1924: Ohio State University professor Sidney Pressey invented the “Automatic Teacher,” the first device in electronic learning. It was an abysmal failure.
1954: Harvard professor BF Skinner creates the “Teaching Machine” for use in schools.
1960: PLATO—Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations—was the first computer-based training (CBT) program. It offered drills and the ability to skip questions. The cost: $12,000.
1966: Stanford University psychology professors Patrick Suppes and Richard C. Atkinson began using computer-aided instruction (CAI) to teach math and reading to young children in Palo Alta elementary schools.Bernard Luskin worked with Stanford University to install the first computer in a community college for instructional use.
1969: US Department of Defense commissioned ARPANET to create the Internet.
1970s: Computer mouse and the GUI are invented, helping to define “modern computing.” Computer-based training (CBT) begins at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Ivan Illich describes computer-based instruction and learning webs in Deschooling Society: “We can depend on self-motivated learning instead of employing teachers to bribe or compel the student to find the time and the will to learn … We can provide the learner with new links to the world instead of continuing to funnel all educational programs through the teacher.”
1980s: Personal computer era begins with Macintosh. Online communities begin sharing information, slowly paving the way toward eLearning.
1990s: The first “digital natives” are born. Email takes off. It’s the dawn of a new era in learning. Virtual learning environments begin, and “eLearning” becomes a widely recognized term.
2000s: Businesses begin rolling out eLearning courses as a central way to train workers. Authoring tools are more accessible than ever, and a wide range of online learning opportunities are available.
2010 and beyond: A new wave of eLearning inspired by social media builds momentum. YouTube. Twitter. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). ScoopIt. iTunes U. Skype. Opportunities to connect, share information, and learn from each other are found everywhere.