Perceived distance and instructional design in online agriculture and life science courses
The purpose of this study was to describe relationships between factors that influence perceived transactional distance (course structure, course interaction, and learner autonomy) and instructional design aspects that help to reduce transactional distance from the learner's perspective. Using Transactional Distance Theory. Specifically, the study sought to identify the extent to which learners felt they were distant from their online course and describe relationships between online students’ perceived distance and factors of transactional distance (course structure, interactions, and learner autonomy).
An online survey was disseminated to 271 students who enrolled in online courses in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University during the fall of 2017. A final response rate of 26% (n=70) was obtained.
The perceived distance to the other online learners was the highest comparing to the perceived distance from instructor, course content, course website, and course overall. The perceived distance from the online instructor was higher than the perceived distance from the course website and course content.
The students’ perceptions regarding the course structure items were positive. Participants considered their online courses as highly structured courses. In general, the students’ perceived distance to the course overall was significantly and negatively correlated with all course structure components.
In terms of course interaction, participants considered the student-website and the student-content interactions in their online courses very high compared to student-instructor and student-student interactions. In general, the results showed that the perceived distance from the course website, course content, instructor, and other online students negatively correlated with the frequency of interaction with the course website, course content, instructor, and other online students.
These results showed that online students in this study possessed a high level of autonomy. Also, the findings revealed the independent and self-directed learners who can learn without much guidance and can develop a personal learning plan perceived distance to the course content and the course website less than other students.
The squared multiple correlation coefficient (RÃ Â¯Ã Â¿Ã Â½) revealed that 38% of the variance in the overall transactional distance can be predicted from the combination of course structure, course dialogue, and learner autonomy.
Regarding the instructional design practices that help to reduce transactional distance, the online students indicated a well-organized syllabus, clear learning objectives, the instructor contact information, and printable materials are very important items in their online course. Also, the online students in this study indicated instructional design items which were of little importance included: online chat or videoconferences, group assignments, and group projects. These instructional design items are related to interaction.