The Relationship between Faculty Perceptions and Implementation of Elements of Transactional Distance Theory and Online Web-Based Course Completion Rates
KeywordsTransactional Distance Theory
Curriculum and Instruction
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AbstractThe purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between faculty perceptions, selected demographics, implementation of elements of transactional distance theory and online web-based course completion rates. This theory posits that the high transactional distance of online courses makes it difficult for students to complete these courses successfully; too often this is associated with low completion rates. Faculty members play an indispensable role in course design, whether online or face-to-face. They also influence course delivery format from design through implementation and ultimately to how students will experience the course. This study used transactional distance theory as the conceptual framework to examine the relationship between teaching and learning strategies used by faculty members to help students complete online courses. Faculty members’ sex, number of years teaching online at the college, and their online course completion rates were considered. A researcher-developed survey was used to collect data from 348 faculty members who teach online at two prominent colleges in the southeastern part of United States. An exploratory factor analysis resulted in six factors related to transactional distance theory. The factors accounted for slightly over 65% of the variance of transactional distance scores as measured by the survey instrument. Results provided support for Moore’s (1993) theory of transactional distance. Female faculty members scored higher in all the factors of transactional distance theory when compared to men. Faculty number of years teaching online at the college level correlated significantly with all the elements of transactional distance theory. Regression analysis was used to determine that two of the factors, instructor interface and instructor-learner interaction, accounted for 12% of the variance in student online course completion rates. In conclusion, of the six factors found, the two with the highest percentage scores were instructor interface and instructor-learner interaction. This finding, while in alignment with the literature concerning the dialogue element of transactional distance theory, brings a special interest to the importance of instructor interface as a factor. Surprisingly, based on the reviewed literature on transactional distance theory, faculty perceptions concerning learner-learner interaction was not an important factor and there was no learner-content interaction factor.