The Distance Education and Training Council Debuts Documentary Film at Annual Conference

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Produced by California Southern University, “The American Way to Learn” chronicles and celebrates the 85-year history of the DETC.

The American Way to Learn: The 85-year History of the DETC and its Service to the World

The Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) debuted “The American Way to Learn: The 85-year History of the DETC and its Service to the World” at its 85th Annual Conference, held April 3-5, 2011 in Williamsburg, VA. “The American Way to Learn” is a 50-minute documentary film that both chronicles the DETC’s rich history and explores the future of the organization and of higher education in general.

"It’s my honor and privilege to present this history of the Distance Education and Training Council,” said DETC Executive Director Michael Lambert. “From its roots in the late 19th century through its founding in the 1920s, through war and peacetime, prosperity and economic hardship, the DETC and its member institutions have made noteworthy contributions to the quality of life in America, with more than 130 million Americans taking courses from DETC schools."

Produced by California Southern University, “The American Way to Learn” was written by Dr. Phil and Nancy Rokicki, who spent more than three years researching the DETC’s colorful history. The engaging and informative film is dedicated to former DETC Executive Director William (Bill) Fowler and his wife Norma, and features hundreds of historic photos and video clips.

"The American Way to Learn" traces the roots of the DETC to the boom of correspondence education in the late 1870s, discusses the forces behind the founding of the organization (originally known as the National Home Study Council) in 1926, and the motivation on the part of the founding members to set forth and adhere to ethical practices and business standards to self-regulate the industry and set their institutions apart from “fly-by-night” schools that threatened the integrity of distance learning at the time. The documentary reveals a number of little-known facts about distance learning, including, for example, the important role it played in World War II, when prisoners of war were permitted to enroll in correspondence courses; in fact, the coursework was often the only reading material the prisoners were allowed.

The film details the steady growth experienced by the industry after World War II and through the Reagan Years, and outlines the challenges the organization met in the early 1990s, when a handful of unethical schools brought the industry under scrutiny by irresponsibly taking advantage of federal financial aid programs, an issue that has again surfaced in recent years. The “American Way to Learn” concludes with a candid discussion of the challenges currently facing the rapidly growing industry and a look toward a bright future for distance learning.

To view "The American Way to Learn" in its entirety, please visit the California Southern University website.

Founded in 1978, California Southern University is a premier, online university, offering online degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels in business, law, and psychology, utilizing a proprietary online learning system.

For additional information about California Southern University, please contact University Communications at (800) 477-2254, ext. 4205.


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