Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Early Childhood, Special Education, and Rehabilitation Counseling

First Advisor

Dr. Malachy Bishop


Distance learning (DL), commonly referred to as online learning has grown exponentially in the past two decades with at least 85% of institutions of higher education in the US offering DL courses by 2013, serving more than 7 million students in the US. As the number of students taking online courses has increased, the number of ethnic minority students, specifically African Americans enrolled in online courses has also significantly increased. Despite this demonstrated interest in higher education, African Americans have had poorer learning outcomes and higher dropout rates than Caucasians in both online and face to face programs. According to Michael Moore’s transactional distance theory (TDT), the physical separation of the teacher from the learner creates a transactional distance which is defined as a communication gap or a psychological space that potentially causes misunderstandings between the instructors and the learner. The theory infers that a high level of transactional distance in a DL course leads to low levels of learner satisfaction with the course and consequently to poor learning outcomes. This dissertation utilized TDT as a theoretical framework to investigate whether ethnicity has a direct effect on transactional distance in online courses. The study did not find any relationship between ethnicity and transactional distance. Recommendations are made for additional research into this subject incorporating larger, more ethnically diverse study samples.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)