What are Correspondence Schools? Are they Online Schools?

Since the mid to late 1900s correspondence schools have been a valid way for people to get an education. Correspondence schools have provided people with a way to earn an education when they were unable to physically attend classes on a campus. Earlier in the 20th Century these schools were good because there were fewer institutions of higher education available and thus it was common for people not to have a suitable school geographically near them. The ability to take classes at a distance made correspondence schools a great choice for many people. Obviously, all these decades ago there was no Internet and no virtual learning, thus correspondence schools used the postal mail as a vehicle for participating in class.

Vocational and High School Completion Correspondence Schools

Correspondence schools were most popular for completing high school requirements for that all important diploma or for learning specialized skills through vocational programs. If you watched much television in the late 20th Century you probably saw many advertisements for various correspondence schools who offered distance training programs in topics ranging from art to engineering, counseling to paralegal studies. Today, you can still see these schools advertising on daytime television occasionally, one of the most common being a distance art school who asks would be students to submit a sample of their work for evaluation.

These correspondence schools still work mostly through the mail. Students can call to request information, and then are sent packets that they fill out. They then receive their books and complete their work on their own time, at home. They mail their work back to a central office where it is given to faculty or reviewers to evaluate. This method worked for decades. It is inexpensive and some people enjoy it. This type of distance learning had much in common with today’s online learning in that it was asynchronous and required a lot of self discipline to get the work done.

Correspondence Courses at Traditional Schools

As education matured, many universities started to become more progressive, seeing distance education as a way of the future – and a way to cut costs. Thus, distance learning courses (sometimes called independent learning) sprung up at universities around the country. These were not entire programs, but just courses within a program that could be taken off campus, allowing students to earn extra summer courses or simply spend less time on campus each semester.

These course were often done the same way as previously described, with materials being mailed or picked up on campus, then work being sent out. Often, proctored examinations were required at the end of the course. As technology advanced many correspondence schools and courses started to add videos of lectures or other material to their courses.

Moving Forward to Online Education

With the dawn of the Internet a new type of correspondence schools emerged – the online school. While most distance learning today is done via online education, both within exclusively online schools and as standalone courses through traditional brick and mortar schools, there are still some traditional, mail based correspondence courses out there. These courses cater to those who do not have access to technology, are looking for specific vocational training or high school completion, or simply prefer the traditional self paced correspondence schools programs. Remember, though, that online degrees from accredited colleges are the most useful; choose an accredited school.

Have you ever attended a correspondence school that was not online?

Share your experience and tell us what that was like.