Re-examining interaction and transactional distance through the lived experiences of postgraduate online distance learners.

Stapleford, Katharine and Lee, Kyungmee (2021) Re-examining interaction and transactional distance through the lived experiences of postgraduate online distance learners. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Current research into online distance education (ODE) has established the importance of interaction to counter the potential isolation experienced by online distance learners (ODLs). Consequently, programme designers and instructors seek to maximise opportunities for interaction in their delivery. However, much of this research is confined to institutionally bound conceptions of interaction; interactions occurring beyond the study environment, particularly for postgraduate distance learners, are significant but are less thoroughly investigated. Moore's (1993) theory of transactional distance (TTD), which claims that distance learning is characterised by the psychological and communicative separation of teacher and learner, is often used as a basis for 'testing' how effective different forms of interaction are in reducing transactional distance (TD). Despite its transcendental usefulness, TTD was developed at a time when distance learning was of the correspondence variety; thus, it tends to be instruction- and instructor-focused without appropriately reflecting contemporary ODE. Therefore, there is a need to re-examine the theory from the ODL perspective. Using narrative inquiry and photo-elicitation, this thesis investigates the lived experiences of part-time postgraduate online distance learners (ODLs) studying a professionally related master’s degree. I draw on Dewey’s (1946, 1960) theory of transactionalism to examine the multiple interactions ODLs engage in within and beyond the study environment, and how these impact on their experienced TD. The narrative data suggest that interactions are complex, multi-layered and occupy multiple spaces, and are therefore more accurately conceived of as non-dualistic educational transactions. These transactions suggest that TTD is no longer sufficient for understanding the ODL experience. I offer a more nuanced interpretation of the theory, informed by participants' stories and recast from the learners’ perspective. This reconceptualisation will be of interest to ODE programme designers, instructors, and administrators when seeking to ensure a meaningful ODE experience.

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18 May 2021 09:25
Last Modified:
15 Apr 2024 23:40