History of Virtual Learning Environments in The 1990s - 1990s - 1997


  • Digitalbrain plc, founded by David Clancy in 1997, quickly established itself as the most heavily used learning platform in the UK; which is still the case in April 2007. Digitalbrain was the first learning platform to be deployed using an on-demand software model and, as the name implies, the first designed around a user-centric approach. "A truly foresighted design" according to the heaviest users of the platform. The combination of the on-demand and user centric approach meant that a single, flexible learning platform could be rolled out across a host of different school and institutional user groups, each with multiple but inter-related user hierarchies, each with different software bundles and functional capabilities - easily, quickly and cheaply. At a time when users had little understanding of why they needed a learning platform, let alone what they would do with it, this approach encouraged user experimentation, at an affordable price.
  • Early 1997, CourseInfo is founded by Dan Cane and Stephen Gilfus, an undergraduate student and teaching assistant, and launches the Interactive Learning Network 1.5 based on scripts that Dan Cane began writing in 2006. The product is one of the first systems to be based on a relational database with internet forms and scripts that provided announcements, document uploading and quiz and survey functionality.
  • In 1997, Instructional Design for New Media – an online course on how to develop online courses was created using forums, interactive exercises and the notion of collaborative learning by a community of instructors and students. Developed by a Canadian consortium led by Christian Blanchette (Learn Ontario) and funded by the Canadian government, it was featured in the May 1998.
  • Brandon Hall publishes the "Web-Based Training Cookbook: everything you need to know for online training" (New York: John Wiley). The book contains many examples of online training software and content already in commercial use. Brandon Hall also publishes the first of his annual reviews of Learning Management Systems, entitled "Training Management Systems: How to Choose a Program Your Company Can Live With." There are 27 learning management systems listed in this report.
  • Elliott Masie publishes the second edition of the "Computer Training Handbook" (the first version was published in 1995, and co-authored by Rebekah Wolman). In this book Elliott describes teaching a pilot course via the Internet called "Training Skills for Teaching New Technology". The book also has a chapter entitled "On-line and Internet-Based Learning".
  • The Stanford Learning Lab, an applied research organization, was created to improve teaching and learning with effective use of information technologies. It carried out many projects that developed techniques and tools for large lecture, geographically distributed, and project-based courses. A study of web-supported large lecture course, The Word and the World tested online structured reading assignments, asynchronous forums, and student projects. Software developed included: panFora: an online discussion environment for the development of critical thinking skills; CourseWork: an online, rationale-based, problem set design and administration environment; E-Folio: ubiquitous, web-based, portable electronic knowledge databases that are private, personalized and sharable; Helix: web-based software developed to coordinate the iterative review of research papers; and RECALLtm: to capture, index, retrieve, and replay concept generation over time in the form of a sketch and the corresponding audio and video rationale annotation.
  • In June 1997, Gotham Writers' Workshop (www.writingclasses.com) launched its online division; classes feature blackboard lectures, class discussion bulletin boards, interactive chat, homework posting/individual teacher response, group assignment posting/group critique files.
  • Virginia Commonwealth University licensed Web Course in a Box (WCB) to madDuck Technologies in early 1997. madDuck Technologies was a company formed in early 1997 by Sue Polyson, Robert Godwin-Jones and Steve Saltzberg. The company was formed by the WCB developers in order to provide support and services to other educational institutions who were using WCB. WCB version 1 was released in Feb 1997 (beta version were released in 1996, and the product was in use at VCU and several other institutions in 1996). WCB V2 was released in September 1997 and added web-based quizzing, as well as more course site customization to the feature set.
  • The Oncourse Project at Indiana University utilizes the notion and design of a "template - based course management system." Other systems used a similar approach including CourseInfo, WebCT, and other Course Management systems. Take a look at the old IUPUI WebLab site archived at the Archive.org: http://web.archive.org/web/19990221151346/www.weblab.iupui.edu/projects/Oncourse.html
  • Lotus LearningSpace deployed as the learning and student team environment for the Indiana University Accounting MBA program and reported in the proceedings of HICSS-32.
  • Lotus LearningSpace presented at NERCOMP 24 March 1997: "Interactive Distributed Learning Solutions: Lotus Notes-Based LearningSpace" by Peter Rothstein, Director, Research and Development Programs, Lotus Institute.
  • Plateau released TMS 2, an enterprise-class learning management system. TMS 2 was adopted by both the U.S. Air Force and Bristol-Myers Squibb at the time of its release.
  • The Bodington VLE deployed at the University of Leeds, UK. The Bodington System - Patently Previous] By 1997, the Bodington VLE included many of the features listed in the Blackboard US Patent #6,988,138, including the variable-role authentication/authorization system. A full record exists of all activity in the Bodington VLE at Leeds going back to October 1997.
  • First versions of COSE deployed at Staffordshire University. COSE includes facilities for the publication and reuse of content, facilities for the creation and management of groups and sub-groups of learners by tutors and for the assignment of learning opportunities to those groups and to individual learners. For article (1997) see . This article was republished in 1998 in Australia. For a fuller description of work on COSE to the end of 1997 see: Published mid-1998
  • Ziff Davis launches ZDNet University for $4.95/month. Offering courses in programming, graphics and web management. See the Archive at Archive
  • Cisco Systems In 1993, Cisco embarked on an initiative to design practical, cost-effective networks for schools. It quickly became apparent that designing and installing the networks was not enough, schools also needed some way to maintain the networks after they were up and running. Cisco Senior Consulting Engineer George Ward developed training for teachers and staff for maintenance of school networks. The students in particular were eager to learn and the demand was such that in 1997 it led to the creation of the Cisco Networking Academy Program, see Cisco networking academy. The Cisco Networking Academy Program, established in 1997, teaches students networking and other information technology-related skills, preparing them for jobs as well as for higher education in engineering, computer science and related fields. Since its launch, the program has grown to more than 10,000 Academies in 50 U.S. states and more than 150 countries with a curriculum taught in nine different languages. More than 400,000 students participate in Academies operating in high schools, colleges and universities, technical schools, community-based organizations, and other educational programs around the world. The Networking Academy program blends face-to-face teaching with web-based curriculum, hands-on lab exercises, and Internet-based assessment.
  • Fretwell Downing, based in Sheffield, England, is working on the development of a virtual learning environment, under the auspices of the "LE Club" a partnership between the company and eleven English Further Education colleges. Dr Bob Banks's outline specification for a Learning Environment. The "LE" had arisen from a 1995-1997 EU ACTS Project - Renaissance - in which Fretwell Downing was the prime contractor.
  • Convene International is recruited by Microsoft to become their first Education marketing partner. Convene helps Microsoft with establishing licensing parameters for the ASP companies.
  • Foundation of Blackboard Inc as consulting firm.
  • WebAssign developed by faculty at North Carolina State University for the online submission of student assignments and a mechanism for immediate assessment and feedback.
  • WebCT spins out of UBC forming independent company with several hundred university customers.
  • Release of TWEN (The West Education Network), a system which "connects you with the most useful and current legal information and news, while helping you to organize your course information and participate in class discussions". (See archived homepage from archive.org)
  • Future Learning Environment (FLE) research and development project starts in Helsinki, Finland (See: http://fle.uiah.fi)
  • Stephen Downes presents Web-Based Courses: The Assiniboine Model http://www.westga.edu/~distance/downes22.html at NAWeb 1997, describing the LMS in detail.
  • A collaborative writing project between Jr Hi students and University pre-teachers, using Filemaker Pro to create collaborative writing spaces, Jan-Mar 1997, later described in Payne, J Scott and N. S. Peterson. 2000. The Civil War project: project-based collaborative learning in a virtual space. Educational Technology & Society 3(3).
  • The Manhattan Project (now known as the Manhattan Virtual Classroom) is launched at Western New England College in Springfield, MA as a supplement to classroom courses in February 1997. It is later released as an open source project. The Manhattan Project (history and description)
  • Delivery starts of the LETTOL course in South Yorkshire, England. Characteristics: delivery over the Internet; materials, tasks/assignments, discussion-board. chat system all accessible by browser; browser-based amending of the materials; learners and tutors all over the world, with learners enrolled to several of the institutions in the (then) South Yorkshire Further Education Consortium, and tutors employed by several different institutions.
  • An undergraduate software development course at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill included a team addressing the problem of Distance Education. The purpose was to allow interaction between students and instructors located in remote sites by utilizing a computer network, such as the internet. Included in the software requirements were a linked web-browser system, a synchronized blackboard application, and a student/instructor chat tool. There were two levels of access, separately for the instructor and for the students. The simple software suite was accomplished in the spring semester of 1997.
  • The Web Project at California State University, Northridge, adapted HyperNews, a shareware discussion board that created specific courses with faculty and students. In addition, QuizMaker from the University of Hawaii, and Internet Relay Chat (IRC), were shortly thereafter added to the shareware suite and indexed to faculty webpages. The Virtual 7 were seven faculty who began to teach online in 1995, with this software.
  • University of Aberdeen starts a project to research and evaluate web-based course management and communication tools. Project notes are available, including the original administrator guides for TopClass v.1.2.2b, October 1997 (PDF). Aberdeen ultimately chooses WebCT, and rolls out a live system in 1998.
  • Pioneer developed by MEDC (University of Paisley) Pioneer was an online learning environment developed initially for colleges in Scotland. Pioneer was web-based and featured: online course materials (published by the lecturers themselves); integral email to allow communications between students and tutors; forum tools; chat tools; timeatable/calendar; activities. The main driver for Pioneer was Jackie Galbraith. When MEDC was closed, the Pioneer development team moved to SCET in 1998 taking Pioneer with them when it became SCETPioneer. SCETPioneer was used by Glasgow Colleges and a number of other colleges and schools in Scotland. SCET merged with the SCCC and became Learning and Teaching Scotland
  • Bob Jensen and Petrea Sandlin republish "Electronic Teaching and Learning: Trends in Adapting to Hypertext, Hypermedia, and Networks in Higher Education" - first published 1994, text of both versions available via hyperlink.
  • Speakeasy Studio and Café (Gary Brown, Travis Beard, Dennis Bennett, Eric Miraglia, and others) (now retired, but many references remain on WSU websites, e.g., these) a course delivery system hosted by Washington State University] and used on multiple campuses for web-based discussion and collaborative writing. Speakeasy had a primitive portfolio view that allowed instructors and students to find all the writings of a given author within a course space, by discussion topic or in a calendar view.
  • The Cougar Crystal Ball (Gary Brown, Randy Lagier, Peg Collins, Greg Turner & Lori Eveleth-Baker and others). an online learning profile and corresponding university resource inventory, implements ideas related to selective release of material based on learner preparedness.
  • The WSU OWL (Online Writing Lab) (Gary Brown, Eric Miraglia, Greg Turner Rahman, Jessie Wolf, & Dennis Bennett) (still in use at WSU and by others) an interactive forum for peer tutoring in writing (WSU Boeing grant award), involves a simple threaded discussion. OWL retires in favor of eTutoring March 2008.
  • The VIRTUS project at University of Cologne, Germany, has started the development of the web-based ILIAS learning management system in 1997. A first version with an integrated web-based authoring environment has been going online at 2 November 1998. In 2000 ILIAS became open source software under the GPL.
  • Serf was invented at the University of Delaware by Dr. Fred Hofstetter during the summer of 1997. Initially used to deliver the U.S.'s first PBS TeleWEBcourse (on Internet Literacy), Serf has been used to deliver hundreds of courses. Serf "began as a self-paced multimedia learning environment that enabled students to navigate a syllabus, access instructional resources, communicate, and submit assignments over the Web," and the Serf feature set was expanded from 1997-99 as described in this article (from College & University Media Review (Fall, 1999), 99-123), which includes a detailed table describing the history of Serf's feature development for versions 1 through 3.
  • University of Maryland University College (UMUC) offers its first classes using WebTycho, a customized "program developed by UMUC to facilitate course delivery via the World Wide Web."
  • Paul McKey launches BigTree Online, a commercial, integrated online learning environment for managing the Apple certification program in Asia Pacific. Built with FileMaker Pro from a model first described in his Masters Thesis in 1996 - http://www.redbean.com.au/articles/files/masters/06-Chapter6.html
  • Saba founded. Now one of the pre-eminent corporate learning management systems.
  • FutureMedia (established in 1982) commenced the development of Solstra with BT Group PLC, launching the first version of the product in February 1998. (Annual report for 2001 to SEC)
  • (March 1997) Oleg Liber presents his paper "Viewdata and the World Wide Web: Information or Communication" at CAL 97 at the University of Exeter, England. In it he looks back to the use of videotex in education in the 1980s and forward to a more communications-oriented Web - what we would call Web 2.0 these days - but this was 9 years ago. The paper is worthy of note since Liber is still active in e-learning and as one of the few papers dealing with history of e-learning.
  • Formal Systems Inc. of Princeton, NJ, USA introduces an internet version of its Assessment Management System, which started as a DOS program in 1990. (In 2000, Formal Systems changed its name to Pedagogue Solutions).
  • Educom's IMS Design Requirements released in document dated December 19, 1997.
  • Teaching in the switched-on classroom: An introduction to electronic education and HyperCourseware is published online by Kent Norman at the University of Maryland, College Park, MD: Laboratory for Automation Psychology.
  • Bob Godwin-Jones and Sue Polyson give a presentation at EDUCOM '97 entitled "Tools for Creating and Managing Interactive Web-based Learning". The presentation compared the features of Web Course in a Box and TopClass. The slides for the presentation are still available online.
  • The MadDuck Technologies web site listed the many distinctive features of the Web Course in a Box course management system.
  • A online column by Tom Creed called "The Virtual Companion" lists a number of course management systems including Web Course in a Box, WebCT, Nicenet, NetForum, and WebCT.
  • Virtual-U, a course management system for universities, was developed at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia, Canada. A design paper Virtual-U Development Plan: Issues and Process dated 25 June 1997 gives a clear description including screen shots. By early 1998 the system was deployed in a number of universities and colleges across Canada, including SFU, Laval, Douglas College, McGill, University of Winnipeg, University of Guelph, University of Waterloo, and Aurora College. (Source: The Peak, Simon Fraser University's Student Newspaper, Volume 98, Issue 6, 16 February 1998.)
  • A press release dated 10 March 1997 announced that "DLJ’s Pershing Division Aligns with Princeton Learning Systems and KnowledgeSoft to Create On-line University". Knowledgesoft's LOIS (Learning Organization Information System) was described by Brandon Hall, in his book The Web-based Training Cookbook (New York: John Wiley, 1997), as an "innovative Web-based training administration tool." It had three core modules: a competency management system, an assessment system, and a training management system.
  • The University of Lincoln and Humberside (ULH) in the UK (later the University of Lincoln) begins development of its "Virtual Campus" software, which was later incorporated into a spin-out company called Teknical, which in 2003 was bought by Serco. Historical references seem fragmentary but some indication of the date of origin is contained in the overview material on the joint SRHE/Lincolnconference on 'Managing Learning Innovation' which took place on 1 and 2 September 97 at the University. Substantial funding came from BP as noted in an web page of the former Learning Development Unit at ULH.
  • Two key papers on Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) are published: a Kuhn paper on separation of duty; necessary and sufficient conditions for separation safety - and an Osborn paper (in PostScript) on the relationship between RBAC and multilevel security mandatory access (MLS/MAC) security policy models; role lemma relating RBAC and multilevel security.
  • Al Seagren and Britt Watwood present "The Virtual Classroom: What Works?" at the Annual International Conference of the Chair Academy. Reno, NV. See ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED407029. This presentation reviewed two years of the use of Lotus Notes as a learning management system in a masters and doctoral level education degree from the University of Nebraska.
  • July 1997: The Report of the National Committee of Enquiry into Higher Education, usually called the Dearing Report, is published in the UK. Many of its recommendations were influential not only in the development of e-learning but in the development ot the national-level support structures for it, including leading eventually to the Higher Education Academy. The report web site is maintained by the University of Leeds.
  • April 1997: The project Kolibri (Kooperatives Lernen mittels Internet-basierter Informationstechniken, Cooperative Learning with Internet based IT) was launched at the University Dortmund and went live in February 1998 with a course for Fuzzy Logic. The Kolibri system was a generic web-based application which supported multiple courses and several user groups (student administration, tutors, students). The application supported personal course histories, personal notes to content, automatic tests and interactive cooperative applets for teamwork in lessons. The system further contains a chat-system and a blackboard for information exchange. A report in German is available as PDF
  • In January 1997, Scott Gray, Tricia Gray, Kendell Welch, and Debra Woods launch Useractive an online learning resource dedicated to the useractive learning pedagogical technique. This technique has its roots in constructivism except with computer aided guidance. This asynchronus system is enabled by embedding tutorials and learning management functions into development tools.

Read more about this topic:  History Of Virtual Learning Environments In The 1990s, 1990s

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