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Theory and theorists

European Distance Education Network.


Castelldefels: October 27th 2006

Michael G. Moore
Professor of Education
The Pennsylvania State University, U.S.A.
Editor: The American Journal of Distance Education

www.ajde.com

19 Roundham Road, Paignton, Devon, UK. TQ46JA

Early publications in distance education theory

Holmberg, B. (1960). On the methods of teaching by correspondence. Lunds


Universitets rsskrift N. F. Avd. 1 Bd 54: 2. Lund:Gleerup.
Peters, O. (1967). Das Fernstudium an Universitten und Hochschulen. Weinheim:
Beltz.
Moore, M. G. (1972). Learner autonomy: The second dimension of independent learning.
Convergence, 5(2), 76-88.
Available online at http://www.ajde.com/Documents/learner_autonomy.pdf
Moore, M. G. (1973). Towards a theory of independent learning and teaching.
Journal of Higher Education, (44), 661-679.
Available online at http://www.ajde.com/Documents/theory.pdf
Peters, O. (1973). Die didaktische Struktur des Fernunterrichts. Weinheim: Beltz.
Holmberg, B. (1977) Distance education. A survey and bibliography. London: Kogan
Page

Historical perspective.
International Council for Correspondence Education (ICCE) 1972.
.. the universe of instruction consists of two families of teaching
behaviors, "contiguous teaching" and "distance teaching."
distance teaching:
"instructional methods in which the teaching behaviors are
executed apart from the learning behaviors,.. so that
communication must be facilitated by print, electronic,
mechanical, or other devices."
we should direct resources to the macro-factors: describing
and defining the field; discriminating between the various
components of this field; building a theoretical framework...
Origin of the term "Distance Education

Evolution of Theory of
Transactional Distance
(based on Stover, UMUC 2003)

First steps
Moore started by gathering a large sample of independent
study programs.

These included programs delivered by:

TV and radio
Correspondence
Programmed instruction
Computer-assisted instruction
Telephone
Dial access audio tapes
Independent learning on campus

He classified them by the extent to which generally


the learning program was individualized
More individualized programs were usually:
Correspondence
Programmed instruction
Independent learning on campus

Less individualized programs were:

Computer-assisted instruction
TV and radio
Telephone groups
Dial access audio tapes

He then classified whether the programs involved dialog (constructive


interaction) between teacher and learner

High dialog

High
individualization

Low
individualization

Low dialog

High
individualization

Low
individualization

Independent learning on
campus
Individual telephone
Individual correspondence
Group telephone
Group correspondence
Computer-assisted instruction
Programmed instruction
Dial access audio tapes
TV
Radio
Textbook study

He explained that pedagogical, or transactional distance is a


function of two sets of variables, dialog (D) and structure (S).
These variables indicate four types of programs:
1. Programs with no dialogue and no structure ( D S)
2. Programs with no dialogue, but with structure ( D + S)
3. Programs with dialogue and structure (+ D + S)
4. Programs with dialogue, but no structure (+D S)

Note:
D and S are continuous variables, i.e. every program has more
or less D and S.

more Capacity for individualization less

less

Structure

more

How
Howthe
thevariables
variablesofofdialog
dialogand
andstructure
structuredetermine
determine
transactional
transactionaldistance
distancecan
canbe
beshown
shownininaasimple
simplegraph.
graph.

a
Tr

more

a
s
n

io
ct

d
l
a

an
t
s

ce

in

ea
r
c

Dialog

s
e
s

less

Typical programs by technology used (Moore, 1972, 1973)

more Capacity for individualization less

less

Structure

more

Transactional distance
11. Textbook self-directed
independent reading
10. radio
5. GROUP correspondence
4. GROUP telephone

9. TV
8. dial access audio tapes

3. individualized
correspondence teaching

7. computer-assisted instruction

2. individualized telephone
1. independent
study on campus
personal tutorials

more

6. programmed instruction

Dialog

less

Moores second hypothesis focused on the learner


re
mo n

atio
z
i
l
ua
e
d
r
i
v
u
i
uctfor ind
r
t
S city
pa
s
les re Ca
mo

re
mo

Tra
nsa
ctio
nal
dis

log
Dia
s
les

tan

s
les

To
Tobetter
betterunderstand
understandMoores
Moores
second
secondhypothesis,
hypothesis,we
wemust
must
first
firstrotate
rotateour
our22dimensional
dimensional
diagram.
diagram.

ce

Autonomy and transactional distance

s
les

atio
z
i
l
ua
e
d
r
i
v
tu indi
nce
a
c
t
u
s
l di
Strcity for
a
n
ctio
pa
a
s
a
s
s
n
le re C
Tra
o
m

re
mo

Tra
ns a
c ti o
nal

dist

log
Dia

anc

the
thelevel
levelofofautonomy
autonomy
required
requiredofofthe
thelearner
learner
increases
increasesas
astransactional
transactional
distance
distanceincreases.
increases.

AUTONOMY

re
mo n

s
les

Determinants of autonomy
6. NNA (autonomy only in
evaluationmost rare)

3. ANA (autonomy in setting


goals and in evaluation)
Programmed learning

1. AAA (fully autonomous)

EVALUATION

5. NAA (autonomy
in execution and
evaluation
uncommon)

Autonomy
Autonomyitself
itselfisisaathree-dimensional
three-dimensional
concept.
It
shows
for
concept. It shows forany
anyprogram
programthe
thetype
type
ofofcontrol
that
the
learner
is
allowed
in:
control that the learner is allowed in:
establishing
establishinggoals
goals
executing
executingthe
thelearning
learningprogram
program
evaluating
progress
evaluating progress

GOALS
8. NNN (no autonomy)

EC
X
E
N

TI
U

7. NAN (autonomy only in


execution--by far the most
common situation)

4. ANN (autonomy only in


setting goals--uncommon)

2. AAN (autonomy in setting


goals and execution)
External certification programs

Examples of hypothesized relationships of autonomy, structure and


dialog
When autonomy is low the need for structure is high
When structure is low the need for autonomy is high
Programs with low dialog require a high degree of learner autonomy.
Programs with low dialog and low structure require a higher degree of learner
autonomy.
Learners with high autonomy require less dialog, less structure
Etc
Highly autonomous learners may engage in auto-dialog
Course designers can develop very highly structured courses, with little room for
learner autonomy in setting goals, execution or evaluation.
Or can develop very unstructured courses, allowing learners to exercise a high
degree of autonomy.
An autonomous learner could put together a highly structured learning
program for him/herself or could make a loosely structured program.

A 3D Model of transactional distance

Transactional
distance

Transactional
Transactionaldistance
distancecan
canbe
be
viewed
viewedas
asaaset
setofoftiered
tieredplatforms.
platforms.
As
Asone
onesteps
stepsaway
awayfrom
fromthe
theorigin
origin
(dialog
(dialogor
orstructure),
structure),the
thesteps
stepsalso
also
increase
increaseininheight
height(autonomy).
(autonomy).

high

more

Autonomy permitted/
required by the
teaching method

more

Structure

les
s

less

low

more

Dialog

less

A 3D Model of Transactional Distance


high TD

Different
Differentteaching
teachingprograms
programscan
canbe
be
viewed
viewedas
asglasses
glassesthat
thatare
arestacked
stacked
on
onthese
thesetiers
tiersaccording
accordingtototheir
their
degrees
degreesof
ofstructure
structureand
anddialog.
dialog.
more

Autonomy
les
s

more

The
Theheight
heightofofthe
theglass
glassrepresents
represents
the
degree
of
autonomy
the degree of autonomythat
thatisis
permitted
permittedininan
anactual
actualprogram.
program.

Structure
less

low TD

more

Dialog

less

The
Theheight
heightofofthe
theliquid
liquidwithin
withinthe
the
glass
represents
the
degree
of
glass represents the degree of
autonomy
autonomythat
thatisisrequired
requiredofofthe
the
learner.
learner.

Thus,
Thus,the
themanner
mannerininwhich
whichaaprogram
programisis
designed and conducted can result in
high TD designed and conducted can result in
requiring
requiringor
orpermitting
permittingaahigher
higheror
orlower
lower
overall
overalllevel
levelofofautonomy.
autonomy.

more

Autonomy
les
s

more

Structure
less

low TD

more

Dialog

less

For
Forinstance,
instance,aacourse
coursetaught
taught
ONLINE

technology
allowing
ONLINE technology allowingaa
low
lowdegree
degreeof
ofstructure
structureand
andhigh
high
dialog,
dialog,permitting
permittingaalow
lowdegree
degreeof
of
learner
learnerautonomy
autonomy----could
couldbe
be
designed
with
high
structure
designed with high structure
and/or
and/orlow
lowdialog
dialogand
andrequire
requireaa
high
highdegree
degreeof
ofautonomy.
autonomy.

high TD

The
Thefinal
finalfactor
factortotobe
beconsidered
consideredisisthe
the
capacity
of
the
learner
for
autonomous
capacity of the learner for autonomous
learning.
learning.The
Thelearners
learnerscapacity
capacityhas
hasaalot
lottoto
do
dowith
withpersonality,
personality,learning
learningstyles,
styles,prior
prior
experience,
experience,and
andother
otherfactors,
factors,including
includingthe
the
content
to
be
learned
content to be learned

more

Autonomy
les
s
more

Structure
less

low TD

more

Dialog

less

This
Thisdetermines
determineshow
howhigh
highthe
the
learner
learnercan
canreach
reachand
andlets
letsus
us
see
what
teaching
strategies
are
see what teaching strategies are
appropriate.
appropriate.

Conclusion
Using this construct, we can see that we
can design courses for different degrees
of learner autonomy by varying dialog
and structure .
We can design research to explore and
test the many interactions within and
between these variables
which gets back to the basis of Moores
original investigations.

Elaboration of theory .
A Systems Approach in Theory Building
Farhad Saba
Department of Educational Technology, San Diego State University
Chapter forthcoming in Handbook of Distance Education, Second Edition, 2007
Saba, F., & Twitchell, D. (1988). Research in distance education. A system modeling
approach.
The American Journal of Distance Education, 2(1), 9-24.
Saba, F. (1989). Integrated telecommunications systems and instructional transaction.
The American Journal of Distance Education, 2(3), 17-24.
Saba, F. (2003). Distance education theory, methodology, and epistemology:
A pragmatic paradigm. In M. G. Moore & W. G. Anderson (Eds.),
Handbook of distance education (pp. 3-20). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Saba, F., & Shearer, R. L. (1994). Verifying key theoretical concepts in a dynamic model
of distance education. The American Journal of Distance Education, 8(1), 36-59.

Structure
Structure

Dialog

Time

Transactional Distance

Sabas systems dynamics hypotheses:


When structure increases, transactional distance increases and dialog decreases.
When dialog increases, transactional distance decreases and structure decreases
Transactional Distance (t)= Transactional Distance (t-dt) + (structure-dialog) x dt.

TD vis a vis Peters


and Holmberg
transactional
distance is an open
system residing in a
larger environment in
the instructional
systems level which
is in turn part of a
larger system in the
hierarchical model
(Saba 2007)
TD is only a
pedagogical theory
a theory about
teaching and learning
Some theorists deal
with larger systems,
(Peters) others with
smaller systems
(Holmberg)

Instructional-learning system
Instructional program
structure (content, objectives, strategies, evaluation)

learner
learner

teacher
dialogue
teacher
empathy

autonomy

LEARNING
GROUPS

Autonomy is one component of the learner system;


empathy is one component of teacher system

With
Withnew
newinteractive
interactive
technology
technologywe
wehave
have
potential
for
dialog
potential for dialog
between
betweenlearners
learnersand
andaa
new
newform
formof
oflearner-learner
learner-learner
autonomy
reducing
autonomy reducingthe
the
transactional
distance
transactional distancefor
for
each
student.
each student.

concluding comment on how you view the interpretations of and the


debate(s) about your theory
I have very little to comment
One thing I would like to point out is that transactional distance theory was/is
no more than that, --- a summary of knowledge in one part of the field the
teaching-learning process.
As such, it is purely descriptive . It is not prescriptive some authors
think I am an advocate for more or less learner autonomy, more or less
dialogue, more or less structure . This is NOT so.
I am happy that transactional distance theory has served at least one purpose
successfully which is to ensure that distance education is taken seriously as a
field of study in the United States, which was not the case before 1972.
It has proven useful in encouraging others to write about theory and it has
proven useful as a foundation for research; examples are shown in the
Handbook chapter.

(recent) opinions of scholars and researchers


by showing the transactional distance not as a fixed quantity but as a variable,
which results from the respective changing interplay between dialogue, the
structured nature of the teaching program being presented, and the autonomy of
the students, it (the transactional distance theory) provides a convincing
explanation of the enormous flexibility of this form of academic teaching. It also
provides an insight into the pedagogical complexity of distance education .
(Peters, 1998, 42)
what in essence (is) changed by the revolution in media we have undergone over
the last decade? Moore's theory remains, in my view, the crucial framework
of ideas against which such assertions as represented here can be tested (Tait,
2003: 5).
transactional distance .. subsumes concepts that are based on physical
attributes, such as electronics in e-Learning, blendedness in blended learning,
and wired or wireless telecommunication in online learning.
Furthermore the theory of transactional distance extends well beyond these lower
level system components and includes fundamentals of psychology, sociology
and education and other related areas of educational science. (Saba 2005: 4)

Examples of empirical studies (mostly doctoral) based on transactional distance


Saba (1988)
Shinkle (2001)
Zhang (2003)
Bischoff (1993)
Gayol (1996)

Saba and Twitchell (1988)


Braxton (1999)
Gallo (2001)
Bischoff et al. (1996)
Bunker, Gayol, Nti, and Reidell (1996)

Walker Fernandez (1999)


Moore, M.H. (1999)
Vrasidas and MacIsaac (1999)
Anderson (1999)
Atkinson (1999)
Hopper (2000)
Rovai (2000)
Chen Y. (1997)
Chen and Willits (1998, 1999)
Chen, Y. (2001)
Clouse (2001)
Williams (2003)
Edstrom (2002)
Wheeler (2002)
Lee and Gibson (2003)
Witte and Wolf (2003)
Stein, Wanstreet, et al (2005)

Lowell (2004)
Dupin-Bryant (2004)

Avive, Erlich, Ravid, and Gava (2003)


Gorsky, Caspi, and Trumper (2004)
Gorsky, Caspi, and Tuvi-Arid (2004)
Ofir et al 2004
Wikeley and Muschamp (2004)
Munro (1991)
Brenner (1996)
Richardson (1998)

Conclusion and future directions


Jung (2001):
"WBI research showed little resemblance to established pedagogical
theory in general or distance education theory in particular. While
some studies raised their research question and discussed the
findings in theoretical frameworks, other studies had little
relationship to established learning theories."
I fear:
further proliferation of non-theoretical grabbing at data, conceptual
confusion and thus mis-directed research resources
I hope:
More research connected to theory through study of educational
theory, including foundations of educational psychology, philosophy,
curriculum design, instruction as requirement for higher education
practice and research
I expect
more attention to learner-to-learner dialogue stimulated by
constructivist philosophy and methodology, leading to more
understanding of learner autonomy, what is appropriate dialog with
teacher and what are appropriate course structures

Thank you..
Michael G. Moore

www.ajde.com
Forthcoming
HANDBOOK OF DISTANCE EDUCATION. SECOND EDITION

by Michael G. Moore (ed.)


ISBN/ISSN: 0-8058-5847-4
Pub. Date: March 2007

http://www.erlbaum.com

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