Many people think that computer based training (CBT), or “elearning” as we all know it as nowadays, has only been around since the early 2000’s. That is mainly because is was only in the early 2000’s that businesses really picked up on elearning and introduced it as a new training method for their employees.
However, the first ever CBT was actually created in 1960. It was know as PLATO – Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations – and was created by Donald L Bitzer at the University of Illinois.
Bitzer was inspired to create PLATO when he learned that 50% of students graduating from high school in the USA were functionally illiterate.
During the 1960’S, PLATO was only used in a single classroom but later that decade, the Computer Based Research Laboratory (CERL) was formed and by the early 1970’s, PLATO was able to support 1000 simultaneous users due to the increase in mainframe computer processing power.
PLATO and the increasing power of mainframe computers then spawned the creation of an online community called “PLATO Notes”. This was a threaded discussion application developed by David R Wooley who was a student at the time. The CERL team had become so frustrated with the process of fixing bugs, that PLATO Notes was created to streamline that process.
At about the same time that Wooley created Notes, Doug Brown created a application called “Talkomatic” that provided real-time chat between users.
We have a lot to thank Bitzer, Wooley and Brown…and the entire CERL team…for the elearning and social learning that we enjoy today and take for granted.