Over the period 1971–2001, distance education has changed enormously. This article identifies five key changes. Firstly, and technologically, the period opened with the establishment of one of the most successful of the multi-media based distance education systems, the UK Open University, but ends with the rush towards online education. This technological change underpins a second change, a pedagogical shift within distance education from a transmission model of education towards a constructivist model exploiting computer-mediated communication. Paradoxically this has occurred just when some commentators have seen the dehumanization of the traditional education. The third change has been the growing acceptance of distance education, and with this, its expansion. Linked to this is the fourth change – the change in the way distance education is perceived. It has moved from low status to acceptance, with increased confidence as its methods are adopted across education as a whole. Finally, distance education can be seen to be evolving from an essentially modernist (bureaucratic or Fordist) form of education into a post-modernist phenomenon with a focus on the student as consumer, on flexibility and global reach.