Presenter Names: Katherine Meuse and Jennifer Novak

Bates is a “Front-End System Design” ( model for developing open & distance learning, which is comprised of four phases:
1. Course outline development
2. Selection of media
3. Development & production of materials
4. Course delivery
Bates emphasizes planning and management. The model includes specified team roles along with actions and issues that need to be addressed within each phase. Bates’ model also contains some unique components to account for peripheral details such as “access [including library services], cost, copyright clearance and tutoring arrangements” (Gustafson, Branch, 39), which he feels are critical to the success of distance learning.

Along with others, Bates “believe[s] that the most valuable activity in a classroom of any kind is the opportunity for students to work and interact together and to build and become part of a community of scholars and practitioners” (Jonassen, 7). As Marlene Fauser, Kirk Henry, and David Kent Norman state in Comparison of Alternative Instructional Design Models, “The Bates Model provides the user with a plethora of tools and ideas, each of which will be useful for designing e-learning environments. The model is broken down into four distinct groups. Each group is replete with projects and assignments.” Bates’ model relies on theories of instructional design, but he cautions that learning requirements be carefully matched with appropriate technologies, noting that not all modules need to be technology-based.

Bates specializes in the use of e-learning for higher education and is President & CEO of his own company providing consulting services for distance education. Bates has authored 9 books on distance learning and technology. Because the Bates Model was designed for e-learning specifically, one might assume that it is very suitable for designing courses online. Bates’ website,, includes a number of resources and commentary about various implementations of e-learning to assist with the development of online courses.

A Constructivist Model:

The Bates model is a constructivist model as it utilizes student activities, feedback and structured content to enable students to connect prior knowledge to current learning, and recognizing the need for spaced practice can also be implemented within a constructivistic approach. Bates hase worked extensively with educational institutions in Canada and Australia and has recently worked to help in the creation of the Constructivist Online-Learning Environment Survey which was designed to help support the use of e-learning and his model is widely used in many international institutions.

Historically, instructional design has used the behaviorist approach. The Bates Model shifted that approach to support the practice of analyzing a task and breaking it down into manageable chunks, establishing objectives, and measuring performance based on those objectives, while promoting a more open-ended learning experience where the methods and results of learning are not easily measured and may not be the same for each learner.

Though Instructional Design may have a behaviorist tradition, new insights to the learning process continue to replace, change and alter the process. Advancements in technology make branched constructivist approaches to learning possible. Whether designing for training or education, the instructional designer's toolbox contains an ever changing and increasing number of theoretical applications and physical possibilities. With intelligent application of learning theory strategies and technology, the modern designer will find solutions to the learning requirements of the 21st century.

Bates, A.W. (1997). The impact of technological change on open and distance learning. Distance Education, 18(1), 93-109.
Dick, W. (1991). An instructional designer's view of constructivism. Educational Technology, May, 41-44.
Gustafson, Kent L.; Branch, Robert Maribe. Survey of Instructional Development Models. Fourth Edition. Syracuse: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology, 2002.
Huitt, W. (2009). Constructivism. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved 9/25/09 from
Jonassen, David; Davidson, Mark; et al. “Constructivism and Computer-Mediated Communication in Distance Education.” American Journal of Distance Education, 1995

Norman, David Kent, et. al. “Comparison of Alternative Instructional Design Models”
Taylor, P. and Maor, D. (2000). Assessing the efficacy of online teaching with the Constructivist On-Line Learning Environment Survey. In A. Herrmann and M.M. Kulski (Eds), Flexible Futures in Tertiary Teaching. Proceedings of the 9th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 2-4 February 2000. Perth: Curtin University of Technology.