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Historical timeline PDF Print E-mail
Written by Neil Evans, PhD study   

The roots of e-learning have their origins in correspondence course learning, which dates back to the 1890s but became mainstream in the 1920s and 30s (Al-Khasha, 2006:6). The first use of technology within these correspondence courses where when leaders in the field began experimenting with radio transmissions to broadcast courses nationally (Al-Khasha, 2006:6). 

In the 1960s when the use of personal computers was rare few learners engaged in Computer-Based Training (CBT) (Martinich, 2002:136). CBT was initially leader-led and together with the necessary technology made it a relatively expensive exercise (Al-Khasha, 2006). Only in the mid-1980s when user friendly operating systems appeared and the inexpensive CD-ROM became the preferred multi-media technology did CBT catch on, but mainly on IT related courses (Cross, 2004). Then in the 1990s it became apparent that these anytime, anywhere CD training programmes where not delivering the required interactivity normally associated with classroom learning resulting in high drop out rates and user dissatisfaction (Cross, 2004).

With the advent of the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1994 the revolution of e-learning began. The term Web-Based Training (WBT) emerged as this medium introduced new geographically independent communication models like email and web-browsers that where efficient, easy to use and economically viable to adopt by users. One change that was necessary was that the large multi-media files initially used in CBT needed to be replaced with smaller more Web friendly file formats due to the initial bandwidth limitations of WBT.

In the 2000’s decade the next generation of Web technologies and design that harnessed the power of user contribution, collective intelligence, and network effects (O’Reilly, 2006) brought about the term Web 2.0 in 2004 (Graham, 2005) this further accelerated the evolution of e-learning. According to O’ Reilly (2006) the term Web 2.0 can be defined as:

“…the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on this new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them”.


1. Al-Khasha, H.M. 2006. Attitudes towards E-Learning: An Empirical Study in Kuwait. [Online]. Available: Accessed: 4th January, 2009.
2. Cross J. (2004). A History of E-learning. The Future of E-learning. Draft. [Online]. Available: Accessed:  22nd May, 2008.
3. Graham, P. (2005). Web 2.0. [Online]. Available: Accessed: 19th January, 2009.
4. O'Reilly, T. (2006). Web 2.0 Compact Definition: Trying Again. [Online]. Available: Accessed: 19th January, 2009.