Transactional Distance in Videoconferencing

This post is part of a series examining articles on the communication aspects of videoconferencing.

Reference Chen, Y. J. (1997). The implications of Moore’s theory of transactional distance in a videoconferencing learning environment. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 9802605)


This study compared Moore’s (1972) theory of transactional distance to the use of videoconferencing for teaching at a distance. The theory is that transactional distance (the distance of understanding and perceptions) has to be overcome by the teachers & learners for effective learning to occur. Moore suggested that lower structure and higher dialogue would yield less transactional distance.

Chen studied 121 participants in twelve videoconferencing classes in several subject areas. Results included that dialogue includes in class verbal communication, face to face interaction outside the class, and communication via email. The structure of the course included the design or organization of the class and also the delivery and implementation. Chen found that Moore’s theory isn’t specific enough in these areas of dialogue and structure.

The students perceived greater learning from greater frequency of in-class discussion. The greater the reported transactional distance between teacher and learners, the less the perceived learning.

Those were the only two factors that made a difference in perceived learning.

The study also found that out of class electronic communication was not supported as an effective practice; however, by the sounds of it, the use wasn’t required and therefore was low. If deliberate, interactive, engaging discussions were set up, would this result be different?

Suggested Strategies for Teaching Via VC

  • Additional training for teachers and students before courses occur
  • Planned class section where all sites meet in person at the beginning of the semester
  • Setting up a listserv for online communication
  • Creating group dynamics and a collaborative learning environment
  • Building consensus between/among sites through interaction among peers


  • It’s interesting how important the in-class discussion was in this study. How do YOU create discussion across sites? Good models are GNG‘s Pulse programs; some of the Jazz interactions; what else?
  • Don’t you think that many other Web 2.0 tools if chosen carefully and used deliberately could be more effective than a listserv? Of course this was published in 1997 which is seriously old in Internet time.
  • What other things do you see as important to a videoconferencing class?

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