Transactional Distance and Flexible learning

John Bostock

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


In flexible models of education, students and lecturers experience a sense of separation that is caused by more than physical distance between students and lecturers. Transactional distance is “a psychological and communications gap, a space of potential misunderstanding between the inputs of lecturer and those of the learner” created in part by the physical distance inherent to online learning (Moore 1991, "Transactional Distance,"). A large transactional distance—such as that between geographically dispersed learners and lecturers 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. When designing e-learning experiences, lecturers must consider two variables that affect transactional distance: structure and dialogue. Structure refers to the flexibility or rigidity of the pedagogical methods and strategies used in an e-learning experience. Dialogue refers to the interaction between the lecturer and learner during an e-learning experience. Moore does not suggest that either structure or dialogue are inherently good things. Each may be appropriate in different circumstances and a typical educational event such as a conventional lecture will, at a micro-level, move constantly between the two. However, the reciprocal relationship between them at any given point is immutable. Another dimension of the theory suggests that more autonomous learners, being self-directed, are better able to cope with more structure while less autonomous learners benefit more from greater dialogue. This presentation and discussion explores a proposed model of flexible learning which attempts to inform practitioners of the fluid, reciprocal and connected relationships between students, resources, contexts and lecturers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2015
EventSOLSTICE & Centre for Learning & Teaching (CLT) Conference - Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Jun 20155 Jun 2015


ConferenceSOLSTICE & Centre for Learning & Teaching (CLT) Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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