Book Notes

Book Review: Transactional Distance and Adaptive LearningPlanning for the Future of Higher Education[Record]

  • Abdullah Saykili

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International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning Volume 20, Number 3 July - 2019 Book Review: Transactional Distance and Adaptive Learning: Planning for the Future of Higher Education Authors: Farhad Saba and Rick L. Shearer (New York: Routledge, 2018, 211 pages) Reviewed by: Abdullah Saykili, Anadolu University Established by Michael G. Moore about fifty years ago, The Theory of Transactional Distance (TTD) offers a view of teaching and learning which posits that distance in educational processes is not only a geographical, but also a psychological one. The idea that three distinct but interplaying variables—dialogue, structure and autonomy—shape the landscape of any educational setting, has provided guiding principles for open and distance learning (ODL). By developing a renewed perspective on TTD through the lens of systems dynamics, the book Transactional Distance and Adaptive Learning situates one of the most influential theories in ODL into the center of its focus relating the theory to the changing landscape of higher education. To deal with the challenges triggered primarily by societal changes and the impact of emerging technologies, the authors offer the stakeholders concerned with education, from instructors to policy-makers, a comprehensive and adaptive model based on TTD to assess their current educational practices and develop alternative solutions in order to prepare for the future. The book begins with a foreword by Michael G. Moore who, through the fable of chickens and owls, encourages the faculty to leave their “academic perch” (Saba & Shearer, 2018, p. xvi) and share their knowledge and expertise to guide and help the educational institutions better serve for the needs of the society in a time of complexity, uncertainty, and constant change. Both Moore and the authors emphasize the need for a reform of the educational paradigm based on the industrial era. According to the authors, the barriers and the opportunities presented by the current technologies cannot be fully understood while the universities “have one foot in the modern industrial era and another in the emerging postmodern epoch” (Saba & Shearer, 2018, p. xxiii). Therefore, the efficient and effective utility of current and future technologies depends heavily on transitioning from the industrial school model that focuses on standardized education of masses to the postmodern school model that highlights the needs, characteristics, and demands of the individual, adapting continually and accordingly. The authors adopt a systems approach in addressing the issues surrounding the educational endeavors of higher education institutions, which is akin to Moore and Kearsley’s (2012) systems view of distance education. They present their systematic model in three fundamental universes of systems. The first universe of systems, at the micro level, includes those that allow interaction and communication between learners, faculty, and administrators including hardware, software, and telecommunications systems. The authors also place a special emphasis on Adaptive Learning Systems (ALS) within the software systems since ALS have the potential to optimize the transactional distance in an educational setting. ALS, with their abilities to shape the learning environment to better suit the learner needs and characteristics (Ennouamani & Mahani, 2017), offer a personalized form of education that is actively and dynamically tailored for each learner’s learning-related traits, cognitive and experiential standing, as well as his/her learning context (Spector, 2012). Within this regard, ALS impact the transactional distance that a learner experiences through decreasing the structure of the educational experience and increasing the possibilities for more dialogue and autonomy. The chapter dedicated to ALS sufficiently informs the reader on the current use and effectiveness of ALS in addition to the related concepts and applications, including Adaptive Hypermedia Systems, Adaptive Simulations, and Serious Games. While ...