The rise of online courses—massive and open or just regularly-sized—is one of the major trends in higher education over the last few years. Of course, the rapidly growing access to high speed Internet has been crucial in helping online education spread, but as Julie Vargas explains in the new issue of Academe, today’s online courses do have predecessors, in the “Machine-Delivered Instruction” experiments of the mid-twentieth century. In fact, the psychologist B. F. Skinner even made “a cardboard gadget” teaching machine that could be considered the predecessor of today’s online courses.
As Vargas shows, the Skinner’s investigations into how students learn and how they can be taught by machine are more relevant than ever in the age of digital courses. Read “What Can Online Course Designers Learn from Research on Machine-Delivered Instruction?” in the May-June 2014 issue of Academe.