Before MOOCs, ‘Colleges of the Air’ – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education

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Keith Wayne Brown‘s insight:

Karl Jaspers and a number of other professors gave radio lectures and then television lectures. I recall my great friend, Richard Owsley, telling me that while he studied at the University of Chicago in the 1950’s, he used to see Hannah Arendt as a regular on a television discussion show. And I remember first learning about physics and algebra while watching the television programming on KERA 13 in Dallas. The local community college aired their distance learning courses on there. I would just watch them as a freshman in high school (1979) and study along even though I was not in the courses.

We are not the first generation to believe that technology can transcend distance and erode ignorance. Nearly a century ago, educators were convinced that radio held that same potential. The number of radios in the United States increased from six or seven thousand to 10 million between 1921 and 1928. Many universities explored the possibility of broadcasting courses across the country and allowing anyone to enroll. Some onlookers believed those courses would transform higher education and eliminate lecture halls and seminar rooms. One observer noted, “The nation has become the new campus,” while another celebrated the “‘University of the Air,’ whose campus is the ether of the earth, whose audience waits for learning, learning, learning.”

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