eLearning, that is learning by means other than attending brick and mortar schools, is not a new concept.

My newest friend DuckDuckGo (I caught Google snooping around in my computer’s history) told me that the phrase eLearning was first mentioned in 1999.

I can tell you that learning at home by certified teachers dates back a lot longer than that. 

(Don’t confuse eLearning with homeschooling where the teacher is usually a relative.)

While not quite during the Fred Flintstone era, I spent a semester taking high school classes via Ma Bell.

A history lesson follows, since one of my eLearning classes was American History.

Abilene resident C.L Brown proposed his Brown Telephone Company he founded in 1899 to the Abilene City Council which approved his idea in 1902. In 1911 it was renamed United Telephone Company. Brown sold a large portion of stock interest to the Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company in 1914. It was later known as Southwestern Bell, nicknamed Ma Bell. 

That company is now called the Sprint Nextel Corporation.

It was through Southwestern Bell that I took classes for the better part of a half year at Abilene High School.

Some of you might recall that I tangled with a Ford Thunderbird my senior year in high school.

It won.

Because of several injuries as a result of the crash a couple miles west of Victoria on Interstate 70, I was quarantined to my home.

On a side note, as the editor of the Abilene Booster, one of the newspaper editions was organized at a hospital room in Hays.

After a few weeks at hospitals, St Anthony’s in Hays and St. John’s in Salina, I made it home where, like students today, I was confined.

I certainly feel the pain of students trying to learn from home, especially middle schoolers and older who are probably trying to learn without adult supervision.

Back then it was just me and a box in my room that was connected to three classes at Abilene High School.

I know I had a desk in my room but I guarantee readers that I was still in bed when classes started.

While we only had one channel on the television, that one station would show a movie every night after the 10 p.m. news and naturally, since I didn’t have class until second period, my head never hit the pillow until after midnight.

While I tired to listen, similar to today’s Zoom discussions, it could be difficult to hear. Once in a great while Earl Dean, my teacher in American History, would ask me a question. I think he was just testing to see if I was there.

I have to admit that I aced the tests.

My mother Nelda would bring them home to me to take with the textbook sitting open on my desk.

Naturally I couldn’t carry my telephone box around the house with me like students can their iPads now. And teachers and students couldn’t observe reactions during class discussions.

There was no sitting around the Cowboy that was on the floor in the main lobby at AHS, flirting with the girls and talking about the football game coming up.

Because of the injury, I missed fall sports that year. I was a three-year letter winner in cross country but that wasn’t a huge disappointment. 

However, I would have been crushed to miss my final season on the golf course though I had to wear a back brace and couldn’t carry my clubs.

High school athletics has been proven to help student achievement, especially if they have to make the grades in order to be eligible.

eLearning is becoming the future of education as many colleges and universities offer online degrees.

Education could change after this pandemic is finally over. Who knows where technology will take us?

When I finally got back to the classroom in 1974 I realized there was something special about getting up before dawn, getting cleaned up, dressed up and meeting my girlfriend in the hallway before first hour.

I won’t mention sneaking out of school to get a dozen donuts at the Carol Lee Donut Shop and eating them in the photography darkroom.

The more things change the more they stay the same, I guess.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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