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Transactional Distance refers to the theory of cognitive space between instructors and learners in an educational setting, especially in distance education formulated by Michael Moore [1] at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Moore's theory was originally part of a theory of independent learning developed in 1972, which appeared in the Handbook of Adult Education as "transactional distance" in 1980. According to Moore, transactional distance is “a psychological and communication space to be crossed, a space of potential misunderstanding between the inputs of instructor and those of the learner”. If learning outcomes in any distance education course are to be maximized, transactional distance needs to be minimized or shortened.

There are three key interactive components that have to work together to shorten the transactional distance and provide for a meaningful learning experience:

  • dialog, or interaction between learners and teachers
  • structure of the instructional programs
  • autonomy, or the degree of self-directedness of the learner .

Transactional Distance in Distance Education and E-LearningEdit

In distance education, students and instructors experience a sense of separation that is caused by more than the simple physical distance between students and instructors. Transactional distance is “a psychological and communications gap, a space of potential misunderstanding between the inputs of instructor and those of the learner” created in part by the physical distance inherent to online learning (Moore 1991, "Transactional Distance," ¶2). A large transactional distance—such as that between geographically dispersed learners and instructors in an asynchronous, text-based, online learning environment—may contribute to students’ feelings of isolation and disconnectedness, which can lead to reduced levels of motivation and engagement and, consequently, attrition.

The transaction that we call distance education occurs between teachers and learners in an environment having the special characteristic of separation of teachers from learners. It is a distance of understandings and perceptions that might lead to a communication gap or a psychological space of potential misunderstandings between people.

In particular, the content of the term "transactional distance" was determined with more definition and accuracy, while the Theory of Transactional Distance was elaborated and developed by Farhad Saba and Rick L. Shearer (1994), Yau-Jane Chen and Fern K. Willits (1998), Yau-Jane Chen (2001a; 2001b), Karen Lemone (2005) and Sushita Gokool-Ramdoo (2008). In its complete form, the theory appears in 1993 (Moore, 1993).

When designing e-learning experiences, instructors must consider two variables that affect transactional distance: structure and dialogue. Structure refers to the flexibility or rigidity of the instructional methods and strategies used in an e-learning experience. Dialogue refers to the interaction between the instructor and learner during an e-learning experience.

ReferencesEdit

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