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...TDT is concerned more with pedagogy thatn with distance

Michael G. Moore



Transactional Distance Theory

What is Transactional Distance Theory?

The concept of Transactional Distance Theory (TDT) was developed by Michael G. Moore. Prior to the development of this concept, definitions of distance education revolved around the physical separation of the teacher and the learner. Moore, however, postulates that TDT is concerned more with pedagogy than with geography.

According to Martindale (2002), "'transactional distance' requires a learner, teacher, and a communication channel" (p.4). Teaching situations involving different transactional distances require different or specialized instructional techniques.

There are three key variables to consider regarding transactional distance: structure, dialogue, and learner autonomy. Structure is determined by the actual design of the course, the organization of the instruction, and the use of various media of communications. There are also different forms of dialogue: two-way, real-time communication versus dialogue internalized within the student. Finally, learner autonomy depends upon the individual learner's sense of personal responsibility and self-directedness. Depending on the individuals involved, the interaction of these elements can be very different and vary greatly along the continuum. For example, high levels of learner autonomy would neccessitate lower levels of teacher control. An instructional situation is considered more distant if there are lesser amounts of dialogue among the participants and less structure. For less distant situations, the converse is true.

In essence this theory deals with the cognitive process of idea transmission including concepts of encoding, decoding, reception, perception, transmission and noise.... Transactional distance is positively related to the size of the learning group, familiarity of language and dialects, the qualities of the medium through which the signal is transmitted. These include issues of noise, speed, and lag. This theory includes internal didactic conversations as proposed by Holmberg. In this case the learning material becomes the stimulus for dialog that occurs within the learner and this produces learning.... A textbook and study guide with only internal dialogue would be considered to have a high transactional distance. A synchronous discussion done through audio conferencing would be lower.

(Martindale, 2002, p. 5)

Theories such as TDT are "invaluable in guiding the complex practice of a rational process such as teaching and learning at a distance" (Garrison, 2000, p.3). For more information, refer to the resources below.

Some Resources:

Chen, Yau-Jane,Willits, Fern K. (1998). "A Path Analysis of the Concepts in
Moore's Theory of Transactional Distance in a Videoconferencing Learning
Environment." Journal of Distance Education. 13 (2) pp.51-65, 1998.

Cookson, P. S., and Chang, Y. (1995). "The multidimensional audioconferencing
classification system (MACS)." The American Journal of Distance Education. 9
(3), 18-36.

Garrison, Randy. (2000). "Theoretical Challenges for Distance Education in the
21st Century: A Shift from Structural to Transactional Issues.
" International
Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 1 (1) June, 2000.

Gayol, Yolanda. (1999). Exploring the quality of the educational design of
international virtual graduate programs: a new model of evaluation. The
Pennsylvania State University.

Keegan, Desmond, Ed.(1993). "Theoretical Principles of Distance Education."
Routledge, New York.

Martindale, Neil. (2002). The Cycle of Oppression and Distance Education.
Athabasca University. February, 2002.

Moore, M & Kearsly, G. (1996). Distance education a system view. Belmont:

Mueller, Chris. (1997). "Transactional Distance." The Ultimate Instant Online

Peters, O. (1998). Learning and teaching in distance education: Analysis and
interpretation from an international perspective. London: Kogan Page.

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