A Look at Online Learning and How Designers Play an Important Part

Today September 15, we want to celebrate a hashtag day that’s dear to our hearts: #onlinelearningday. Now that most of us have to switch from traditional learning ways to the online mode, this day has won significant importance. 

At Freepik Company, we’re very much into promoting online learning. That’s why we offer a wide variety of resources to be used in this context. 

Let’s take a look at the story of online learning and how design has played a big part in every step of the way.

online learning day

The history of online learning 

Online learning, as such, started after the advent of computers. But before that, there were other forms of distance education. For example:

  • By correspondence
  • Via the radio
  • On the TV 

Correspondence school was popular with children that lived in remote areas. Universities transmitted lectures over the radio, and schools broadcast classes on TV to reach children during complicated times.

The Intranet

The first true online education platform began in the 1960s as an intranet for students of the University of Illinois. They took everything that correspondence education had achieved and expanded into the first online chat rooms and bulletin boards. This intranet was the very beginning of what now know as social media.

Electronic University Network

In the 1980s, the Electronic University Network digitized correspondence learning with programs to be used on Commodore computers. Students and teachers communicated over the phone. In the early 90s, EUN connected with America Online. 


The next major name in online learning is CALCampus, an online learning platform that started back in the early ’90s. Their goal was to offer higher education for adults over the internet. These courses were the first that resemble what we know of online learning today. CALCampus still offers online courses with college credits through their website.

online learning day

Online learning today

Jump ahead to 2020 and consider all the different available platforms for online learning. For students in K-12 programs, college degrees, specialized certifications, and more. The online learning space has grown exponentially, and that’s why we love celebrating #onlinelearningday. 

Online learning is especially important now more than ever. Many people have transitioned from physical to virtual classrooms. The tools and resources for online education will only be growing from now on.

Styles of online learning in 2020 and beyond

There are many ways to learn online. We’ve previously shared with you about the best online graphic design courses and degrees, but there’s truly so much more. 

The online learning space has grown so much at this point that there are options for every type of learner. From casual learning to college degrees and even doctorate programs.

Nowadays, the options for online learning include:

  • K- 12 Schooling 
  • Certification courses (Hubspot, Linkedin Learning)
  • MOOC’s – Massive Open Online Courses (Harvard, MIT)
  • Free learning (YouTube, ebooks, Khan Academy)
  • Subscription-based learning platforms (Masterclass, Coursera)
  • Stand-alone courses created by professionals (Thinkific, Udemy, Domestika)
  • College degrees (Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhDs)

Immersive, virtual reality learning is a relatively new platform. It will be more mainstream as the tech for it becomes readily accessible to anyone.

online learning day

How design plays a part in online learning

As designers, you play a big part in the online learning space. Even in the first days of correspondence and distance learning, designers (or teachers with a keen eye) put together the learning material so that it would be easy to use. 

Nowadays, there’s a wide range of visual styles when it comes to online courses. Platforms like Domestika and Masterclass rely heavily on their website’s visual richness, course pages, and resources. Other sites like EdX for Harvard MOOCs are less “designery” but still have a strong academic visual quality.

Sites like Thinkific, Teachable, and Gumroad offer professionals the possibility of creating their own courses. These courses need plenty of designer input! From video editing, motion graphics, animated titles, printable worksheets, presentation slides, marketing assets for social media, and much more. 

There are a few ways a designer can make a living in the online learning space:

Have you tapped into any of these during your career as a designer? 

As you know, Freepik has a number of resources for online learning, also called e-learning. From landing page designs to vector graphics that help visualize any lesson, to presentation slides and animated character illustrations.

With a Freepik subscription, you can use these to create course material for yourself or your clients. You can also become a Freepik Contributor and create resources for anyone that needs them!

Happy Online Learning Day everyone! 

Don’t forget to share this post and use the #onlinelearningday hashtag!