Ancient precursors of distance learning were those Greek runners who carried scrolls from Rome to Athens. And in the New Testament, Paul's letter to the Corinthians was carried by a runner from Rome to Greece, and represented early distance learning for the Corinthians.
Distance learning or distance education is a broad term designating, as one might expect, any learning-at-a-distance. As such it encompasses a vast array of transmission devices; e-mail, snail mail, telephone, satellite, radio, mailed videotapes, audio-cassettes, television, video-conferencing, e-learning, and live Webcasts could all be included as "distance learning" modes.
The day is coming when the work done by correspondence will be greater than that done in the classroom.
—William Rainey Harper, 1885 (father of the junior college movement)
Distance learning originated in vocational correspondence schools that flourished during the heyday of industrialism in the mid-1800s and served to educate the working classes and women. An enormous range of topics was taught by mail, ranging from shorthand and drafting to home economics. A full century later, in the 1960s, the British "open learning" movement and its "university without walls" were conceived in the same spirit, and by 2000, e-learning or Web-based training continued the tradition.
Karen Mantyla and J. Gividen: Distance Learning: A Step-by-Step Guide for Trainers.
Alan Chute et al. (eds.): The McGraw-Hill Handbook of Distance Learning.
Nancy Stevenson: Distance Learning for Dummies.
See also Adult Learning