ICDE Conferences throughout history


This article is a work in progress. ICDE members and community are very welcome to contribute to this article with corrections, additional  information, anecdotes and illustrations.

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The 1st ICCE International Conference attracted 87 delegates from 5 countries. It took place on 22, 23 and 24 of August 1938 at Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The conference ended with the appointment of the first Executive Committee: "to hold office until the Second International Conference is held".  ICDE was then called ICCE (International Council for Correpondence Education). 


In October 1948 the 2nd Conference met in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA with an attendance of 116 delegates from 7 countries. The conference was initially scheduled for 1940 but due to the outbreak of World War II the conference was postponed. 1948 was the first opportunity after the war for the conference to be held. 


In April 1950 the 3rd Conference was held in Christchurch, New Zealand, as part of Canterbury’s Centennial year celebrations. This was the first conference held in Oceania. It attracted 79 delegates with 11 others who sent contributions. It was the first time delegates could attend at distance. 


The 4th Conference was held in, State College, Pennsylvania, USA in 1953 with an attandance of 73 delegates.


 The 5th Conference was hosted in Banff, Alberta, Canada in 1958.


The 6th Conference was hosted in Gearhart, Oregon, USA in 1961. 


The first World Conference held in Europe was organized in 1965  in Stockholm, Sweden. This year was later referred to as the “Distance Education Renaissance” which was reflected in the dramatic shift in ICCE leadership and conference attendance and with representatives of European Mega Universities beginning to attend. Some 114 delegates from 27 countries were present.


The 8th World Conference was held in Paris in May 1969 and was particularly significant in that it marked the admission by UNESCO of the ICCE to a mutual information relationship which meant that ICCE became a Category C nongovernmental organisation (later on progressing to Category B). It was the first time proceedings presented in English or French with simultaneous translation.

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The 9th ICCE World Conference was held in 1972, in Warrenton, Virginia, USA. Participants from 32 countries attended and for the first time the papers to the Conference were published separately from the Proceedings. 


The 10th World Conference was held in 1975, in Brighton, UK. 

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The 11th ICCE World Conference in 1978 was the first conferenc in Asia. According to David Sewart, former president of ICDE (1988-1992), this conference was: "certainly a symbol of the importance which had been recognised for distance education in accelerating the process of education in developing countries". The New Delhi Conference attracted 157 delegates from 39 countries.


According David Sewart: "The 12th World Conference in Vancouver was also the occasion of the rebirth of ICCE in 1982 as the International Council for Distance Education." The organisation was revisiting its birthplace by returning to British Columbia and the interest in distance education was demonstrated by the explosive growth in Conference participants, some 450 participants. 


The 13th World Conference in Melbourne in 1985 was attended by almost 700 participants from 50 counties.


The 14th ICDE World Conference in Oslo in 1988 celebrated the Golden Anniversary Year of the organisation with some notable achievements. Perhaps the most significant of these was the creation of a Permanent Secretariat in Oslo."


The 15th ICDE World Conference was held in Caracas in 1990. It was the first conference situated in Latin America. The Conference had separate English and Spanish tracks and separate conference books in these languages.


The 16th World Conference was held in Thailand in 1992 and hosted by Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University.


June 1995 saw the 17th World Conference in Birmingham, UK and hosted by the UK Open University. More than 1000 people attended the Conference in Birmingham. They came from more than 80 countries.

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The 18th ICDE World Conference took place in Pennsylvania State University, USA in 1997, under the theme:  "The New Learning Environment, A Global Perspective". 


The 19th ICDE World Conference was hosted in Vienna 1999 and was organised  by the FernUniversität in Hagen. 

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The 20th ICDE World Conference was held in Düsseldorf 2001, again hosted by FernUniversität in Hagen. Its former Rector, Helmut Hoyer would be later elected President of ICDE (2004-2008) and rewarded with a ICDE honorary membership and ICDE Prize of excellence and was appointed Chair of the Board of Trustees in January 2017. Both conferences were attended by over 1000 delegates coming from more than 90 countries. 


The 21st ICDE World Conference was hosted by the Open University of Hong Kong and took place in Hong Kong from 1 to 5 June 2003. The theme for the Conference was: Lifelong Learning in the Networked World. It was attended by around 500 delegates from over 40 countries.

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The 22nd ICDE World Conference was hosted by ABED, the Brazilian Distance Education Association. It took place from 3 to 6 September 2006 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil under the theme: Promoting Quality in On-Line, Flexible and Distance Education. Around 1500 participants from over 50 countries were present.


The 23rd ICDE World Conference on Open Learning and Distance Education included the 2009 EADTU Annual Conference. It  took place from 7 to 10 June 2009 in Maastricht, Netherlands.  It was hosted by The Open University of the Nethelands. 600 delegates from the distance and e-learning communities of 70 countries around the globe discussed ideas and initiatives under the theme Flexible Education for All: Open – Global - Innovative.

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In October 2011, ICDE held its 24th ICDE World Conference on the island of Bali, Indonesia. Hosted by ICDE member institution Universitas Terbuka, the conference addressed new approaches to open and distance learning. Over 600 delegates, representing 49 countries attended this conference. 


The 25th ICDE World Conference  on Open and Distance Learning took place at Tianjin, China from 16 to 18 September 2013. It was hosted by Tianjin Open University and was attended by approximately 700 participants. 


The 26th ICDE World Conference, hosted by the University of South Africa (UNISA), took place at Sun City in South Africa from 14 to 16 October 2015 under the theme ‘growing capacities for sustainable distance e-learning provision.’ The first ICDE Conference held in Africa was attended by nearly 1,000 participants from 67 countries across the globe. It was the first time an ICDE conference was organized as a ‘three in one’ event – the world conference itself, the ICDE Presidents’ Summit and the High Level Policy Forum.

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The 27th ICDE World Conference took place in Toronto from 17 to 19 October 2017. It was hosted by ICDE member Contact North. The theme of the was: "Teaching in The Digital Age – Re-Thinking Teaching & Learning". Over 1.400 from 95 countries attended the conference.  



The 28th World Conference will take place in Dublin, Ireland, on the 4-7 November 2019.  Visit https://wcol2019.ie/ for more information. 

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  ICDE members and community are very welcome to contribute to this article with additional information, anecdotes and illustrations.

Rita Chan