Distance Education is not a new phenomenon. Promises of high-quality education that can be acquired anywhere and at any time were made early in the 20th century, by correspondence study programmes. The development of an extensive, relatively inexpensive postal service in the late 19th century led to the creation of print-based correspondence courses. In this model, the student had to register with some university for a course. He would then get all the relevant study material which the student would have to go through and study on his own. The student would then appear for examinations either at the university or at some university specified locations. He also had to submit his assignment through post, in order to get his degree. Communication, teaching and learning all took place using printed materials sent through the postal mail.
These programmes failed to realise their promises because they were confronted by a fundamental trade-off between quality-personalised education and quantity. As there was no interaction between the students and also with the faculty, and therefore the quality of education was very poor. The student had to work on his own to understand the subjects and prepare for the examinations. This eventually led to a widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of correspondence education.