Considering the integration of educational, psychological, organizational-administrative, sociological, philosophical, technological and economical aspects of the study of distance education it is possible to regard it as an interdisciplinary field of study. It can also be assigned a place under the comprehensive discipline of education. It has been shown to be a separate entity, however, which can only to a limited extent be described, understood, and explained in terms of conventional school or university education, classroom teaching, or group activities (see pp. 164-5), and so it makes sense to describe it as a special discipline with its roots in education, which, in its turn, is rooted in philosophy. The criteria for a university discipline are usually that there is a body of research encompassing and defining it and that it is taught as a university subject. 'Obviously, an academic discipline is an area of academic interest, and one that poses sufficient problems to stimulate research, and one that leads to the publication of journals in the subject area' (Sparkes 1983:179).
That there is a body of published research on distance education will have been made manifestly clear by this book with both its constant references to research and its bibliography. However, the study of distance education is evidently benefiting from knowledge and theory developed in disciplines that were established earlier. Most of the research done on distance education could be ascribed to these, for example to general education, pedagogics and andragogics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, history, and economics.