the evolution of eLearning - in pictures

The term eLearning is relatively new - it was first used in 1999 in a CBT systems seminar. The principles of eLearning, however, date back to 1800s, with remote coursework through mail correspondence.


After the first testing machine was invented in 1924, technology in education became a prime importance for military and global affairs - and innovation soared!


There are too many innovations and inventions to list here; below I present some of my favorites - from before computer-assisted instruction to today's virtual reality in education. Feel free to disagree and suggest other more important inventions.


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1924 - Sidney Pressey's Automatic Teacher - a teaching machine for drill learning. Students could test themselves after reading, watching, or listening to content.


1954 - B.F. Skinner's Teaching Machine - a mechanical device used to control student progression in programmed instruction.



1960 - PLATO - Programmed Logic for Teaching Operations was one of the first computer-assisted instruction systems. Learners could access thousands of hours of curriculum from a universal hub. I like to think of it as the original LMS.


1970 - Computer mouse and G.U.I. - the graphical user interface evolved with the help of many innovators and organizations, including the Defense Department, allowing people to communicate with a computer using symbols and pointing devices (the mouse)




1980s - Personal Computers - PCs revolutionized learning, allowing users to interact with content from their university dorm, office, or home.

1991 - EKKO - the first fully-featured learning management system (LMS), released by Norway's NKI Distance Education Network. Above is the original drawing used to show the functionality of EKKO.


1996 - Adobe Flash - Flash revolutionized the internet, creating the ability to rapidly product and embed videos, animations, and other graphics in websites. In eLearning, it kickstarted a shift from text-based courses to visually enhanced learning experiences - think early gamification!


2002-Present - Articulate - Articulate products helped push eLearning development into the rapid-development space, allowing professionals like myself to build high quality courses under strict deadlines. Other rapid-authoring tools followed and the functionality of each tool continues to amaze us!


Present-Future - Virtual reality meets elearning! This is the most recent and exciting subfield of eLearning, with the advent of immersive virtual environments. Dubbed as the 'Learning Aid of the 21st Century', VR continues to innovate the learning space, in multifarious subjects.


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Related: choosing the right LMS for your business


About Me:

I'm James, a learning & development professional with over 5 years of international experience, working with governments, non-government organizations (NGO), and private sector clients. I strongly value and advocate for educational technology and innovative learning design. Connect with me here.

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 © 2020 by James Aird