It took time for open and distance learning to be acknowledged as a specific domain for transnational cooperation within European programmes of education and training. In the past, projects that involved the use of open and distance learning techniques and/or the development of multimedia courses and materials had been supported at Community level through the ERASMUS, COMETT and LINGUA programmes. But it was only at the end of the 1980s that open and distance learning and the use of new technology in education started to be explored as a specific domain in the context of education and training policies at Community level.
Before then, cooperation in this field had progressed through several steps. Several seminars were held on the experience in distance education in the various member-states. The European Commission adopted a memorandum on ‘Open and Distance Learning in the European Community’ (European Commission 1991) which set the framework for cooperation and action at Community level in this field, and contributed to the inclusion of a specific line referring to the promotion of distance education within Article 126 of the Maastricht Treaty.
A series of activities was launched from 1983-90 for the exchange of information and experience relating to the introduction of new technologies in education. Twelve national reports were written in 1992 and 1993 describing the use of new information and communication technology within member-states. In November 1992, the Ministers of Education issued recommendations on cooperation in these fields. This whole process resulted in the integration of an action specifically addressed to the promotion of open and distance learning, within the SOCRATES Decision.
The concept of open and distance learning was felt as the most appropriate to embed the many dimensions of the integration of information and communication technology in the learning process, with a view to the learning process itself rather than technology. Since then, the concept of multimedia has made its official appearance in many areas, as another way to condense the innovations which are taking place in the educational world.
Open and distance learning involves the use of new methods, technical