Welcome to the Next 25 Years: EDEN Celebrates its Past, Present and Future - Guest post by Alan Tait

June 16, 2015 by Antonio Moreira Teixeira   Comments (0)

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I'm sure most of us are still recovering after such an intense and truly memorable week in Barcelona at the #EDEN15, the 2015 EDEN Annual Conference. The conference was a great success, indeed. The topics chosen, all innovations introduced in the format and the networking opportunities provided were fully embraced by the EDEN community. A wonderful feeling of happiness, fulfilment and engagement was noticeable amongst the four hundred conference delegates. Next week, I will publish a special post fully dedicated to the detailed analysis of the Barcelona event.

As I've noted, the annual conferences are always a particularly intense time for the EDEN governance structure and staff. As you can imagine, this is particular the case for the presidents. Fortunately, we have a special guardian angel who help us through smoothly in these hectic days. Our guardian angel is Anna Wagner, who in addition to her more visible and widely appreciated role accumulates this task as well.

Although still catching our breath from the #EDEN15 experience, we are already focusing on the preparation of the future. In fact, 2016 marks the celebrations of our association's 25th Anniversary. As it has been announced, a special honorary committee has been appointed with a past EDEN President, Alan Tait chairing it. The underlying idea for the celebrations is to honour the past of the Association as a dynamic history of the future. As such, EDEN will bridge the legacy of the men and women who so bravely established our field of practice and the new generations that will give it a new meaning.

In today's guest post I invited Alan Tait to share with us a brief account of the preparations of the EDEN's 25th Anniversary Year. More information on Alan's extensive and impressive body of work and current interests can be found here. I do hope you'll enjoy reading Alan's guest post and feel inspired by his plans.

See you next year in Budapest for #EDEN16!


I am very excited about EDEN's 25th anniversary in 2016! And very proud to be asked by President Antonio Teixeira to chair the Honorary Committee to help prepare celebrate the anniversary. This means a lot for me, as in 1991 I worked on the project to establish EDEN at its founding conference in Prague, under the leadership of Gottfried Leibbrandt of OU Netherlands, Erling Ljoså of NKI Norway, who became EDEN's first President, Taddeus Diem, then Minister in the Polish government, Sir John Daniel of the Open University, UK,  Professor Tamas Lajos of the Technical University, Budapest and Professor Armando Trindade of the Universidade Aberta of Portugal, amongst others.

I have found a report of the establishment conference that I wrote in 1991 which records the issues and themes of that memorable meeting and at that memorable time for what was very much thought of as the new Europe (Tait 1991). The impetus for EDEN was born out of a number of main ideas. The first was that open and distance learning (the e-learning came later!) was going to be the province of activity of not just the open universities, important though they were, but of many and even in due course the majority of universities. The second was that ODL was not just a field of activity for universities but also for colleges, companies, and schools, in other words all sectors of education and training. Lastly, EDEN was created to lead the formation of a professional network that served the whole of Europe, that had been reunited from 1989 onwards after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  All of these were innovative and indeed courageous insights at that time, and all have not only survived the test of time but thrived as ideas made real by EDEN over this last quarter century.

Many professional associations do not achieve sustainability. EDEN has done so, and this derives first and foremost from both the power of its founding vision, and the ways that EDEN has as a network responded to the needs of its audience and flexed as the environment has changed.  The ways in which digital technologies are now driving change on campus as well as in e-learning is the most powerful recent wave of change that our domain has to understand and respond to. Centrally important too is that EDEN has been very well served for many years by a permanent Secretariat, led wisely by Dr Andras Szucs, EDEN's Secretary-General.

So what could we do to celebrate the first 25 years and welcome the next 25?  That is the task which this Honorary Committee will turn its mind to. I will ask a number of former EDEN Presidents, Fellows and Senior Fellows to join the committee, and to find ways to celebrate the past, present and future.

My initial thoughts, to be tested in the crucible of the Committee for their attractiveness and appropriateness, would include:

  • a special issue of EURODL
  • podcasts about EDEN from EDEN seniors
  • a special keynote at the EDEN 2016 conference
  • together with a roundtable with other ODEL associations

Ideas from colleagues would be very welcome and this serves as an invitation for colleagues to email me at alan.tait@open.ac.uk


Tait A (1991): Conference Report: EDEN, the European Distance Education Network, May 1991, Prague, in Open Learning, 6:3, p56-57

Professor Alan Tait is a former EDEN President and NAP SC Chair, as well as EDEN Senior Fellow. Alan is currently Director, International Development and Teacher Education at The Open University in the United Kingdom.

Prior to his current position, he was Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic) responsible for the strategic and operational oversight of the University's undergraduate and postgraduate courses, packs, programmes and qualifications, together with acting as Planning and Resource Officer for the seven faculties. His academic career has been in practitioner and scholarly support of distance and e-learning.  He was Editor of the journal Open Learning from 1989-1998, joint Series Editor of the Routledge Series Studies in Distance Education and Co-Director of the Cambridge International Conference on Open and Distance Learning.