Alumnus builds online museum of distance education

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A virtual museum created by a Penn State College of Education graduate will be featured as a part of the 75th anniversary of the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE). The International Museum of Distance Education and Technology was created by Will Diehl and supported by College of Education faculty members Michael G. Moore, Melody Thompson and Fred Schied.

“Distance education did not begin with the advent of the World Wide Web, online education or with MOOCs (massive open online courses),” said Diehl. “The postage stamp provided the opportunity for people to correspond for a reasonable price and distance education began to open up learning opportunities to people around the world who previously did not have access to such opportunities.”

According to Diehl, the goal of the museum is to preserve the work of past distance educators. In addition, it would serve as a resource for contemporary distance educators.

“There are many correspondence education historical materials from the past century that are in danger of being destroyed or unfortunately have already been destroyed,” said Diehl. “Or perhaps these materials are boxed up in warehouses in libraries.”

Currently, the museum exists as a website and on Second Life, a virtual online world.

“I’ve been working to collect and digitize historical documents in order to make them available to distance educators around the world,” said Diehl.

Moore, along with being part of Diehl’s inspiration in the creation of the museum, also contributed materials to the effort.

“Dr. Moore has been especially generous in providing advice, and in contributing historical materials, which I have since digitized and continue to add to the site,” said Diehl. “He inspired my interest in the evolution of the field of open and distance education. The museum project will hopefully continue to inspire others in the field.”

According to Diehl, Schied and Thompson also supported Diehl while he worked to create the museum.

“Fred Schied provided an opportunity and a great deal of guidance to me in conducting historical research in the area of adult education,” said Diehl. “He stressed the importance of understanding the history of the field of adult education and he was definitely an inspiration in my thinking about how I could bring the work of past adult educators into a contemporary forum.”

“Melody Thompson’s work in historical research of distance education has been valuable to the field, and she was also an inspiration,” said Diehl. “Thompson is an expert historical methodologist and distance educator. She also provided valuable advice and guidance during my own historical research on Charles A. Wedemeyer and the evolution of open and distance education.”

To his knowledge, the museum is the most extensive and fastest-growing historical timeline of distance education in the world, said Diehl. He plans on adding more materials to the museum’s site in the coming year.

“After almost seven years, I know that I am just at the beginning of this organization’s evolution,” said Diehl. “I envision a community of educators and students who will benefit from the resources that the museum provides as well as the collaborations that result from participation in the community.”

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Last Updated October 23, 2013