Through the mirror of ICDE - from correspondence to distance to online: David Sewart 


David Sewart, Former Chair of the ICDE Board of Trustees; Former President of ICDE; Former Director of Student Services at The Open University, UK has written an overview of the history of ICDE.

Introduction Correspondence Education, External Studies, Distance Education and Open and Distance Learning are just some of the names which have been applied to nontraditional forms of teaching and learning in which the students and tutors have little or no face-to-face contact, a separation in space and often also in time.

This is not an attempt to catalog developments over the years or even to try to trace patterns in what has become a stream of revolutionary innovation. It is merely eclectic vignettes from the organization’s first 50 years chosen by an individual who, for the past 36 years, has had a close association with ICCE/ICDE in a variety of capacities.

The Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter saw innovation as a fundamental driving force in industry structure. He saw a “perennial gale of creative destruction” through which dominant industry structures contained the seeds of their own destruction by providing incentives for changes and new approaches. He was, of course, commenting on competition in industry. But his theory has relevance to the development of non-traditional education over the last century in which an industrial approach to learning and teaching, reliant on and building from an ever increasing range of communication options, has destroyed the monopoly position of traditional face-to-face education. The world of education into which I stepped as a primary school student in the second half of the 1940s in the UK and which still adhered to some educational practices which had existed in Europe for some 2,500 years, has gone through and continues to go through a revolution such that education above secondary level now offers as a norm a range of options which were unimaginable at the time when I completed my formal tertiary education in the mid-1960s

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Rita Chan