Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Education (Ph.D)


Administrative and Instructional Leadership

First Advisor

James Campbell

Second Advisor

Seokhee Choo

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Ciabocchi


This study explored students’ perceived course quality and instructor effectiveness as a function of course structure, dialogue/interaction, and learner autonomy in an online learning environment. Using Moore's (1993) theory of Transactional Distance (TD) as a conceptual framework, the researcher collected data from postsecondary learners (N = 1049) across the USA who took online courses between Fall 2014 and Fall 2018. The highest percentage of participants, 48.2%, were aged between 25 to 34; 26.0% were 35 to 44; 11.4% were 18 to 24, while the rest were 45 and above. Of the total respondents, 54.5% were male, 45% were female, and .5% were of other gender. The sample by race consisted of 62.2% White; 22.8% Black or African American; 7.3% Asian or Pacific Islander; while the rest broke into Hispanic or Latino 5.5%; American Indian or Alaskan Native .9%; Other Race .9%; while .4% preferred not to answer. The study adopted a quantitative, non-experimental, survey approach in the identification of TD factors that influenced or best predicted course quality and instructor effectiveness from the students’ view. All participants completed a Course Quality and Instructor Effectiveness (CQIE) survey as a measure of transactional distance (18 items), course quality (2 items), and instructor effectiveness (2 items). Path analysis was employed to assess the conceptual model, while Pearson’s correlation and multiple linear regression were applied as key data analysis techniques. The momentous study categorically established that TD exhibited significant, positive, and strong correlations with course quality (r = .610, N = 1038, p < .001) and instructor effectiveness (r = .656, N = 1019, p < .001 with 99% confidence. Most importantly, the study demonstrated that TD dimensions (course structure, dialogue/interaction, and learner autonomy) were predictive of course quality (F (3, 1036) = 205.95, p < .001, R2 of .374) and instructor effectiveness (F (3,1024) = 276.21, p < .001, R2 of .448). Transactional distance explained 37% of course quality variance and 45% of instructor effectiveness variance. Based on the findings, educationists should always consider the role of transactional distance in online program research, design, development, and delivery.