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The History Of Learning Platforms

The History of Learning Platforms

In 1924, Ohio University educational psychology professor Sidney Pressey invented the automatic teacher.  The automatic teacher was a testing machine comprised of a window that revealed one multiple choice question at a time, and keys that corresponded with numbered answer choices (Reiser, 2001).  Unfortunately, educational facilities did not widely adopt this learning platform.  In the early 1940s, during World War II, audio visual devices were utilized to train new recruits.  By the mid-1940s, The United States Army Air Force produced over 400 training films.  By 1954, Behaviorist B. F. Skinner created the Skinner box, an operant conditioning chamber that rewarded correct behavior and punished incorrect behavior (Reiser, 2001).  This mechanism has modern-day applications.  Gamification, slot machines, online games, and social media platforms are examples of modern-day entities that utilize operant conditioning techniques to encourage desired user behaviors.

In 1960, Donald L. Bitzer created the first computer-based training software known as Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations (PLATO; Reiser, 2001).  PLATO was a time-sharing system in which both course administrators and users had access to the same high-resolution graphics.  This system transformed from being for small-scale use to large-scale use over the course of the next decade.  In the 1970s, the introduction of personal computers aided course administrators in teaching, but did not replace the traditional classroom setup (Reiser, 2001).

Evolution of Learning Technologies

It was not until the late 1990s, that learning management systems (LMSs) were integrated into educational programs to replace in-person teaching (Reiser, 2001).  These systems enable instructors to exchange learning materials with students, track student progress, communicate with students in forums, and so much more.  Today, learning platforms are increasingly being incorporated into curricula.  These learning platforms reduce training costs and save time for universities, hospitals, and other corporations.  Learning platforms have certainly come a long way since the early 1920s.  We are very excited to see what the future has in store regarding learning management system advancements!




Reiser, R. A. (2001). A history of instructional design and technology: Part I: A history of instructional media. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49, 53–64. doi:10.1007/BF02504506

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