Charles Wedemeyer, W.H. Lighty Professor of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is considered a father of modern distance education.
An enthusiastic instructor, in the early 1930's Wedemeyer used the University of Wisconsin's radio station to broadcast English lessons and expand access for those otherwise excluded from the education system. As a World War II naval instructor he created effective teaching methods for thousands of sailors deployed around the world.
As Director of the University of Wisconsin's Correspondence Study Program (1954-1964) Wedemeyer and his graduate students initiated a number of research projects on learning theory and the sociology of independent learners. The work advanced a new discipline in the field of education by integrating adult, distance, open and independent learning with instructional systems design, and applications of instructional technology, organizational development, and evaluation.
"...the extension student of the future will probably not 'attend' classes; rather, the opportunities and processes of learning will come to him. He will learn at home, at the office, on the job, in the factory, store, or salesroom, or on the farm."
"...the teacher will reach students not only in his own state or region but nationally as well, since the media and methods employed by him in teaching will remove barriers of space and time in learning..."
Charles A. Wedemeyer, 1965/1966,
Brandenburg Memorial Essays
Wedemeyer's multi-million dollar Carnegie-supported Articulated Instructional Media (AIM) project led to new models for higher education institutions in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, India, Mexico, South America, Israel, Africa, Australia, the South Pacific, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia. His EDSAT project pioneered the social application of communication by satellite for educational purposes, with direct application in the University of the South Pacific.
Wedemeyer's work --as an instructor, researcher, author, administrator, and visionary-- spanned education and training, crossing decades, continents, and disciplines.
"Charles Wedemeyer: scholar, author, teacher, administrator, internationalist, philosopher and creator of the ideas of open education and distance education; for four decades a passionate advocate of applying technology as a tool for opening opportunity and promoting democracy in education - an ardent activist for freedom to learn, for provision of education regardless of age, race, gender, nationality, physical disability, income, social class, employment or place of residence. Not only a giant intellectual, but a builder, a man who engineered a new educational system that would give opportunity for those whose only chance to learn was, "at the back door."
Michael Moore, Ph.D., Professor, The Pennsylvania State University and Editor, The American Journal of Distance Education
To read more on Charles Wedemeyer's later work these documents offer his analysis and reflections in his own words:
Learning Through Technology
Charles Wedemeyer, ZIFF Papiere 26, December 1978, FernUniversitat, Hagen, West Germany
Advances in educational technology have brought about changes in the scope of
learning facilitated by technology, the roles of teachers and learners, and the
sophistication of the processes used in developing instruction which will be
communicated by technology. This paper considers these issues from the viewpoint of the learner.
Satellite and Cable: No Highway in the Sky for Conventional Teaching and Learning
Charles Wedemeyer, June 1975 Conference on University Applications of Satellite to
Cable Technology (Madison, WI, USA)
In examining the potential role of satellites and cable in classroom use,
technological developments have been seen as extensions of schooling, rather than
education in the broader sense. It is said that most education actually occurs in
the school format, however, more progress in media development is predicted in
non-school contexts, especially in adult and continuing education.
Implications of Open Learning for Independent Study
Charles Wedemeyer, May 1975 Conference of the ICCE: International Council for
Correspondence Education (Brighton, United Kingdom)
Open learning is the act or process of acquiring knowledge or a skill that is
accessible and available, not confined or concealed, and that implies a continuum of
access and opportunity. All open schools have one thing in common: they are to a
greater or lesser extent efforts to expand the freedoms of learners. The trend
towards open forms of learning cannot be separated from the extraordinary efforts in
our times to create, if not a new America or a new humanity, at least better
situations out of which an improved human condition may evolve.
Characteristics of Open Learning Systems
Charles Wedemeyer, November 1973, Report of NAEB Advisory Committee on Open Learning Systems to National Association of Educational Broadcasters Conference (New Orleans, Louisiana, USA)
Up to now the literature on open learning has focused on concern for a learner
oriented system. The present focus is on the open learning system itself, with the
identification of 10 tentative characteristics of a learning situation that will
enable open learning to occur, that will be learner-centered, that will diminish
dependencies, and concern itself with learning more than it does with instruction.
Extending to the People: The Story of Correspondence Study at the University of
Chester Allen and Charles Wedemeyer, 1957
In celebration of the first fifty years of its Extension Division, the University of
Wisconsin published the story of its correspondence study program, which outlined
factors affecting its development. A predicted increase of enrollment was
attributed to such factors as federal assistance to servicemen and increased
acceptance of the correspondence method.