Systems Model of Open and Distance Learning
Systems Model of an ODL Institution
Rumble (1986, pages 15-17) proposes a simple model which looks at the operations in ODL institutions in terms of four inter-related sub-systems. The value of such a model is that it clearly identifies the main areas of activity in an ODL institution and defines the relationships between them. It also suggests an analogy between a factory producing items for consumption and the ‘quasi-industrial processes’ of an ODL institution. Just as in a factory, ODL involves the specialisation of tasks and the division of labour between different units.
The four sub-systems in Rumble’s model are:
- Materials Sub-System
- The first major sub-subsystem includes all activities involved in the design, production and distribution of self-instructional materials, whether these are primarily print-based or involve other media.
- Student Sub-System
- Once learning materials have been developed and distributed to learners, they are passed over to the Student Sub-system. This sub-system comprises all of the activities, staff and other resources that are involved in facilitating learning by students and managing their progress through a programme.
- Logistical Sub-System
- The Materials and Student Sub-systems are supported by other units which procure and manage resources for the institution. Those units which look after finances, human resources and information and communications technology (ICT) comprise the Logistical Sub-System of any open school, college or university.
- Regulatory Sub-System
- Finally, overall management and guidance comprise the Regulatory Sub-System, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘Brains’ of the institution. All activities related to strategic planning, policy formulation and monitoring the institution’s performance in meeting its goals are part of this sub-system.
Rumble’s model is illustrated in Figure 1a:
Unlike a conventional school or college, an ODL institution devotes a large part of its resources (staff time and office facilities, as well as funds) to its Materials Sub-System. Much of the expenditure on materials development is incurred in this sub-system before any students enrol for that course.
On the other hand, an open school is not the same as an educational publishing company, because ODL institutions also include a Student Sub-System to support the learning process.