This week I attempted to truly strive to understand what the transactional theory is all about. I don't know that I have succeeded but here is a summary.
Goal of transactional distance is to define the distance education field in pedagogical terms.
The first thing the theory states is that distance education has its own identity! The character of the identity is the "meat" of the theory and consists of 3 main components:
1) Structure of the teaching-learning program (defines rigidity and flexibility and thus the ability to respond to individual learner's needs and preferences)
2) Dialog (rather than interaction due to positive connotation): communication between teacher and learner (determined by course structure since it exists within that structure
3) Autonomy of learners (role of learner=self-management)
Transaction=interplay of different components therefore in DE it is the interplay of teachers and learners in environments that have special characteristic of their being spatially separate form one another.
Amount of dialog and structure defines learner autonomy and determines the transactional distance. The equation looks like this Structure/Dialog=Transactional Distance. So if structure is high and therefore dialogue low then the transactional distance is high and vice versa.
And to add in autonomy if the transactional distance is lower than learners can get by with less autonomy and the converse is true. Higher transactional distance = learner need to exercise higher autonomy.
The three components also help us understand the "interactive" pieces of distance learning:
Interaction: There are 3 types, learner to content, to instructor or to other learner(s)
Organize courses/learning to have all three types of interaction. One common pitfall is using only one medium of communication and therefore there is a focus on one interaction. Design for all three.
So as of this week I have learned about the industrial theory, the transactional theory and the teaching-learning conversation theory. All of which in my mind define different aspects of the distance education field. As far as the macro/micro-ness of these theories Moore sees it this way: