Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication


Date of this Version

May 2000


Published in Educational Technology 40:3 (May-June 2000), pp. 33-40. ISSN 0013-1962. Copyright (c) 2000 Educational Technology Publications, Inc.


The interface of education, technology, distance education, and change is very complex. As we examined the arena of distance education, we realized the usefulness of a systems approach as a powerful tool to connect and interrelate people, goals, organizations, and technologies in the educational playing field.

Banathy's core work (1968, 1992, 1995, 1996a, 199613) suggests an important model of the educational system as part of society--its larger suprasystem (see Figure 1). Through this model, he showed that education, as a lifelong process, is tied closely to the outputs, objectives, and purposes of other parts of society. This model simply shows several sub-systems of the same environment, or suprasystem, in which education resides.

Only recently have researchers and developers formed distance education and learning systems models (Callaos & Callaos, 1994; Moore, 1993; Moore & Kearsley, 1996; Saba & Shearer, 1994; Saba & Twitchell, 1988; Stenerson, 1998; Terry, 1997). While these efforts provide a good baseline for thinking about systems change, an efficient and effective model applicable to distance education needs further exploration.

Our purpose is to present a practical Distance Education Learning (DEL) Systems model. We believe that DEL can be used by private and public education faculty and administrators, organizational and business managers/trainers, and consortium planners alike. DEL provides a learner focused process for the development, delivery, control, evaluation, and feedback of distance education throughout the lifelong learning process.