Back in the 1800s distance learning was by correspondence only. Potential students were sent workbooks and assignments in the mail and had to post them back to gain their qualifications. This method of study was pioneered by a visionary organisation called International Correspondence Schools (ICS) in Pennsylvania, USA. Australians were among those first students in the 1890s, which is hardly surprising, given the very early development of distance education in this huge country in the mid-to-late-19th century.
Slowly but surely, more courses were added to the schedule and in 1921 ICS was formally registered as a company in Australia, even though there had been offices here since 1910 and in New Zealand since 1903. The ICS took on women as well as men, and provided lots of courses to help people gain skills and to better their lives.
Times were changing and more people had more access to computers and printers; then in the 90s the internet came along, giving people the hint that maybe one day there would be more ways to get information than just through the post. People were also discovering the CD player and rather than send out large booklets of course material, ICS developed the very first learning CD ROMS with pre-loaded course material now available to grateful students.
There was not much on the internet in the mid 90s but ICS saw the potential for online learning. ICS created its first website in 1995 and announced that its first online courses would be released very soon. This would eventually lead to an online education revolution, but it was still early days.
By 2001 there were a series of mergers and acquisitions that led to ICS Australia being renamed Thomson Education Direct. The focus of distance education was now in developing great online courses with the quality and experience of a real-life learning experience.
Journalists started to weigh-in on the online education discussion. A leading business commentator told the Sydney Morning Herald that, “Thomson has a magnificent internet infrastructure to run courses," and that "about three years ago, Thomson decided the internet would be the growth market for the communications sector and it should expand its education services". We were doing just that, at record speed.
Students embraced the concept of online learning like never before with more and more people gaining access to internet connections and personal computers. Lives kept on getting busier and more and more people were looking to better themselves by studying things they were interested in during their spare time.
In 2007, Thomson Education Direct became part of academic publishing company Cengage Learning, and its name changed to Cengage Education. Then in 2010, Cengage Education was acquired by the Nexus Education Group Pty Ltd, and in October 2011 embarked on the next exciting phase in its evolution as Open Colleges.
It doesn’t stop there. Online education is now being offered in every country of the world, bringing quality education to everyone. In Australia Open Colleges is the leading distance education provider. We have the longest and most established history and the quality and affordability of our courses is second to none.
Since we began, over 700 000 Australians have studied with Open Colleges in vocational and professional courses that all offer flexible study options. People today are busier than ever and combining study with your real life is less of a challenge than it used to be, with so many of us now online.
It’s not 1900 anymore; people don’t spend 60 years in one job with a gift of a gold watch upon retirement. Our students are seeking to improve their lives, increase their employment options or to study for a new career entirely. Some people simply choose to study areas they’ve always wanted to know more about. It’s a flexible and affordable way to study
You can get a real education online. Many of Open Colleges' courses are nationally recognised by the Australian Qualifications Framework. Education has changed. Create your personal study program today with Open Colleges.
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