Unit One: Educational Assets and Deficits of a Professional Network


Learning Objectives

Target Objective

Learner will appreciate that transactional distance is reduced using a social network tool.

Unit Learning Objectives

  1. Assess the risk-vs-benefit of choosing to employ web tools when constructing a learning activity.
  2. Understand how transactional distance is reduced using a social network tool.
  3. Identify the cultural impact of learning community.

Choosing to use a social network

Reduce transactional distance in online learning

With the increase in easy-to-use web tools and ready accessibility of these tools by instructors and learners, an overarching tension has emerged among online educators. Educators who are open to web tool use in the online classroom struggle with an internal conflict between wanting to exploit highly flexible and valuable educational experiences supported by web tools and not wanting to experiment at the learner’s expense. When considering web tools as educational tools for constructing and/or supporting learning activities, a balanced approach is needed. Consider the use of web tools as an evolutionary development and not as a paradigm shift in practice.

Assets for Learning Activities:

Because of the highly interactive nature of web tools it opens up more promise for learner-to-learner interactions, learner-to-content interaction and learner-to-instructor content. It also facilitates and encourages the generation of user content, resulting in a highly collaborative and interdependent learning environment for the learners. It closes the transactional distance between instructor, learner, and content (Moore, 2007).

Deficits for Learning Activities:

There is typically no institutional control over web tools, which are prone to regular upgrades and changes in presentation. This leaves the instructor to ensure that course materials are cohesive with the current tool features. Also, technical support will be shifted away from the institution. Either the instructor will directly support students or the technical support will come from the external support team for the web tool.

Transational Distance Theory

Factors that affect transactional distance

According to Moore's transactional distance theory, transactional distance is the pedagogical distance of understanding and perceptions. The transactional distance is affected by three characteristics of the learning environment: dialog with the instructor, learner autonomy, and course structure or design. The interactive communication characteristics of web-based tools (such as LinkedIn) enhances the learner-instructor and learner-learner interactions, thus increasing the dialog. This in turn decreases transactional distance. The flexible design of the social space will decrease transactional distance by decreasing the structure of the learning environment. When creating learning activities in a web-based tool such as LinkedIn the activities should encourage learner autonomy by shifting more control to the learner for decisions and choices. This is the third characteristic that decreases transactional distance.

Cultural Impact of a Social Network Learning Community

According to Brelaczyc and Collins (


Read the article by Benson "Addressing the context of elearning: Using transactional distance theory to inform instructional design".


Choose an online higher education course that you have taught and/or developed. Identify one of the learning activities that would improve if the transactional distance was reduced. Reflect on and then journal your answers to the following queries: How would dialog, structure, and learner autonomy shift in a social web-tool environment? Could the web tool deficits discussed in this lesson be overcome or compensated for in the design and use of the web tool? How would the assets discussed change the learning activity experience for the students? How would the students' learning community be impacted?


Go to Unit Two: Designing Learning Activities in a Professional Network

Return to Rapple_I.D._Project


Bielaczyc, K., & Collins, A. (1999). Learning communities in classrooms: A reconceptializatoin of educational practice. In C.M. Reigeluth (Eds.), Instructional theory (pp. 269-292). Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Kearsley, G. (2000). Online education, learning and teaching in cyberspace. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.