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Correspondence Learning and the Penny Black

At first glance, you would be forgiven for not realising the importance of the introduction of the Penny Black stamp and how it helped with correspondence learning.

1st May 2015 marked the 175th Anniversary of the world’s first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black. The stamp was issued on 1 May 1840 and featured a profile of Queen Victoria. This may not seem so exciting nowadays, but at the time it was a novel idea: previously recipients of letters had paid postage on delivery of an item; now postage could be pre-paid.




The Penny Black, featuring Queen Victoria


Fast forward 54 years to 1894 and the foundation of Wolsey Hall. Our founder, Joseph William Knipe, was known at his teachers’ college for his excellent notes, and other students often asked him to make copies for them. So after he graduated, he had the brilliant idea to use an emerging new technology (as it was then) – the penny post – to distribute his notes to other interested students. Thus Wolsey Hall, and our system of correspondence learning, was born!



By the 1960s, we were sending and receiving huge volumes of mail, and had dedicated staff to sort through and open letters and prepare lessons for posting. Nowadays, of course, correspondence learning has come a long way and we’re able to deliver course materials to students all over the globe instantly via the Internet. But it’s all thanks, in a way, to the advent of the postage stamp. So happy birthday, the Penny Black!



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