Correspondence courses have been around in some form or another since the 1700s, when advertisements in the Boston Globe offered weekly assignments in short hand, sent to students. In the 1800's distance learning degrees were offered to students by the University of London, but in the last century this type of education has really taken off. Over 90% of the schools of higher education in North America offer some sort of off-campus educational opportunities.
With the availability of the Internet and the miracles of modern technology, correspondence courses can be offered in a variety of ways on every imaginable subject. Acquiring a GED online has been a popular alternative to a traditional classroom for years, and perhaps one of the first degrees offered in this manner. Now there are degrees available in every field and at every level of education offered through non-traditional classroom work. These include associates, bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees in fields ranging from nursing to accounting. Even trade schools offer some forms of modified off-site classroom training.
The same high standards are used for correspondence work as the course work offered through the actual classroom experience. Textbooks and curricula are offered by mail, email, or e books. Assignments are written and returned by the students and graded by professors according to the institution policies. Exams are taken to establish competency and proficiency in a subject and grades are given at the end of the coursework.
When participating in distance education, a proctor usually administers the exams. A proctor is someone who is neutral to the student and sanctioned by the University to ensure that the exam is taken honestly and is indeed taken by the student himself. There are contractual agreements between schools and proctors and the people in these positions are required to meet stringent criteria. These proctors are found locally to the student so that transportation is reasonable to the site of testing.
Classroom learning is accomplished in a variety of ways. One of the methods is termed synchronous, meaning all enrolled students are observing the same material at the same time. This is done through video conferencing or a live stream, and is much like a regular classroom setting, except that the student is not physically present at the school. There are opportunities for questions and interactions with other students in this method. The other method is more popular and is asynchronous, in which the students access the materials on their own schedule and independently of one another. This can be accomplished through video, email, audio presentations, or printed materials. Many classes are conducted with a combination of these methods.
Distance education has become increasingly more popular in North America, now that the age of technology has a computer in almost every home and countless ways to reach people and disseminate information. The advantages include lower tuition rates in many circumstances, but even more importantly; this type of education can fit the time constraints of almost every student. It is now possible to work at your own pace and complete any degree offered at the University level, all around the schedule of your work and family life