The aim of this study was to identify what were the requirements placed on the design of distance education programmes as regards discipline or dialogue and how did these factors impact on student-support in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Education in general is used to classical behavioural objective that outlines precisely for the student what has to be done and is one way of structuring the learning materials. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF), by its very nature, is very familiar with this formal structure and style of doing things. It prescribes the way teaching has to happen and how the outcomes have to be achieved and at times in a very formal way. Opposed to the above is dialogue that calls for a move away from the prescriptiveness of doing something. Doing and thinking now becomes more open through dialogue. Education stakeholders now debate the value of certain content, since content is no more fixed, the admission of students into the programme is not fixed any more and the way examinations are set is also not fixed or prescriptive. There is now a move away from the disciplinary way of thinking, that is, thinking in terms of fixed boundaries or discipline any longer – dialogue has opened up options and opportunities. This research is based on the belief that distance education problems in the Department of Defence (DoD) are as result of outdated and inadequate instructional or programme design methods or approaches, and thus lack student-support. The four sub-research questions that emanate from the main research question as posed in this research are summarized as follows: (1) What is the distance learning teaching and learning character of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF)? (2) What is the role dialogue in the design of teaching and learning? (3) How are ‘outcomes’ in transactional distance or dialogue achieved? (4) What is the role of dialogue in student empowerment or student support? The design of this research was based on qualitative approach. The feasibility of the research was assured by focusing on distance learning institutions and practitioners. Literature study and document analysis was utilized as data-collection method. Face-to-face interviews with focused groups and individual interviews utilizing unstructured, open-ended questions on interview schedules were also conducted. In addition, anonymous student reports collected by programme managers at the end of a programme replaced the unavailability of student interviews were utilised. The findings of the study were that the character of structural design of distance learning programmes in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) resembles that of the disciplinary approach, and is thus prescriptive. Structure, in terms of the teaching and learning strategies and the substance of the content is largely the mode of practice in the SANDF’s distance education system. Communication finds its way into the distance learning system of the Department of Defence as authoritative power source. The main function of dialogue in the system is to vest the interest of this organization as programme directors and instructors are not fully emancipated. Students and instructors find it difficult to engage constructively academically. Learner-to-learner interaction and freedom of academic discourse is hampered as the result of authoritarian and prescriptive doctrine of a structured curriculum. It is then concluded that student support in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) distance education settings does not address requirements of dialogue.