Date of Award

Winter 2001

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Urban Education

Committee Director

John M. Ritz

Committee Member

Anne Raymond-Savage

Committee Member

Jill C. Jurgens


The purpose of this study was to develop, refine, and validate a model of the strategic planning process for distance education. To achieve this end, the informed opinion from a population of peer-nominated experts was solicited over three rounds of iterative Delphi questionnaires administered via electronic mail. Using descriptive statistics to analyze central tendency and variation, the straw model was refined into a validated model by the final Delphi round. In developing this model, the study answered specific questions about the following: (1) The impact of volatile technological change on a strategic distance education plan. (2) The optimum size and composition of a strategic planning body for distance education. (3) The use of planning assumptions. (4) Internal and external factors that are part of the strategic assessment (scan) and analysis for distance education. (5) The development and selection of courses of action in the planning process. (6) Critical steps in the strategic planning process for distance education.

The panel of experts required for a Delphi study was selected by soliciting the names of individuals considered experts in the area of planning for distance education from a purposefully selected sample of professionals involved in distance education. From this population 28 experts agreed to serve on the Delphi panel and 22 experts (78.57%) completed all three rounds of the study.

A straw model, representing a synthesis of the literature on the strategic planning process, served as the framework for this research. The Delphi panel of experts was asked to identify the issues and questions that they believe should be addressed in each of the phases of the straw model. The Delphi questionnaires were employed in a sequence that effectively developed, refined, and validated a model of the strategic planning process for distance education.

The findings of this study provided a detailed model of the strategic planning process for distance education designed to empower higher education planners to be proactive in the highly dynamic distance education environment. The Distance Education Strategic Planning Process Model includes 202 planning elements and 10 planning phases presented in a hypertext format to enable nonlinear navigation.


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