e-ISSN: 1309-517X
Transactional distance theory in distance learning: Past, current, and future research trends

Krishnashree Achuthan 1 * , Vysakh Kani Kolil 1, Sharanya Muthupalani 1, Raghu Raman 2 3

CONT ED TECHNOLOGY, Volume 16, Issue 1, Article No: ep493

Submitted: 18 July 2023, Published Online: 18 January 2024

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The accelerated adoption of distance learning in post-pandemic times has resulted in increasing research publications and review studies in a short time. This necessitates the exploration of a large corpus of academic publications for effective distance learning and learning strategies. As distance learning stakeholders have assimilated the transactional approach to understanding distance learning, transactional distance theory (TDT) is relevant to understand ways to reduce the distance between learners and educators for maximum effectiveness of distance learning. Our study applies TDT to review distance learning from a supply perspective and as a tool to ensure the improved quality of distance learning. This paper has two key contributions: we have presented evidence synthesis and conducted a foresight exercise. Following preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses guidelines, 275 documents published between 1994 and 2022 were identified for review. Our analysis revealed patterns, relationships, and trends in the application of TDT in various distance learning contexts. Most TDT research is conducted in social sciences (83.7%), with computer science accounting for 42.6% of the studies. The course materials’ structure and design have also received considerable attention, with around 40.0% of the research focused on this area. For distance learning, studies revolve around factors such as student engagement, satisfaction, and TDT, which examine the distance between learners and instructors in various learning environments. Through systematic review and meta-analysis, we identify the three thematic areas in TDT research on distance learning. We have chartered themes on the effect of alternate design distance learning platforms on learner success, pushing the development boundaries in distance learning success through TDT, and the practical processes for designing successful distance learning courses via TDT-based pedagogical frameworks. In doing so, we streamline research in TDT and distance learning thematically and provide insight into further work. In addition, this study analyzed the relationships between sustainable development goal (SDG) and TDT literature. The co-citation analysis suggested that the strongest links were observed between education and innovation (SDG 4 and SDG 9), followed by education and gender equality (SDG 4 and SDG 5).



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