Systems Model of Open and Distance Learning

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Tutorial.png Unit 1 

Introduction | Systems Model of Open and Distance Learning | Direct and Indirect Costs | Fixed, Variable and Semi-Variable Costs | Committed and Managed Costs | Cost Drivers

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.

There are four sub-systems in Rumble’s model:

  • 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: [Image:Exercise_1[1}1_Sample Answers|Frame|Exercise_1[1]1_Sample_Answers]] Figure 1a – Systems Model of ODL.doc
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 and much of its expenditure on materials development is incurred before any students enrol for that course. On the other hand, an open school is not the same as an educational publishing company, because the former also includes a Student Sub-System which supports the learning process.

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Exercise 1.1.1: This exercise may be done on your own, with a partner or in a small group. Looking at Figure 1a, think of some examples of costs that are incurred in carrying out the activities in each of the four sub-systems. Write these down along the left-hand margin of a blank piece of paper. Draw four vertical lines to the right of your list to form four additional (narrow) columns

Sample Answer: Some examples of the types of costs you might have listed can be found in: [[Image:Exercise_1[1}1_Sample Answers|Frame|Exercise_1[1]1_Sample_Answers]]
Please retain your work for future use.