The Impact of Transactional Distance in Online Courses

An online student completes her assignment.Have you ever heard of transactional distance theory? When I recently read the latest issue of the Journal of Online Doctoral Education, I came across an article by Stephen L. Benton, Ph.D., San Li, M.A., and Ron Brown, M.A. titled, “Transactional Distance in Online Graduate Courses at Doctoral Institutions."

What is transactional distance?

According to Michael G. Moore, transactional distance is the "psychological and communication space to be crossed, a space for potential misunderstanding between the inputs of instructor and those of the learner" (Moore, 1993, p.22). As you may know from experience, meaningful interaction between students and faculty can help lay the groundwork for a successful teaching and learning relationship. But what happens when the learning takes place in virtual environment?

In researching for their paper, Benton, Li, and Brown found that different approaches to instruction in the online graduate classroom can change the impact of transactional distance. It is now understood that as the transactional distance grows, the opportunity for loss of information and confusion increases.

If you already have an advanced understanding of transactional distance, tell us a little more about your experience and how you've overcome this challenge. To enhance your understanding of transactional distance and help to create a more effective learning environment for students, you can read the article in its entirety here.

Moore, M. G. (1993). Theory of transactional distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical principles of distance education (Vol. 1, pp. 22–38). New York: Routledge.