History of Virtual Learning Environments in The 1990s - 1990s - 1999


  • Fronter, a European software company, launches its environment for web based collaboration. During 1999 to 2001, the system is implemented by the majority of Norwegian higher education institutions and used as their platform for learning and collaboration.
  • In January 1999 CoursePackets.com goes live, serving dozens of courses at the University of Texas at Austin. The service allowed for the posting of course packs online at a substantial discount over the cost of printed materials. By May 1999, CoursePackets.com begins work on a courseware system for launch in January 2000. The courseware system is comparable to Blackboard, and actively marketed as "CourseNotes.com" beginning in the summer of '99.
  • February 1999: Ossidian Technologies is launched in Dublin, Ireland. Within 6 months the company has developed OLAS, its first web-based LMS. The company begins the process of developing a complete library of eLearning for wireless telecom (cellular, satellite, broadcast, personal and fixed wireless, operations).
  • September 1999: The IEEE magazine Web-based Learning and Collaboration publishes A Framework for Online Learning: The Virtual-U, describing the history of the Virtual-U system from its inception in 1993. There are screen shots and descriptions. In particular it has a "user interface that gives instructors or moderators the ability to easily set up collaborative groups and define structures, tasks, and objectives". Further, system administrators have tools to help in "creating and maintaining accounts, defining access privileges, and establishing courses on the system".
  • In October 1999, The UCLA School of Dentistry Media Center and Dr. Glenn Clark, develop an Internet-based authoring tool, labeled Internet Courseware (iic), which provides DDS students simulation modules for diagnosis and treatment planning of patients across a large breadth of possible medical conditions as well as access to lecture notes, exam reviews, course supplements and faculty contact information. Users are presented access to virtual patients based on class, previous coursework and patient/dentist activity within the system. The project was described in the Journal of Dental Education in 1999 (Clark GT, Carnahan J, Masson P and Watanabe, T. Case-Based Courseware for Distance Learning. J. Dent Educ. 63:71 (#191) 1999).
  • In October 1999 Liber and Britain publish Framework for Pedagogical Evaluation of Virtual Learning Environments (MS Word file), a study for the United Kingdom Joint Information Systems Committee evaluating 12 different VLEs in detail. The report contains a schematic of a prototypical VLE, comprising 15 generic functionalities, and describes each of these functionalities in turn. There is a narrative description of each of the evaluated VLEs, and a comparative table summarising which features each provides.
  • The Oncourse Project invented and introduced the notion of “Enterprise Course management system” where data from the Student Information System (SIS) was used to automatically and dynamically create CMS course site for all the courses offered at the IUPUI Campus (more than 6,000 courses offered to more than 27,000 students). http://web.archive.org/web/20070927215408/http://www.aace.org/PUBS/webnet/v1no4/Vol._1_No._4_Jafari.pdf
  • Martin Dougiamas trials early prototypes of Moodle at Curtin University of Technology, built during 1998 and 1999. This paper "Improving the effectiveness of tools for Internet based education" published in January 2000 details one case study and includes screenshots.
  • The LON-CAPA project is started at Michigan State University.
  • Desire2Learn is founded.
  • The University of Michigan launches CourseTools, originally a product of the UMIE project (launched in 1996), and moved into its own development and production team due to the scale and scope of the LMS being launched and created.
  • The Omnium Project based at The College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales ran its first global creative studio project online for 50 design students from 11 countries. See references below:
    • Outline, the CTIAD journal (ISSN 1365-4349) - issue 9: Winter 1999/2000 - pp. 17–24
    • ECi - Education Communication and Information (ISSN 1463-631X (print) /ISSN 1470-6725 (online)/01/010103-01) (DOI 10.1080/14636310120048074) - Volume 1, Number 1: 1 May 2001 - pp. 103–103 - Online article
    • Monument (ISSN 1320-1115) - Number 36: June/July 2000 - pp. 54–57 and included CD-ROM - PDF copy of article
    • IdN - International Designers Network - Volume 7, Number 1: January 2000 - pp. 49–51 - PDF copy of article
    • Omnium website - History
  • September 1999 - The brand new Technical University of British Columbia admits its first students. Their 'Course Management System' is a home-grown system with 2+ years of development behind it at this point.
  • Web Course in a Box, version 4 was released by madDuck Technologies in early 1999. WCB Version 4, added a gradebook and assignment manager. Companion products, Web Campus in a Box (for creating web pages for a department or program) and Web CourseBuilder Toolbox (for creating faculty web pages and forums, and course listings that were independent of the WCB system) were released in this same time period.
  • WebCT purchased by Universal Learning Technology. Roughly 1000 campuses using WebCT by end of year.
  • "Courseware Accessibility Study"] published, evaluating 7 online courseware systems for their accessibility.
  • Stephen Downes publishes Web-Based Courses: The Assiniboine Model in the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration.
  • The University of South Australia launches its web-based online learning platform, UniSAnet in March 1999. UniSAnet was developed over 9 months in 1998 and 1999, following a paper to its Academic Board in May 1998.
  • Wolfgang Appelt and Peter Mambrey publish a paper on using BSCW as a virtual learning environment.
  • ETUDES 2.3 released. ETUDES 2.5 is released in December. The system is used at several community colleges in California, including Foothill, LasPositas, and Miracosta.
  • "Practical Know How: Distance Education and Training over the Internet" (Jissen Nouhau Inta-netto de Enkaku Kyouiku/Kenshuu) by Douyama Shinichi published in April 1999 by NTT publishing. ISBN 4-7571-0016-7. "It would seem easy to begin distance learning and distance education over the Internet, as an extension of (conventional) distance learning. When it comes to teaching several hundred students in this way, there are a number of problems still to be resolved at this time. In this book we will consider, the selection of teaching materials, making online contents, management methods, and introduce concrete practical know how with good cost performance and lots of practical advice." Chapter one details the trial of an Internet distance learning system, from sending out invitations to graduation.
  • Sheffield company Fretwell Downing is marketing its "LE" (Learning Environment) product. September 1999 product overview.
  • Washington State University publishes online a comparison of 24 VLE's, focusing on 8 that were considered candidates for adoption at WSU. (Note: Only the final draft survives in the archives.)
  • Thorough "Comparison of Online Course Delivery Software Products" published by Marshall University - with stated last update of 1 October 1999 - examining in detail the features and functionalities of 16 mainly US and Canadian systems. Marshall University web site version Wayback Machine version
  • The Bridge (Gary Brown, Mathew Shirey, Dennis Bennett, Greg Turner-Rahman). (now retired, but available available read-only) a course management system with sub-spaces for teams that empowers students to create resource objects (threaded discussion, file upload, web links, notes, and quizzes) in the course. Bridge also had a "personal workspace" that provided the same collaborative and ePortfolio tools to individuals outside any course offering. The concept was not fully implemented as there was no mechanism to authorize users into one's personal workspace.
  • Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC)'s Extended Learning Institute (ELI) begins using Allaire Forums for web-based conferencing in a variety of online/distance courses.
  • University of Maryland University College (UMUC)'s unveils Version 2.0 of its customized WebTycho program with a new interface design. Through Fall 1999, UMUC has installed WebTycho servers on three continents and served over 26,000 students and faculty in over 1,000 WebTycho courses.
  • In spring 1999 the development of the open source LMS OLAT was initiated by Sabina Jeger, Franziska Schneider and Florian Gnägi to support a tutoring course with 900 students at University of Zurich. The system was put into production in fall 1999 where the 900 students registered to 25 classes that were coached by older students. This first version of OLAT was built on LAMP technology. Later, the system was completely rebuilt on Java EE technology to support the e-learning needs of a whole campus.
  • IBM's Lotus group buys Macromedia's Pathware 4 learning management system. This LMS is later merged into the Lotus Learning Space LMS. For article on the purchase, see here.
  • Isopia (founded actually in 1998) entered the e-Learning landscape in 1999 with the launch of its Integrated Learning Management System (ILMS), its Web-based infrastructure software. Built on Enterprise Java Beans, Isopia claimed to be "a flexible, open system that allows for massive scalability and adapts to a variety of learning needs and rapidly-growing user communities". Isopia certainly rapidly grew in clients and deals (e.g. see the industry testimonials to its feature list from 1999 and early 2000 at http://www.isopia.com/the_industry/sys.html) until being bought by Sun Microsystems in 2001.
  • Knowledge Navigators International releases its third version of LearningEngine as MyLearningPlace. Used by the United Nations Development Programme for several years for worldwide commnunities of practice and adopted by large architectural firm in CA. Company closed in 2001. New incarnation of software lives as www.coachingplatform.com.
  • "First Annual WebCT Conference on Learning Technologies" takes place at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada from 17–18 June. Tim Barker presents a paper "Community Based Virtual Learning: A WebCT Physics Course" comparing three VLEs (WebCT, Topclass and Learning Space) plus Eventware (web annotations & chat), Ceilidh & Tree of Knowledge (discussion boards), Netmeeting (Whiteboard, chat etc.), Inspiration (Concept Mapping) & Composer/Writers Assistant (scaffolds writing process). Additionally Tim proposes integrating a Learning Companion. This conference represents a milestone as one of the first VLE user conferences. It is a significant success with 700 in attendance and poses a logistical exercise for organisers who were originally expecting between 50 and 100. Registration had to be closed due to the large numbers over a month before the conference date.
  • 5 December 1999: Randy Graebner's proposal for his master's thesis, Online Education Through Shared Resources
  • The BENVIC project started in late 1999 and ran for two years. Its aim was to benchmark the various virtual campuses (i.e. university-level distance e-learning services) operating across Europe. The BENVIC web site contains several useful outcomes. The project became quiescent in early 2002. It represented a move beyond benchmarking VLEs to benchmarking e-learning at a higher level, i.e. the services which the VLEs underpinned.
  • Dennis Tsichritzis of the University of Geneva publishes "Reengineering the University" (Communications of the ACM Vol. 42, Issue 6, June 1999). One reviewer observes "This is a must-read article for academics" but later cautions that "most traditional college students, particularly in the US, do not have the self-discipline to adjust to the educational environment Tsichritzis describes."
  • Scholastic Corporation publishes Read180, an application for Macs & PCs to improve reading skills in schools. Read180 shipped with sets of CD-ROMs on various topics, each with video presentations and interactive tests. Audio recording sessions by students were sent over the network to a teacher's workstation for evaluation.

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

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