Exploring Pathways to Bridge Distance and Enhance Student Engagement in Asynchronous eLearning

Concurrent Session 2

Brief Abstract

Let’s brainstorm and share ideas on strategies and techniques used to bridge the distance between ourselves and our learners in online, asynchronous environments. Using Michael Moore’s theory of transactional distance as a framework, let’s uncover instructional strategies that bring instructors and learners closer and enhance learning by improving learner’s engagement.


Celina Byers-Lenius has 15+ years of Higher Education and Consulting experience in Training & Development. Her major research interests are innovative learning processes, assessment & evaluation, change and project management leadership, and application of technology to enhance learning experiences.
I am a recent graduate of Capella University, earning my Ph.D in Education with the subspecialty of Instructional Design for Online Learning in 2018. I have an M.A. in biblical counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a B.S. in computer science-mathematics from Furman University. My professional work experience includes computer programming, adjunct instructing in COBOL programming language and statistics. My passion is in research and academic writing. My desire is to be an agent of change in instructional design for online learning, particularly for counseling education.

Extended Abstract

Conversation Goals:

  1. Establish a common ground by setting the framework for the discussion.
  2. Articulate ways to set the stage to facilitate to facilitate learner engagement in an asynchronous online environment
  3. Discuss appropriate levels of support and guidance for distance learner.
  4. Elaborate on strategies to support assignment completion.
  5. Propose a remediation plan
  6. Discuss strategies to close the learning loop.

Conversation development:

  1. Setting the framework for this conversation.
    1. The facilitators will lead a discussion on Moore’s theory of transactional distance.
  2. Setting the stage for a successful learning experience.
    1. The facilitators will share a few online teaching experiences to initiate the conversation.
  3. Guiding the learning process.
    1. The facilitators will share some strategies they use as a starting point for more audience interaction.
  4. Enhancing assignment guidelines.
    1. The facilitators will share a few personal practices used to set the stage for the next discussion phase.
  5. Providing remediation.
    1. The facilitators will introduce their attempts as a catalyst for the next round of collaboration.
  6. Closing the loop.
    1. The facilitators will lead the conversation on closing the learning experience.

The conversation participants will be provided with a Blog address where the content from this conversation will be posted and opportunities for continuing the collaboration will be offered.


This conversation aims to capture participants’ practices and the enhancements resultant from the brainstorming of ideas attendants use to create optimal learning environments. The focus of the conversation is for asynchronous learning experiences.

As more and more students move into online education the need to find ways to connect with our students increases. Saba & Shearer (2018) emphasized that Moore’s theory of transactional distance is a concept derived from adult and distance education. Moore identified four interactive elements that are present in any educational setting: dialogue, structure, autonomy, and transactional distance. Dialogue, the communication during the educational experience. Structure, the design approach, elements, and strategies embedded in the course as well as the form of assessments. Autonomy, learner’s approach to learning in any learning situation. Transactional distance, a psychological construct that involves and is impacted by the three previous elements. Transactional distance is lowered in learning conditions that incorporate easy dialogue and supportive structures, such as guidance, resources, and clarification. These support elements allow learners to utilize their autonomy to obtain the necessary resources for optimal learning.

Reyes (2013) reinforced the concept that when feedback and structure are provided by an instructor, learning is enhanced. In addition, these conditions result in an environment that provides and promotes active engagement, participation, and support of the learner, closing the distance that previously existed.

Instructional strategies, such as recorded presentations, how-to videos, updates and handouts providing resources to guide the learning process and create a personal connection with the leaners are in high demand (Cuthrell, Fogerty, Smith & Ledford, 2013). To what extent participants who teach in asynchronous online environments use these resources? What do they observe among their distant learners as a result of the resources they provide?  

The main goal of this conversation is to capture instructional strategies ideas resultant from brainstorming and sharing of practices that aim to address the main theoretical implications of the theory of transactional distance. These conditions include: (a)easy methods of communication between learners and between learners and instruction, (b)enough and varied support for learners, and (c)the promotion of learner’s autonomy. The premise is that when all these conditions are present we are contributing to lower the psychological disconnection (Joo, Andres, & Shearer, 2014).



Cuthrell, K., Fogarty, E., Smith, J., & Ledford, C. (2013). Implications of Using Peer Audio Feedback for the College Learner: Enhancing Instruction. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin79(4), 13-21.

Joo, K. P., Andrés, C., & Shearer, R. (2014). Promoting distance learners’ cognitive engagement and learning outcomes: Design-based research in the Costa Rican National University of Distance Education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 15(6). doi:10.19173/irrodl.v15i6.1908

Reyes, J.A. (2013). Transactional Distance. Distance Learning. 10(3), 43-50.

Saba, F., Shearer, R. L. (2018). Transactional distance and adaptive learning: Planning for the future of higher education. New York, NY: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9780203731819