Essay Examples taken from Assignment #2

1. Describe and analyze three categories used by Michael Moore in his concept of distance education. Explain why he made use of them.


Example 1

A description and analysis of the categories used by Michael Moore in his concept of distance education must first start with an understanding of the context used by Moore. In explaining distance education Moore (1996) referred to the "universe of teaching-learning relationships" characterized by separation between learners and teachers. Within this universe Moore recognized that Distance Education needed definition of its various components, elements and forms (Simonson, Schlosser & Hanson 1999). Theories by Peters and Wedemeyer (as cited in Peters, 1998) regarding industrial method application and independent learners respectively were in fact two positions on a balanced continuum that was heavily influenced by the amount of structure in the process and the interactive relationship between student and tutor. From his analysis Moore generated a theory of his own to show that all distance education courses and programs could be classified on the varying relationship of several variables. Known as the Theory of Transactional Distance, Moore’s efforts explained the "communicative or mental distance" (Peters, 1998) that occurs because of geographic distance between student and teacher.

Moore and several others noted that in distance education this separation of student and teacher is significant enough to actually require different teaching processes than those used in face-to-face or traditional expository teaching. These changes to teaching processes in turn require special planning, presentation and student interactions. Moore grouped these new teaching behaviors into the categories of dialogue and structure. As Peters notes (1998), transactional distance is determined by the ability of students and teachers to interact (dialogue) and is influenced by the extent to which the learning path is pre-determined (structure). A true understanding of transactional distance however requires a deeper interpretation of the relationship between these two variables and the resultant effect on distance education’s highly valued state of independent learning. This third variable evaluates distance education on how much control the student has in determining their own learning goals and paths (autonomy).

The dialogue variable can be direct or indirect oral interaction (Peters 1998) and includes interactions within all three generations of distance education. Peters (1998) cites Reinhard and Anne Marie Tausch’s reference to "dialogical learning" and the significant demands it has on all participants. Whether by individual tutor correspondence, face-to-face in study centers or virtual, its clear that dialogue not only provides help to students in need but is in fact a valued form of teaching and learning in distance education. Because dialogue, which can not be completely simulated, is in fact interactive participation in the process of learning, Moore ranks it with very high priority.

The structure variable gained its name because Moore saw the main characteristic within Peters’ description of the industrialization of distance education as the very detailed structuring of the teaching process. This structuring of the planning, design, presentation, control and assessment procedures is used to achieve teaching objectives with an efficient, repeatable process. It must be understood that various degrees of structure exist such as models using structure to deter any deviation from a teaching path or others using structure to provide opportunity for student independent learning along a guided path. Within the discussion of structure Peters (1998) cites models such as Horn’s "structured writing" and Hodgson’s "structural communication" which use very different heavily structured paths to their objectives.

The third variable, student autonomy, is described by Moore as "students able to decide on their own learning by themselves, of their own accord" (Peters, 1998). This includes their learning needs, objectives, and accomplishment plans as well as learning material selection, organization and presentation. The autonomous learner becomes what Peters (1998) describes as the subject not the object of the process. It is at this point where the relationship of the dialogue, structure and autonomy variables come into a balanced interplay.

Moore presented a theory that described an extraordinary relationship within the phenomenon of distance education. In doing so he provided the cognitive knowledge needed to more fully explore the concepts and balanced relationship of dialogue learning, structured learning and autonomous learning. Using Moore’s theory provides clarity to the dynamic function of these three variables for each learning/teaching situation. Moore’s theory identifies very clearly that controlling this interplay of variables yields a flexible and adaptable distinct form of teaching and learning.


Moore, M & Kearsly, G (1996). Distance education a system view. Belmont: Wadsworth.

Peters, O (1998). Learning and teaching in distance education Analysis and interpretation from an international perspective. London: Kogan Page.

Simonson, M, Schlosser, C & Hanson, D (1999). Theory and distance education: a new discussion. The American Journal of Distance Education, Vol 13, 1, pp 60-75.



Example 2

Michael Moore recognizes decisive differences between education conducted contiguously, where the teacher and the learner are face-to-face, and education that occurs at a distance, where "…teaching behaviors are executed apart from learning behaviors" (Moore and Kearsley, 1996, p.198). Although physical distance between teacher and learner in non-contiguous education can be bridged by a variety of media, Moore maintains that the real challenge for distance educators is to overcome the psychological distance between teacher and learner that is the byproduct of the physical distance between them. The pedagogy of the traditional classroom is categorically inappropriate for distance learning because it is based on expository teaching and receptive learning. It assumes that the learner is passive and dependent, whereas students distant from the source of the teaching of necessity take a more active role in the education process and assume a major share of the responsibility for their learning.

Moore published his theory of transactional distance in 1972. At that time in the evolution of distance education there were significantly different approaches to the pedagogy of DE in practice, reflecting the influences of behaviorist and humanistic schools of thought, respectively. They ranged, on the one hand, from an industrialized model perfected in Europe, utilizing highly structured and institutionally controlled courses for mass consumption, to a highly flexible approach, stressing the independence of the adult learner, as advocated by Wedemeyer and others in America. How could such radically different approaches fit under the same tent? In formulating his theory of transactional distance, Moore aimed "… to provide a conceptual tool that would help students and others to place any distance education program in relationship with any other" (ibid., p. 199).

To accomplish this, Moore sought to isolate those macro elements of educational transactions that critically influence learner behavior in all distance education situations. He identified two elements directly related to teaching: student/teacher interactions, which he refers to as dialog, and structure, by which he means those elements of instructional design that provide measures of teacher control. But Moore also recognized "…that models of distance education that only considered the variables of teaching would be flawed" (ibid., p. 204). His analysis, therefore, includes the radical notion that learner autonomy, that is, the extent to which distance learners are ready, willing, and able to be responsible for constructing their own learning based on their experience, is also a critical factor in DE. Thus, learner autonomy became the third leg of Moore’s theoretical stool. Moore views each of these three elements as existing on a continuum and postulates that the success of distance teaching in practice depends on how well each element is balanced with the others in any given situation.

In Otto Peters’ interpretation of Moore’s theory, transactional distance is greatest when the student is left alone with highly structured distance learning materials designed to achieve pre-determined learning goals and has little or no interaction with the teacher. Conversely, transactional distance is shortest where the teaching program is designed to be open and to include frequent dialogs in which the "…knowledge interests and desires of individual students have an effect and are able to influence the path of the learning and teaching" (Peters, 1998, p.28).

Is there an ideal transactional distance that distance educators should aim to achieve? The answer is no. Applying correct dosages and usages of structure and dialog must be considered as highly situational, depending on the characteristics of the learners, the content to be learned, and the educational goals to be achieved. As Peters says, "…a certain optimum ratio of these three variables has to be found and from that a transactional distance determined that matches the situation" (ibid., p. 29).

One of the issues Moore’s theory raises for me as a practical matter for further consideration is the extent to which learner autonomy can be both a dependent or an independent variable in the mix, and the extent to which it could be regarded both as an input criterion in planning DE programs and a desired developmental outcome of a learning experience. As increasing numbers of traditional faculty, schooled in expository teaching, enter the distance education arena, I believe this will be a significant and difficult pedagogical issue.


Moore, Michael, G and Kearsley, Greg. Distance Education: A Systems View. Belmont,

CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1996

Peters, Otto. Learning and Teaching in Distance Education. London: Kogan Page, Ltd., 1998



Example 3

Dialogue, structure and autonomy are the categories used by Michael Moore to describe his pedagogical concept of distance education. He made use of them to develop a classifying system for the different forms and philosophies of distance education. By developing these broad and deep conceptual pedagogical categories, all forms of education (not only distance education) can be measured and scaled in terms of the interplay of these three "constitutive concepts".

While it may conjure up interactions specifically between and instructor and a student, Moore’s wider concept of dialogue includes the interaction between learner and instructor, tutor, counselor, fellow students, administrators, supporting organization, etc. This interaction may occur in person, by phone or computer. This hallmark pedagogical practice came from the earliest enlightened civilizations. An example would be the Socratic method of questioning. To some degree traditional university teaching has abandoned this principle of education. Where huge lecture halls are the norm, the critical role dialogue plays in educational work has bee marginalized. In distance education dialogue is a key to increasing proximity between learner and instruction.

The idea of structure includes every phase of content preparation and delivery. The extent to which a course is pre-planned and packaged, so that a student just "follows the yellow brick road" to defined behavioral outcomes, would make it highly-structured. However, in the case of more autonomous learning situations, the learner would be in control of the learning process (defining their own individual goals, objectives, methods, behaviors, etc.) and the instructor takes on the role of a facilitator of one’s own educational self-determination. The fields of educational and instructional technology have objectivized and industrialized the content structure of a DE course down to a precise science, where it can be tailored to mass groups.

The structure of a distance education course or program can be such that it offers externally determined, controlled instruction or self-instruction and greater learner autonomy. Autonomy is a concept whose quantification is dependent on the level of dialogue and structure, although it is most directly related to the structural element. It refers to the level of self-direction or self-instruction possible within a given DE course of study. The idea of learner as subject rather than object with regard to educational matters (Peters, 48) sets learner autonomy against the "hegemony of educational technologists" (Peters, 46). Since DE demographics (at least in the USA) reflect adult learners, it is logical that adults continue leadership in their own educational pursuits.

The idea of "transactional distance" was developed to describe the interplay of structure and dialogue to attempt to qualify the particular brands of practice. At the time of Moore’s presentation of this pedagogical theory, attempts to define distance education theory had not yet been coalesced into an articulative format that allowed for equitable comparison among DE programs. Thought leaders such as Holmberg, Peters and others were theorizing and adding to international thinking on the topic. By virtue of this theoretical advancement and terminological qualifier, it became possible to compare "apples and oranges" (given that DE pedagogy varies around the world).

It seems possible that transactional distance theory may be not be limited to the educational milieu, but expanded to other sorts of transactions at a distance. For instance, we could borrow this concept in the field of business to describe the deficiencies/strengths of doing e-transactions, mail order, 1-800 ordering, mall shopping or that of the "mom and pop" variety. Each type involves a different comfort level that may be determined by the right "dosage" (Peters, 29) of dialogue and structure. What transactional distance considers (among other things) is the comfort level between provider and consumer in a transaction in overcoming the "tyranny of distance" (Peters, 18). This comfort level argument appears to lend support for the wider application of the transactional distance theory.



Peters, Otto. (1998). Learning and Teaching in Distance Education. Kogan Page Ltd.: London.



Example 4

Dialogue, structure and autonomy. Separately, these are words interspersed throughout our language. Together, they form the basis for the preconditions in distance education. These three terms are essential components for the successful administration of distance education to function succinctly.

Prior to delving into the concepts of dialogue, structure and autonomy, and their relationship, the term transactional distance must be examined for its unique role in the interwoven intricacies of distance education. Distance education is "planned learning that normally occurs in a different place from teaching and as a result requires special techniques of course design, special instructional techniques, special methods of communication by electronic and other technology, as well as special organizational and administrative arrangements." (Moore and Kearsley, 1996, p. 2) It is this very fact that teaching and learning occur at a distance that brings about the special considerations that are inherent in distance education. One such consideration is transactional distance. It is not the physical distance that one normally associates with expository teaching, but rather it is a psychological distance brought on by the potential behavioral misunderstandings shared by both distance learners and teachers. (Moore and Kearsley, p. 200)

Transactional distance occurs any time there is a teacher and a learner, not only in distance education but in traditional education, as well. (Moore and Kearsley, p. 200) It is felt more when the environmental structure remains high with little or no dialogue.

In order to understand transactional distance more completely, the teaching and learning behaviors of dialogue, structure and autonomy must be analyzed.


Webster defines dialogue as "a conversation between two (or more) persons." (1953, p. 106) Regarding distance education, Peters states it "means direct and indirect oral interaction between teachers and students…" (Peters, 1998, p. 33) The concept of dialogue can also consist of an internal diadactic conversation where the student interacts in a silent exchange with the written word (Holmberg, n.d., p. 17), a television program, audiotape or telecommunications. (Moore and Kearsley, 1996, p. 207) The author would define it as the general egocentric and cultural interplay between one or more persons. For dialogue to become truly beneficial in distance education, the players must go beyond their differences to a higher plane of cogitation for true understanding in communication to emerge. Dialogue, then, is the act or external value, while communication is the intrinsic value.

Peters notes that dialogue in distance education is of such import that Michael Moore placed it, above all, first in his concepts. (Peters, 1998, p. 33) Peters states that dialogue is a pedagogical function in that it is an independent form of learning and teaching. Without dialogue, the learner can learn only in part. It is not enough for a learner to absorb knowledge silently. He must communicate his understanding on to others.

For true learning to take place a learner must:

    1. be exposed to the information
    2. process the information
    3. assimilate the material
    4. impart and share the knowledge on to others

But how can one acquire the full effect of dialogue in an environment where distance education takes place? Although the way in which conversation occurs differs in traditional face-to-face meetings and virtual conferences, the content stays relatively the same. What changes is the way dialogue is applied. In some respects, what the learner loses in an auditory environment, he gains in the opportunity to benefit from many minds of thoughtful, planned and prepared examination of the material. These insights from both teacher and learner can be stored on a personal computer and accessed at any given time.


Structure is defined as the arrangement of parts or elements; organization (Webster, 1958, p. 369) Moore refers to the articulation of instruction and defines it as "the arrangement of learning and teaching by determining the time and place it occurs. (Peters, 1998, p.42) In a ‘programmed instruction’ of learning, the presence of structure can be seen clearly. It is instruction where every aspect is defined to the last minute detail, and geared systematically. Peters states that successful distance education courses employ this type of structure. (1998, p. 42)

Structure in distance education has many benefits. Among them are:

    1. "Structured writing is based on the idea that the preparations of written material may improve the functions of presentation, revision and reference." (Peters, 1998, p. 43)
    2. Structure, as it applies to technology, has much potential in both written and oral communication processes.
    3. Structure shows students the content, which should be learned and gives them a road map to follow.
    4. Structure is given central importance in distance education for the role it plays in a student’s learning.
    5. Students benefit from structure in the utilization of planned courses developed by the multi-faceted expertise derived from a multitude of disciplines.
    6. The use of structure in distance education brings planned learning to the masses.


Through various models, autonomy has been described as "the self-determination of students" by Moore (Peters, 1998, p. 46), the striving for "self-discovered, self-selected and self-tested learning experiences," (Peters, p. 90), and "a state of affairs in which a person is no longer the object of educational guidance, influences, effects and obligations, but the subject of his or her own education." (Peters, p. 48) Gaudig defined autonomy this way: "Free mental activity is action under one’s own steam, with one’s own power, in self-chosen paths, toward fully selected objectives." (Peters, p. 50)

In some respects, autonomy is where students become the teachers in the sense of the roles in which they play. Students are the ones who facilitate their own learning and decide on where, when, and how they will do so. They are the master researcher, organizer, controller, strategizer and problem solver. Like a master of karate, the fully autonomous learner becomes the equivalent of a black belt so only as he proceeds to the next level of independent learning. Autonomy is important in that it equips the student with the ability of self-actualization in the real world.

Autonomy in the learning environment can be defined in terms of control. Traditionally, educators possessed virtually all control in pedagogics, including course content, lesson plans and presentation. Although some form of autonomy traditionally existed (albeit very little) for the student, autonomy in distance education presently has become of paramount import to today’s learner.


While dialogue, structure and autonomy are separate concepts and can function individually, they act in harmonious relationship with one another. I would propose that for distance education to function at its full and optimum potential in academics, dialogue, structure and autonomy must work in varying degrees of harmonious stages in a student’s academic life. "The true aim of these structures is to facilitate, simplify and support learning without the presence of a teacher." (Peters, 1998, p. 67) In order to arrive at this aim, a constant shifting of the triadic concepts must evolve. For example, a beginning student would benefit most probably from his first steps comprised of high structure, high dialogue and low autonomy. As the student progresses towards independence, i.e. a mid-level student, the structure and dialogue may be reduced for higher autonomy to occur. The true goal is reached when autonomy becomes the central factor in the dynamics of the learner’s progress, i.e. an advanced student, with high dialogue and a considerable reduction in structure.

"What determines the success of distance education teaching is the extent to which the institution and the individual instructor are able to provide the appropriate structure of learning materials, and the appropriate quantity and quality of dialogue between teacher and learning taking into account the extent of the learner’s autonomy." (Moore and Kearsley, 1996, pp. 205-206) The degree of dialogue, structure and autonomy a student necessitates at any given time is as varied and as individual as the learner.



Allee, J. G. (Ed.) 1958. Websters’s Enclyclopedia of Dictionaries, In New American Edition. USA:Oppenheimer.

Holmberg, B. (n.d.). Today’s Overall Picture of Distance Education, Chapter 1. In Web Tycho [Online]. Available: [2000, February 11].

Moore, M. G. and Kearsley, G. (1996). Distance Education: A Systems View. USA:Wadsworth.

Peters, Otto. (1998). Learning and Teaching in Distance Education, Analyses and Interpretations from an International Perspective. Great Britain:Biddles Ltd., Guildford and King’s Lynn.

Peterson, L. H., Brereton, J. C. and Hartman, J. E. (Ed.). The Norton Reader, Ninth Edition. New York:W. W. Norton and Company, Inc.



Example 5

It is Moore's belief (and that of many other noted theorists) that a theory of the pedagogy of distance education needs to be defined. His attempt at filling this gap is called The Theory of Transactional Distance. The transaction consists of the interaction between learners and teachers. The distance refers to the separation of teacher and learner. Special teaching and learning behaviors are required to overcome these limitations (Moore, 1996, 200). Moore went on to describe two categories that he believes to be "special teaching behaviors" necessary in distance education. They are: dialog and structure.

Dialog refers to "direct and indirect oral interaction between teacher and student" (Peters, 1998, 33). There are various methods of generating dialog in a distance education environment. Study centers, e-mail, phone calls, and written correspondence are just a few ways in which we can interact in the DE environment. One might ask about the significance of dialog in the educational process. Dialog allows for the interchange of ideas among the participants. Peters includes an exhaustive list of the benefits gained through dialog (Peters, 36). Without the interaction of learners with learners and learners with teachers, the learners would be "acquiring knowledge in isolation" (Peters, 36). The learners' ability to take the knowledge they hold and evaluate its' validity would be compromised, limiting deeper understanding of issues with nothing to compare/contrast, argue, and examine in light of other individual's perspectives. This Foundations course is a perfect example of what dialog can add to the DE environment. With dialog, this course becomes a rich rewarding exchange of ideas. As learners, we pick and choose those ideas in which we believe and those in which we don't. By reading one another's e-mail messages, we deepen our understanding of our reading materials and come to a richer more complete understanding of principles and theories to which we are exposed. Without dialog, the learner is in isolation struggling, on his own, to make sense of the course material. Some of the material may not be understood in the way it was meant to be. The gap of distance would allow mistakes to go unheard and uncorrected. Dialog truly is an independent form of learning (Peters, 35).

The second category that Moore described was structure. This category has been much more widely received in the educational community because "people like the idea that teaching could be rationally planned, systematically developed…similar to an industrial product" (Peters, 43). Structure refers to the printed, planned course material (Peters, 41). Much time and effort is expended in this part of the development of a course. But Moore's idea goes far beyond this. Moore asks the question, "to what extent can the structure accommodate itself to the learner's individual needs?" (Moore, 203). The type of course, an educational institution's philosophy, the teacher themselves, these all determine how structured a course need be. Some courses, by their very nature, require a great deal of structure whereas others require very little structure. The DE environment necessitates structure to a higher degree perhaps than a traditional class. What I found interesting to note was that some of the criticisms of structure included among them the fact that there was no opportunity for learners to deviate from the learning path (Peters, 43). Enter dialog! A balance of Moore's two categories, dialog and structure, seems to help alleviate the problem lending credence to Moore's statement that "everything depends on the correct dosage of dialogue and structure" (Peters, 29).

Moore's third category is that of learner autonomy. Because of the separation of distance between teacher and learner, many of the traditional teacher roles fall to the student. Traditional university thinking does not yet allow for autonomous learning (Peters, 49). Students in these institutions are expected to follow rigidly defined learning pathways and have little or no input in developing courses to meet their needs. DE, by its very nature, however, allows for a more flexible approach to student autonomy. Students are encouraged, even forced, to take on the role of teacher in areas such as planning, organizing lesson content, procuring teaching materials and media, and evaluating their learning. (Peters, 48). The teacher's role in this environment becomes that of a facilitator (Simonson). As such he encourages student autonomy. One noted theorist, Charles Wedemeyer, believes student autonomy to be the "essence of DE" (Simonson).

Many theorists (Saba, Holmberg, Peters and this author) conclude that these three components characterize DE. Peters believes that it is essential that these three elements are represented in any form of DE (Peters, March 19) and that pedagogically sound courses should be well balanced with regard to these categories (Peters, March 25).



Moore, Michael G., & Kearsley, Greg. (1996). Distance Education A Systems View. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Peters, Otto. (1998). Learning and Teaching in Distance Education. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing Inc.

Peters, Otto. (1998). Concepts and Models of Open and Distance. Manuscript.

Otto Peters (personal communication, March 19, 2000).

Otto Peters (personal communication, March 25, 2000).

Simonson, Michael, Schlosser, Charles, & Hanson, Dan. (1999). Theory and Distance Education: A New Discussion. The American Journal of Distance Education, 13(1), 60-75.



Example 6

The Missing Category

"Distance students are never more attentive and readier to listen and absorb than when their work is evaluated and commented upon."

- Otto Peters

After reading both Otto Peter’s notes and text ("Learning in Teaching in Distance Education"), I was amazed to find how much attention was given to Michael Moore.

Dr. Michael G. Moore, founding editor of The American Journal of Distance Education, developed the unique concept of "transactional distance." Generally speaking, he created this theoretical framework to explain the reduction of "mental distance" between facilitator and learner, although both parties are apart from one another.

In his framework, there are three distinct categories: dialogue, structure, and autonomy.

Dialogue is the process by which facilitator(s) and learner(s) interact with one another. For example, both parties actively pose questions and give opinions without any preset order and/or arrangements being specifically defined. According to Moore, learning is at its lowest stage with dialogue.

On the other hand, structure is the extent to which materials and learning objectives within the distance educational environment is already pre-planned, and generally determined in advance. For instance, the facilitator decides early on what materials will be needed, whether or not study groups should be required, and how many assignments to give, and so on. When there is structure, learning is at its middle stages. Conversely, autonomy, Moore’s third category, allows for each individual learner to take charge of his or her own independent learning. Ironically, unlike most traditional classroom settings where learning as well as the learning objectives are controlled by the teacher, or, in short, teacher-centered, autonomy makes the learning process just the opposite—that is, student-centered. When autonomy is achieved, learning is at its "highest stage," and is significantly the foundation of distance education according to Moore.

Although Moore’s three categories can be assimilated into what the traditional learning environments would call interaction, self-teaching materials, and self-regulated learning, and, in addition, to what Otto suggest that it can also be applied to educational philosophie and anthropology, I believe that dialogue, structure, and autonomy can be taken a step further. It can also be linked with Howard Gardner’s concept of "multiple intelligences."

Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of psychology at Harvard University, believes that there is not just one intelligence, but rather multiple intelligences that each individual can learn. The following is a list of his intelligences:

Musical—the ability to perform and comprehend music.

Bodily-Kinesthetic—the ability to control and understand one’s own movements.

Logical-Mathematical—the ability to mentally process logical problems and equations.

Linguistic—a person’s ability to construct and comprehend language.

Spatial—the ability to comprehend shapes and images in three dimensions.

Interpersonal—the ability to interact with others and understand them.

Intrapersonal—the ability to understand self.

Natuaralist—a person’s ability to identify and classify patterns in nature.

If Garden’s theory is correct, than with dialogue, the linguistic, interpersonal, and bodily-kinesthetic intelligences can be touched. With structure, both logical-mathematical and spatial can be achieved with designed preset assignments that focuses on such intelligences. Whereas, last but not least, autonomy would allow for each learner to actively apply their music as well as their naturalistic intelligences, through daily life activities. In addition to autonomy, a learner can reflect on his or her own self by utilizing their intrapersonal intelligence. This would be especially useful in distance education because within the traditional classroom setting, most facilitators use Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory as a precursor to reach out to each of their learner’s needs and weaknesses. Yet, no matter how impressive Moore’s ‘transactional distance’ sounds, and can relate with a variety of learning principles as well as educational philosophies and anthropology, he is still missing one category. In short, Michael Moore should have included the category of "feedback!"

In dialogue, not all students (i.e. introverted learners in a teleconference) are actively involved in the discussion process. Therefore, without feedback from the facilitator those learners will withdraw. In the case of structure, if feedback isn’t received in either a timely or orderly manner, then learners will become agitated as well as lack the necessary information to adequately reflect on their own learning. Conversely in autonomy, if feedback isn’t received then the learner may feel the need not to communicate with the facilitator, and/or procrastinate in completing their learning objectives.

Overall, I believe the Michael Moore has created a wonderful framework that can also be applied to a variety of disciplines as well as learning theories, but honestly speaking, if I may quote Boerje: "mediated communication is a basic characteristic of distance education."

In summary, if feedback is an essential ingredient of distance education as both Otto and Boerje state, then dialogue, structure, and autonomy are useless without it.



1. Dr. Howard Gardner’s Website [March 31, 2000]

2. PETERS, OTTO (1998), Learning and Teaching in Distance Education. Analyses and Interpretations from an International Perspective, Kogan Page:London, pp. 8-155

3. MOORE, MICHAEL G & KEARSLEY, GREG (1996), Distance Education: A Systems View, Wadsworth:Belmont, CA, pp. 110-212.



2. Describe and explain the advantages and disadvantages of a highly industrialized form of distance education.

Example 1


It was Otto Peters' accomplishment in 1967 to have introduced the theory of distance education being "the" most industrialized form of teaching and learning. This occurred when the distinctions between traditional teaching and learning and distance education had not yet been clearly established or dealt with. Peters argued that the special features of distance education (restricted subject matter, distance between teachers and students and fellow students, indirect forms of communication, age and employment situations of the students) could not be properly explained in terms of traditional pedagogical categories. Distance education "takes place in an additional coded and media-based form and only on the basis of a bundle of industrialized processes". (Peters, 1998, p.112)

Peters (1967) describes the structural characteristics of distance teaching and learning in the following terms of industrial production:

    • Rationalization and the division of labor leading to assembly lines and mass production;
    • Work processes restructured by mechanization and later by automation;
    • Preparatory phases as important steps in development;
    • Systematic planning and organization;
    • Formalized and standardized products;
    • Objectified production processes;
    • Increased mechanization changing the functions of those involved in the production process;
    • Increased concentration and centralization.

The process of development and production as a whole in an industrialized manner is unique to distance education.


Otto Peters (1967 and 1998) illustrates many pedagogical and process-related consequences of industrialization. Based on my professional background and my goals for this program I have chosen the following examples:


  • It is possible to convey knowledge to a theoretically unlimited number of people thereby increasing the levels of and accessibility to education and equalizing opportunities.
  • Planning, developing and revising of learning and teaching systems enables pedagogical issues to be addressed at all stages of production.
  • High-quality material is created which reflects the latest levels of research, is presented effectively, and in a pedagogically correct form.
  • In a macro-pedagogical perspective the totality of all activities of all participants is covered, thus becoming easier for students to feel involved, integrated and more aware of the interplay of the many system elements.
  • Effective planning and organization allow for the consideration and coordination of all developmental processes and interacting factors.
  • Scientific control methods permit the analysis and monitoring of effectiveness, the measurement of success, and the improvement of quality.
  • Objectification of teaching decreases the authoritative relationship between teacher and learner, providing an appropriate environment for adults.
  • Through formalization and standardization course rather than particular interests are reflected.
  • The division of labor leads to increased work output and thus cheaper process costs saving time, money, and energy.


  • Open curricula with self-chosen paths, flexible systems of multifaceted learning programs using different situations, media and institutions and open learning can neither be planned nor take place.
  • Expository teaching and receptive learning are strengthened; autonomous learning is extremely hard to be induced.
  • Detailed planning and organizing make distance education inflexible and formalization and standardization make improvisation very unlikely.
  • Mass production leads to large industrial enterprises, concentration of capital, centralized administrations and market monopolies.
  • The division of labor leads to increased specialization with shorter training periods, making work available to more people at the expense of higher wages and a "complete work process" is eliminated.
  • Teaching and learning behavior change dramatically; teachers are reduced to subject-matter-specialists or replaced in certain areas of work.


Parallel to the changes that have taken place in society in the last 30 years, distance education will need to adapt to new concepts such as neo- and post-industrialization. Modifications in distance education must be promoted and researched to resolve the more problematic issues (the missing of autonomous, open and communicative learning) and preserve the many positive aspects (relative independence of time and location, professional course development and scientific accompaniment, cost savings) involved. I believe pursuing a mix of modes and models will not only enhance necessary diversification in the field but also increase learner and product specialists' fulfillment, and most importantly ensure that pedagogical and humanistic issues continue to be priorities in distance education.


Peters, O. (1967). Distance Education and Industrial Production: a Comparative Interpretation in Outline. In Sewart, D. & Keegan, D. & Holmberg, B. (Eds.), (1983). Distance Education: International Perspectives. pp. 95-113. London and New York: Croom Helm Routledge

Peters, O. (1998). Learning and Teaching in Distance Education. Analyses and Interpretations from an International Perspective. Kogan Page Ltd.: London



3. Describe and explain in how far distance learning and net-based learning are likely to change learning at universities drastically.

Example 1

Distance education "represents changes in the way we conceptualize education and the ways we organize the resources of people and capital that are dedicated to the enterprise of education." (Kearsley and Moore, 1996). Changes brought about by both distance learning and net-based learning are likely to have an impact on the way universities develop courses, the way instructors teach and the way students learn.

Forms of distance education such as correspondence education have already impacted the ways distance educators think about education and the ways distance students learn. Because student and teacher were not in the same location, course developers were forced to make pedagogical considerations about course materials, including dialogue (that normally took place in the classroom), and student learning. The result were preplanned, carefully constructed courses available to anyone, anywhere, at anytime. The courses included self-teaching material (much of which established a one way conversation with the student), dialogue with the instructor (mail, phone, fax) and autonomy on the part of the learner. Autonomy required students to take over many of the teaching tasks and to become more aware of their learning and what conditions needed to exist in order for learning to occur. The traditional skills of speaking and listening are replaced with reading and writing (Peters, 19981).

As distance education continues to gain a larger share of the education market, universities will begin to more closely consider why distance education is successful. Recognition of distance education and its pedagogical impacts on education will become even more apparent with the emergence of net-based learning. Technological innovations combined with changing societal needs, have heightened the awareness of how distance education and net-based education will impact university learning. "New technologies widen the spectrum of forms of learning and teaching in distance education to an extent that until recently has been difficult to conceive" (Peters, 19982). Multimedia learning will become the norm (Peters, 1999) and members of society that are most interested in higher education will require educational programs that are convenient, service oriented, high in quality and affordable (Levine, 2000). This change in student needs will impact course design in traditional university classrooms.

The introduction of net-based learning into the distance education arena will have a significant impact on universities. "The digital revolution is not only changing distance education, it is changing our whole lives" (Peters, 19982). The impact of the digital revolution is so great that it will force universities to develop new forms of teaching and learning. Course development is likely to reap the benefits of net-based learning. The inclusion of a variety of multimedia in net-based learning, the use of hypertext, and the access to a wealth of related information are creating non-linear and multidimensional learning environments. Because net-based learning is available to a larger target audience, more and more students will adapt to, and require this different learning environment. As a result, we will begin to see more innovative and modernized approaches to education (a much needed reform in education).

Changing learning environments will have its greatest impact on the ways in which university learning occurs. These learning environments, like much of distance education, provide students with increased autonomy. Similar to correspondence education, students will need to understand how they learn and develop new skills. To be successful, such skills as browsing, exploring, searching, connecting will need to be mastered. These skills are utilized while students exercise cognitive flexibility and select their learning path (Peters, 1999). Rather than face to face conversations with classmates and professors, students will communicate via e-mail, computer conferences, or news lists (Peters, 1999). In addition, students will have access to a global community of peers and experts; thus creating a knowledge building community (Peters, 1999).

Although distance education and net-based learning will significantly impact university learning, the traditional university will not be lost because it provides experiences that are unavailable to the distance learning student. As a result, "the university of the future will be a mixed mode university and distance education will be a prominent if not the fundamental element in it" (Peters, 19981).


Kearsley, Greg and Moore, Michael (1996). Distance Education, A Systems View. New York: Wadsworth Publishing.

Peters, Otto (19981). "Models and Concepts of Open and Distance Learning, Manuscript."

Peters, Otto (19982). Learning and Teaching in Distance Education. Sterling: Stylus Publishing.

Peters, Otto (1999). "A Pedagogical Model for Virtual Learning Space."



Example 2

I have spent a great deal of time the last few weeks evaluating the university as an institution. Otto Peters has challenged my understanding of the components that construct the traditional university. This essay will consider the changes the digital age will force the university to make. For the purpose of this study, I have divided the university into four functioning groups--teaching, learning, administrating, and socializing groups.

For the teaching group, the traditional method of oral review of assigned textual material will no longer be the standard of instruction. Some instructors have transferred this method to distance and net-based learning, but Peters argues this is not pedagogically sound since it does not utilize the capacities of the technology or meet student needs. Teachers will be forced to acquire new technological and pedagogical skills to assist with course design and the non-linear learning atmosphere of the new learning environment. Net-based instruction especially will allow for students to learn without linear restrictions commonly imposed in traditional educational practices.

For the learning group, the digital advancements will be drastic as well. I believe this group is probably the most prepared for this due to the high use of digital and electronic devices by recent generations. Students will be allowed to explore non-linear paths in study. Where traditional students were expected to memorize, reproduce, and attempt to retain information, this learning group will be concerned with different skills. Learners will need skills in accessing, assimilating, and electronically storing information for future reference.

The administrating group will also experience dramatic changes. These individuals will also have to master technological skills to keep up-to-date in the digital age. No more carbon packs and pencils in these supply closets! The time-honored policies are also being replaced. Prerequisites are now administrative suggestions for success and work does not allow for daytime hours and summers off. The restriction of education for the elite is out the window as well due to accessibility. Administrating is now student driven. Administrators, not students, do the legwork around campus to make sure everything is in order. Work hours are determined by student need and in a global university that can mean 24/7 demands. The majority of student contact is not face-to-face or by appointment. Administrators are also having to compete for local, national, and international students to secure funds to not only maintain the institutions, but to provide resources to deliver through the costly distance education formats.

The socializing group has also dramatically changed in the digital era. This group may see the most impact and remains one of the greatest arguments for the need for traditional university settings. Socialization is not as common in the new delivery formats as in the student union. Although teachers and administrators can continue to interact with little adaptation, interactions among students and students with faculty may not be as developed as one would believe they could be. Society often associates the traditional university with organizational memberships such as honor societies and fraternities. Distance learning formats do have a greater restriction in this area, but net-based learning can be designed to include these elements. Students can benefit from global exposure to students by joining the newsgroup honor society. Not only can institutional groups meet, but computer conventions can be held given the amazing links available.

Without a doubt, the university will continue to change in this information age. I do not believe they will disappear altogether due to research functions and the wealth of instructional experience of faculty. They will have to evolve to stay in competition for the students’ dollar none the less. All groups within the institution will feel the impact, but I believe this is just another progression of educational thought and practice. The digital age will not devour the traditional university, but it may just mark the deconstruction of the ivory towers of higher education.



Example 3

The University Revolution

The year is 2010. In the last ten years, distance education, Internet advances, and technical innovations have revolutionized university education. Students, teachers, and administration, and society have started to adjust to the changes. In general, the struggles and discussions during the revolution have focused on the balance between structure and autonomy as identified by Michael Moore and described by Otto Peters (1998, chap.3).

The majority of students welcomed the increased autonomy. By developing their own learning structure, while continuing to accept the need for basic structured instruction as a foundation, they have achieved self-direction in setting goals. Due to increased opportunities and resources for autonomous research, students now explore topics of individual interest. As a result, more students are exhibiting increased intellectual creativity and experiencing the joy of learning. While still in secondary school, students access on-line university level preparatory and remedial programs in anticipation of the demands of the current expanded learning spaces, as described a decade ago by Peters (1999, pp. 1-18). Students straight out of US high schools, despite previous doubts, have shown that they, like their European counterparts, have the necessary maturity and discipline to handle the demands of self-directed learning.

No longer seen as "the" expert but as part of a "team of experts", teachers have moved from being sole practitioners to team members. Due to the increased student autonomy, the teaching role has shifted from being a leader to coach. Greater skills and creativity have resulted. The structure and presentation of required, basic course material are more goal-oriented and motivating. In the 20th Century the pressure on university professors was "publish or perish"; now, it is "innovate or perish". Previous evaluation methods that measured all students against the same pre-determined expectations no longer suffice. Evaluation methods now include the students’ measurement and documentation of their own learning progress. Study groups, a long-standing tool of distance education, are increasingly popular as a means of teacher communication and mentoring.

University administrators have had to decide between becoming more competitive or cooperative with fellow universities. Many universities have developed mixed mode systems combining classroom with web-based instruction while others have adopted an entirely on-line format. No longer limited by geography, students have greater choices in choosing a university of desired caliber and universities are no longer able to depend on a captive source of students based on proximity. In response, many universities have improved the quality of and choice of courses. Universities are increasingly entering into joint ventures in order to provide web-based courses and share faculty. Due to the increase in qualified students seeking course access, universities are currently examining the issue of open or expanded enrollment. Prestigious universities have begun examining ways of responding to the increased admission demand while controlling supply in order to ensure continued quality and to preserve the "elitist" status of their degrees.

Worldwide, societies are just beginning to develop strategies for employing the increased number of highly educated students. Women in culturally restrictive societies, people with disabilities, students with financial or geographic barriers are now attending university and seeking fulfilling employment. At the same time, political and religious leaders continue to debate whether it is desirable to control the extent of knowledge exploration by students.

Progress has been made since the 1990's however the revolution continues. Different concepts have been tried with many being discarded such as attempts at adapting expository teaching directly into on-line instruction (Peters, 1999, pp. 2-3). Mistakes have been made including early efforts that resulted in the further isolation of the handicapped from mainstream society. After an intense decade of exploration, all participants in the revolution admit that the interim outcomes of the university revolution differ from the initial intent and the ultimate outcomes are still unknown. The remaining challenges include controlling the financial impact of the new university system, responding more effectively to the needs of future employers, maintaining quality, and preventing the loss of innovation.


Peters, O. (1999). A Pedagogical Model for Virtual Learning Space. The German version of this paper was first published in: "Grundlagen der Weiterbildung: Praishilfen", Weinheim: Luchterhand, 1999.

Peters, O. (1998). Learning and Teaching in Distance Education. London: Kogan Page.



Example 4

It is the year 2010 and it is not a good year for the traditional university academic. He/she has been relegated to a role that many find quite deflating considering the central role had they played with respect to teaching and student’s learning up through the turn of the millennium. It was of course the evolving of the Information Age to the Age of Autonomy that provided these major changes in the structure of learning and teaching and the pedagogical changes behind them.

It is worth taking a look at some of the major changes that have transpired in the learning environments of both traditional universities and that of distance education since the year 2000. Back then most traditional academics felt that the growing benefits of the digital learning environment were, at best a convenience for extending the traditional expository classroom presentation and learner receptivity, often by the use of videoconferencing. Even the field of distance education, which has more often focused on learner autonomy, failed in many instances to see the revolution in learning already in process.

The spur for many of the changes that took place was the economic response to increasing demands of the adult learners who were returning to school to increase their job marketability in a highly volatile job market and as a response to the growing opportunities provided by the availability of web based learning, certification and academic degrees. As the demand grew, so did the race for a share of this growing and pot6entially lucrative market, pitting many traditional universities against established distance education institutions. Many of the earlier attempts to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the new digital learning environment did not come up to their developer’s expectation because of a misplaced focus on the technology itself rather than a pedagogical focus.

It was the adult learners themselves who provided the push to develop a more effective pedagogy, to meettheir needs and the opportunities presented by the newly developing digital learning environment. They had no patience with traditional expository teaching and the passive learning expected by the offerings of traditional universities. Instead, they were drawn to distance education institutions who were already oriented to the concept of student autonomy and prepared to offer more choice to the new learner of what, how and in what sequence he or she wished to study.

Despite a great deal of resistance to change from many of their traditionally oriented faculty, more and more universities began to learn from their enrollment loss of adult students, and began to develop more autonomously effective learning structures. Then a new alloy was created that rivaled the speed and bandwidth of fiber optics but was as easy and as cheap as the twisted pair telephone lines to install. Overnight, smaller companies, subsidized by a government suddenly eager to claim a role in this new technological revolution, had covered the US, including every home, school and library. Suddenly instant communication and access to the treasures of the web, anywhere in the world, was available to everyone in the US. And in the process, the world, at least the academic world, was turned upside down.

The new technology opened the door to instant access and communication by the distant learner as well as more advanced multimedia educational presentations. It was no longer necessary, or desirable, to use the linear approach of presenting knowledge of the traditional course presentation. The learner no longer had to rely on a teacher for access to knowledge, but had instant access to the acquired stock of knowledge of a particular discipline, in the form of text, audio, and "moving pictures." Research could be done instantly from databases all over the world. (Peters, 150.)

In the traditional college, many of the younger students who had grown up developing skills in autonomous learning by browsing and exploring the hypertext and hypermedia linking of information on the web, researching new interests, and joining world wide communities of common interests, were also ready for, and demanding, their choice of learning material and individualized learning sequences in the digital learning environment they were already familiar with and skilled in using. Teachers in the old, traditional sense, all but disappeared or were forced to take on new roles as tutors and researchers who provided select seminars and face-to-face tutoring for those who still desired it.

Traditional campuses no longer served a viable purpose, and became a thing of the past. Instead, special centers were formed for research as well as tutoring and seminars for those who chose to use them. Distance education institutions and former universities began to merge their resources to minimize costs, bring together experts in each field, and create ‘expert systems’ of specialized databases for teaching and research (Peters, 150.)