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Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Jon F Wergin


Michael Moore's theory of transactional distance, developed in the age of correspondence schools, contributed greatly to theory building in distance education. The theory needs revision, however, when applied to web-based learning environments, specifically by defining transactional distance to include students' relationships with other elements in the learning environment that prohibit their active engagement with learning. The new theoretical model of transactional distance has four dimensions: transactional distance between student and student (TDSS), transactional distance between student and teacher (TDST), transactional distance between student and content (TDSC), and transactional distance between student and interface: online course management system (TDSI). A preliminary item pool of more than 200 items to measure the constructs of TD, TDST, TDSS, TDSC, and TDSI was generated and sent to a panel of experts for review. Items that the reviewers considered weak or very weak in terms of relevance to the constructs and/or clarity and conciseness were eliminated. After a pilot test and further revisions, the proposed scale of transactional distance was administered to a sample of 100 college students. Confirmatory factor analyses and exploratory analyses indicated that the measurement models, especially after modifications, possessed good fit for the data, and the modified scales possessed factorial validity. Reliability analyses indicated that the scales possessed strong internal consistency, with Cronbach alpha coefficients ranging from 0.8169 to 0.9530. Structural equation modeling procedures tested for the causal relationship between the four dimensions and students' general sense of transactional distance in web-based courses. Results indicate that the proposed model of transactional distance is acceptable. The strongest factor that affected students' sense of transactional distance and engagement with learning was found to be transactional distance between student and students (TDSS), followed by transactional distance between student and teacher (TDST), and then by transactional distance between student and content (TDSC). The findings have implications for the development of a revised theory of transactional distance in online education, and provide strong support for constructivist learning theories and social learning theories, reinforcing the importance of establishing learning communities in online learning environments.


Part of Retrospective ETD Collection, restricted to VCU only.


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VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008