Edge Hill University (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2016 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 7268-7277
ISBN: 978-84-608-5617-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2016.0719
Conference name: 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2016
Location: Valencia, Spain
In flexible and open models of education, students and lecturers experience a virtual 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 students 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 student during an e-learning experience. Moore does not suggest that either structure or dialogue are intrinsically good things. Each may be appropriate in different circumstances and a typical educational experience such as a conventional lecture will, at a micro-level, move constantly between the two. 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 when designing new and innovative curricula of the fluid, reciprocal and connected relationships between students, lecturers, resources and contexts. This helps explain and justify a reconceptualization of the role of the tutor in e-learning and suggests how meaningful, social activity is also pivotal in successful learning outcomes for students. The experiences of some students are examined which, in turn, appear to further a review of support and assessment processes in order to effectively meet students' needs. Indeed a pivotal feature of the proposed flexible model is dialogue and the enhancement of the student experience which, through augmented reality platforms for example, can be brought to the virtual environment and facilitated by the lecturer. The students can begin to expand their own awareness of the curriculum content thereby strengthening the perceived connection between student, lecturer, resources and contexts.
Transactional distance, flexible learning, structure, dialogue, augmented reality.