) I’m glad that her ‘anonymous’ assessments were marked by someone else in the team.

Being pioneers is fun, looking back, but it doesn’t always seem that way at the time.

See also: Stephen Downes overview of e-learning and a little history lesson


  1. Hi Tony
    Well we are the veterans now .
    My daughter graduated from Babson College in 1995 and I was assigned as a member of the European Executive Board of Babson College in 1996 . Immediately I had recommended that Babson should have an online MBA program. Since internet was not available everywhere, so even I suggested to have all lectures and data on CD–ROMs. and distribute all over the world .
    In 1997 I had the first grade 9 Physics course content developed by experts in Turkey .
    Now we collect the fruits. 16 million K12 students in Turkey are
    Getting a tablet
    Getting contents for every grade and course
    Getting etextbooks
    All free . Turkey is a lab now .
    100,000 tablets already distributed . We have already 7-8 grade students as hackers .
    Now we have wonderful MOOCs ( well there are someting missing but still ok )
    Even better ANTIOCH University providing credits toward a degree for MOOcs courses .

    I wish more colleges do the same .
    For 17 years I had great hopes from ONLINE.
    Now I am very happy from cradle to grave people use online and benefit from it .
    Contents will be better every day by better instructional designs and new tools .

  2. Greetings!
    I’m very happy to your website because it’s a granary of ideas & information for research education. It can help to improve my research proposal to become useful & purposeful because I gathered more ideas from your site for that I would say thank you.
    Good bless & more power!


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