Transactional Distance among Open University Students: How Does it Affect the Learning Process? : European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning

Interesting study looking into transactional distance between online learners at a Greek open university, with some great qualitative findings.

The findings are very revealing about the role and nature of dialogue in online learning at the authors’ university. As we noted in our book, Teaching Crowds, transactional distance becomes very complex once there are multiple ‘teachers’ (or teaching presences) involved, where peer and content interactions are multi-dimensional and so transactional distance shifts and varies all the time. The study reveals some quite nuanced and differentiated communication patterns that demonstrate this quite nicely.  A bit of fuzziness shows through, however, where what is reported is mainly levels of communication rather than perceived transactional distance. The two are very closely related, inasmuch as communication is a necessary but not sufficient condition for reducing transactional distance, but they are not the same thing. 

I find it hard to imagine, as suggested for future study in the conclusion, what ways one might measure transactional distance in learner-content or learner-interface interactions that would not make the distance extraordinarily high. This is almost true by definition, apart from in ‘creepy’ ways (e.g. if the learners felt psychological closeness and attachment with an AI) or, maybe stretching the definition a bit, through guided didactic conversation. I will be interested to see how the writers address this!

Address of the bookmark:

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

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