Queen's became the first university in North America to offer "distance education" in 1889. In that year, the Senate formalized an earlier practice and announced that it would permit arts and science students who could not attend classes to write the final exam, as long as they completed assignments by mail.
From the start, "extension" studies were intended mostly for teachers who, until 1973, did not need a university degree to get a teaching certificate, but often wanted one to improve their career prospects. Teachers dominated Queen's correspondence enrollment until the early 1970s, although after 1914 a growing number of students also signed up for special correspondence-only professional courses offered by Queen's in banking and accounting.
At first, correspondence students had to come to Queen's to write their exams. That changed in 1892, when three students from western Canada lobbied successfully to be allowed to take their exams locally under a Queen's representative. The idea of bringing university education to Canada's frontiers, at a time when there was no university in Canada west of Toronto, meshed well with the national vision of Principal George Grant. From then on, local exam centres proliferated. By 1931, there were 197 centres in all, from St John's, Newfoundland to Victoria, BC.
By about 1900, the University started to require that students spend at least one year attending Queen's "intramurally" before they could obtain a degree. This requirement was dropped in 1971, but until then it was largely responsible for the flourishing of Queen's Summer School, which was founded in 1910.
Correspondence enrollment in both arts and science courses and Queen's special non-degree credit business courses peaked in the early 1960s at about 8,000. At this time, Queen's dominated the field in university correspondence studies in Canada and many Canadian teachers had received a degree by correspondence from Queen's.
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