Case study: Applying transactional distance theory to a flipped classroom

Student profile:
Students enrolled:

EDMA202/262: Mathematics Learning and Teaching 1
Face-to-Face and Online enrolments
Bachelor of Early Childhood and Primary Teaching, 2nd year
Professor Romina Jamieson-Proctor
maths content knowledge often less than optimal, fear of maths
300 (75 fully online)

In this case study Professor Romina Jamieson-Proctor discusses how she applied Transactional Distance Theory and a flipped classroom approach, to help design a unit to build pre-service teachers’ mathematics pedagogical content knowledge and reduce their anxiety in relation to mathematics.


  • Creating mini-videos to share hand-ons demonstrations
  • Flipped classroom approach
  • Active learning tasks

Hear about Romina’s experience.

ACU Case study: Applying transactional distance theory to a flipped classroom (EDMA202)
Many thanks to the Faculty of Law and Business for the use of their Pop-up Studio equipment to record this interview.

Length: 12 mins.

Unit design

Transactional distance theory

Transactional distance theory was used as a theoretical framework in the design and delivery of this unit.

“Moore (1993) suggested that transactional distance is not defined in terms of geographical distance, but rather it is a pedagogical concept encompassing the separation of learners and teachers by time and space. Transactional distance is the “psychological and communication space” (Moore, 1993, p. 22) that occurs between learners and teachers and is shaped by the environment and by the patterns of activity of individuals within the environment” (Larkin & Jamieson-Proctor, 2015:
  1. Dialogue - supportive educational communication between teacher and learner, and learners with each other.
  2. Structure - guide the students through the learning journey.
  3. Autonomy - a student being able to self-guide their journey.

Transactional distance with 3 spokes, dialogue, structure and autonomy

Image created by ACU, based on Moore (1993).

The theory says that when we get the balance right across these areas, we minimise the transactional distance for students and get the best learning outcomes.

Flipped classroom

A flipped classrooms approach was used with the face-to-face cohort of students.

Student had access to preparatory content to work through (lectures, readings, activities) before they attended weekly face-to-face tutorials. They completed the online learning component as preparation for their face-to-face classes so that they were familiar with important concepts and could explore and consolidate these in a more applied way within class time.

This assisted the students to engage with the content, and be responsible for their own learning.





Asynchronous online videos

2-3 lecture videos x 30 mins each


Short demonstration videos (2-3 mins)

Both online and face-to-face students were expected to watch the videos before tutorial workshops. There are lecture videos that are approximately 30 mins each.

There are also short video demonstration videos, demonstrating use of mathematical materials for teaching e.g. MAB blocks, story books etc.

Synchronous tutorial

2 hours

Face-to-face students: on campus tutorial

Online students: online webinar tutorial

In the tutorials the lectures weren’t recapped. Students were asked higher-order thinking and metacognitive questions based on the lecture content, such as questions around:

  • What were the ‘big idea’s’ from the lecture?
  • What ideas were new to you?
  • What ideas did you agree/disagree with?

Asynchronous online activities

3 hours

Readings, individual activities and discussion forum. Students were expected to log in to LEO at least 3 times per week.


Assessment task


Weighting (%)


Assessment 1 PART 1 (weeks 1-4)

Equivalent of 800 words


Digital Portfolio reflects the pre-service teacher's understandings from weeks 1-4 of the unit.

The portfolio is multi-modal and might include images, video, links to web-based material, as well as written/spoken reflections.

Assessment 1 PART 2 (weeks 5-9)

Equivalent of 1600 words


Digital Portfolio reflects the pre-service teacher's understandings from weeks 5-9 of the unit.

The portfolio is multi-modal and might include images, video, links to web-based material, as well as written/spoken reflections.

Assessment 2: Case study

Equivalent of 1600 words


A case study of a child’s mathematical knowledge based on a one-to-one interview with a child.


“I like investigating new technology, as teachers in the 21st century, this is a skill/disposition we all have to engage with. We are dealing with 21st century learners. We need to come to grips with that, get onboard and harness that in our own teaching and learning so we can use that to enhance what we are doing” - Professor Romina Jamieson-Proctor.

This is a list of some of the major tools used in this unit.




Adobe Connect

These were used for running weekly tutorials for the online students.

See LEO Adobe Connect guide.

See also Lynda's "Adobe Connect Essential Training".


Pre-recorded lectures into 2-3 videos x 30 mins.

Short demonstration videos to augment the weekly content and assist student understanding (2-3 mins each).

See the eLearning 101 webinar, Embedding Kaltura and YouTube videos in your units.

See LEO Kaltura guide.

LEO forumLecture videos are followed by an activity that requires students to share their thoughts on the weekly discussion forum.See LEO forum guide


The academic staff building this unit drew upon the following support people.

  • Educational designers/IT support
  • Colleagues

Lessons learned

  • Approach the design from a student perspective. Think about their journey - “Can I find immediately the information I need to be successful in this unit?”, “Do I know where to start?”, “Do I know where to go next?”, “Do I know exactly what to do?”.
  • Consider opportunities for dialogue, are there enough opportunities for students to dialogue with their teacher and their peers?
  • Talk with colleagues and educational designers for feedback
  • Start small. Don’t try to do everything. Think about the one piece of digital technology that is absolutely crucial and master it first.

Student feedback

  • “Everything set out simply and to the point.”
  • “Lecture videos were very concise, flowed nicely and helped to make the concepts relatable to teaching and easy to understand.”
  • “I liked that she was very good at getting the lectures up on time and they were always filled with useful information, I also enjoyed the videos of her demonstrating particular maths techniques it was good to get a grasp on what she was saying in the lecture about it. The way she got us to write on the forums got me thinking and was a great way to get me engaged in the lectures.”
  • “Her lectures are clear, concise and to the point. She didn't include any information that wasn't relevant. Separating the lectures into parts also helped as it is difficult to sit there and watch a lecture for 2hrs”
  • “Your lectures were excellent!! I really loved the structure throughout the weeks and they were easy to follow. “
  • “Thank you for the flexibility allowed in studying this course online. I work full time so it is a challenge to even be able to tune in to the scheduled webinars when they are run.”

Further reading

Transactional distance theory

Flipped classroom

The following may be useful if you would like to understand the flipped classroom model more.


Brame, C. 2016. Flipping the Classroom, Vanderbilt University, viewed 12 July 2016 <>.

EDUCAUSE, 2012, 7 things you should know about the flipped classroom, viewed 23 June 2016 <>.

Larkin, K. & Jamieson-Proctor, R. (2015). Using Transactional Distance Theory to redesign an Online Mathematics Education Course for Pre-Service Primary Teachers. Mathematics Teacher Education and Development (MTED), Vol. 17.1, 44 - 61.

MADDrawProductions 2012. The Flipped Classroom Model [video]. 27 May, viewed 12 July 2016 <>.

Moore, M. "Theory of transactional distance." Keegan, D., ed. "Theoretical Principles of Distance Education (1997), Routledge, pp. 22-38.

Moore, M. (1993). Theory of transactional distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical principles of distance education (pp. 22–38). London: Routledge.