The introductory comments made so far make it clear that distance education in theory and practice encompasses a number of diverse considerations and actions. The interaction between these, their relations to and influence on one another are important to our picture of distance education as a manageable whole.
What this means to distance-teaching organizations and their overall planning is far from universally clear. Needs and conditions in the societies concerned are decisive, but real knowledge about relevant circumstances is seldom easily available. What can be called market research and a kind of corporate planning are required. In the early 1970s the present writer made what proved to be an abortive attempt to develop a generalizable approach to such planning and published a booklet in Swedish about this (Holmberg 1972). A more fecund approach of immediate relevance in the 1990s has been introduced by the Canadian Open Learning Agency in a 'scan of the British Columbian Environment' (Bates 1990b and 1993; Segal 1990).
While strategic planning must remain a concern of each national, regional and local organizing body there are more easily generalizable principles that apply to the planning of the processes of distance education. Here we have to consider the system itself, its students and their learning, course planning based on the needs of the target groups concerned, the goals and objectives of the teaching and learning. This type of planning concentrates on what has been called the endogenous concerns of distance education, i.e. what it is like and how it can be optimized. There is, however, particularly among social scientists, a strong consciousness that exogenous factors such as the reciprocal influences of society and distance education are of considerable