About Charles Wedemeyer

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.

In 1965, Wedemeyer predicted today's e-Learning

"...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

(Click here for the full text of Michael Moore's editorial on the passing of Charles Wedemeyer, or go to The American Journal of Distance Education, Vol 13, No. 3, 1999: http://www.tandfonline.com)

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 Wisconsin
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.