The History of Distance Education
Through the Eyes of the
International Council for Distance
Ellen L. Bunker
Instructional Systems Research and Development, Inc.
The International Council for Open and Distance Learning (ICDE), perhaps the largest and best known of distance education associations, had its beginnings in the second quarter of the 20th century, inspired by visionary educators using correspondence education. ICDE began as a one-time conference in 1938, but conveners and participants, cheered by the success of this first conference, voted to hold a second and possibly a third conference. At the second conference, the delegates voted to form a permanent association and selected the International Council on Correspondence Education (ICCE) as the name. The association retained this name until the 1982 conference, at which the delegates voted to change the name to the International Council for Distance Education.
The idea for holding an international conference came from J. W. Gibson, a visitor from Canada, who attended the National Conference on Supervised Correspondence Study in New York in 1936. Gibson, the director of high school correspondence instruction for the province of British Columbia, shared with other delegates knowledge he had about correspondence education in several countries and then suggested that an international conference be held. Delegates at the New York conference were enthusiastic about the idea (Broady, 1938). Rex Haight, chair of the New York conference, supported the idea and later served as president for the first conference. Gibson served as chairman of the program committee, assisted by Earl T. Platt from Nebraska and Haight from Montana (Broady, 1948b). The work of planning the conference fell to Gibson and the Department of Education of British Columbia, and it was, in Knute O. Broady's words, “bravely conceived and magnificently carried out” (Broady, 1948b, p. 89). William R. Young, president for the fourth conference, proposed for Gibson the title of “Father of the International Conference on Correspondence Education, ” earned through his “perseverance, industriousness, and ability” (Young, 1953, p. 15).
At the second conference, held in 1948, the delegates voted unanimously to establish a more permanent international council (Broady, 1948a). At the third conference, held in 1953