The Distant Crowd: Transactional Distance and New Social Media Literacies

This is a paper for IJLM that I wrote with Terry Anderson, exploring how the distributed nature of teaching and learning in social technologies significantly messes with Michael Moore’s theory of transactional distance in all sorts of interesting ways. In it, we ponder on the literacies learners need in order to take best advantage of social media; we describe the different social forms of groups, nets and sets, and the emergent collectives that develop around them, that together form the backbone of our forthcoming book;  and we discuss different kinds of teaching presence that emerge in each form, suggesting ways of addressing the potential lack of reliability and credibility when the teacher (and thus transactional distance) is distributed (in a net), anonymous (in a set), or emergent (in a collective).

According to the date of the special issue of which it is a part, MIT Press impressively managed to publish this paper nearly two years before we finished writing it. It is true that we sent them the first draft in 2012 but it was not actually published till this month. Hard to know how to cite this.

One of the things that the paper mentions is that learning through networks can, under the right conditions, be more effective, timely and relevant than traditional group-oriented methods. This was rather delightfully and self-referentially brought home to me by the fact that I learned of the paper’s actual publication (as opposed to predicted date) via Twitter. 

Address of the bookmark: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/IJLM_a_00104#.U7Hmexb07EJ

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology and teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems, of which I am the Chair. I am married, with two grown-up children, and live in beautiful Vancouver.

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