WikiEdProfessional DE Concepts/Michael Moore

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The faces of educational systems evolve constantly with the emergence and creation of new technologies. Technologies that have impacted educational systems include pictures, radio, television, motion pictures, computers, the Internet, and the World Wide Web, to name a few. Technologies tend to begin their evolution within the home, and then through increased use, research, and curiosity, find their way and establish worth in the educational setting. With each emerging technology, educational systems tend to believe that all educational problems will be solved. Dr. Alvin C. Eurich (1955), executive director for the Ford Foundation from 1958-1964, claimed that: The phonograph, radio and motion pictures have long been familiar to most American households; but they remain relative strangers in the field of education where their potentialities are vast. In television, we now have available an almost perfect educational instrument (as cited in Finn, 1957, p.464). The excitement of the new technology provides a sense of “yes, we have finally found the solution,” but the unsuccessful long-term implementation and acceptance of the Airborne Television Instruction, Inc. of the mid-‘60’s demonstrates that television, as an educational media form, wasn’t perfect. The early 90’s, and the emergence of the World Wide Web, created another wave of “yes, we have finally found the solution” to all educational problems. The terms distance education and online learning began to explode and pervade educational environments as some new phenomenon, but the foundations of distance education can be traced back to as early as 1892 with the opening of the first correspondence school in higher education at the University of Chicago, and the first empirical data surfacing in Noffsinger’s 1926 survey title, Correspondence Schools (Moore, 2009). However, the first theoretical works were not published until the early 1970’s. Leaders in the distance education theoretical movement during that time period included Charles Wedemeyer, Borje Holmberg, Otto Peters, and Michael Moore. Moore has been credited with the publishing of the first distance education theory in 1972. This article will discuss the professional career, significant contributions, major accomplishments, and the impact of work the distance education pioneer, Michael Moore, has had on the field instructional technology, and how his work will continue to influence the future of the field.

Michael Grahame Moore

Professional Career Michael Grahame Moore’s professional career began at the University of London while working on obtaining a Bachelors of Science degree in economics. Upon graduating in 1959, he remained in England and taught high school history and geography, and some adult education courses for three years (AJDE, n.d.). In 1963, Moore relocated to Africa as an education officer to assist with one colony’s transition to independence, to later begin teaching part and full-time at the University of East Africa, and remained there for seven years working in the Adult Education Department. Unsatisfied with the formal structure of academics during the early 1960’s, and his passion for economic and social development, Moore began looking “for ways of becoming more involved with the learning needs of ordinary people in such areas as health, farming methods, setting up credit unions, and so on” (Shin, 2000, p. 214). The people living in the East African villages, where Moore was working, were poor and didn’t have access to telephones or knowledge, but he did notice that the majority of villagers had a common means of communication in that of battery powered radios. The observation of this common technology and his desire to assist with the education and betterment of people, led Moore to exploring ways to bring knowledge via radio to the people in the villages.


In 1967 and 1968, Moore started looking at the work of Charles Wedemeyer. Wedemeyer, at this time, was a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and was researching various communications technology in higher education instruction. In his 2000 interview with Shin, Moore states, “Most people practicing today have no idea of the foundations laid by Wedemeyer” (Shin, 2000, p. 217). It is imperative that this article explains the work of Wedemeyer, because Moore, through letter exchanges, just a few years later, became Wedemeyer’s research assistant. Wedemeyer in 1969, with the publication of findings titled, AIM: From Concept to Reality – The Articulated Instructional Media Program at Wisconsin, led, what Moore (2009) called, a “global paradigm shift in distance education and higher education” with his work on articulated instructional media (Moore, 2009). The AIM program focused on including a wider use of media in the instructional process, “by breaking down the teaching process into its parts and delivering these by radio, television, print, telephone, even primitive computer applications” (Shin, 2000, p. 215). This research caught the attention of Walter Perry in England, and he recruited Wedemeyer to assist with the planning and opening of the British Open University. The British Open University was, according to their website, “the world’s first successful distance teaching university” (The Open University, n.d.), and began teaching students in 1970. Wedemeyer continued his research and pushed for what we now call action research and independent thinking. In the early 1970’s he began connecting communications and andragogy, a pillar of adult learning theory (Merriam, 2001), and established the thinking of the independent learner (Moore, 2009).

The Theory of Independent Learning and Teaching

Moore left Kenya in 1970 to take up Wedemeyer’s invitation to work with him; he then decided to undertake doctoral studies in adult education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He began to notice a disconnect in the literature he was reading for class and the research he and Wedemeyer were conducting, so he “set out to write a theory about teaching-learning in which the learners and teachers were not in the same place-time environment,” (Shin, 2000, p. 215) which became the topic of his dissertation research; the theory of independent learning and teaching.

The theoretical framework of an independent learning and teaching system include three main criteria: “(a) autonomous learners engaged in learning events, (b) distant teachers preparing programs of instruction for transmission through communications media, and (c) communications media systems to bring teaching programs to learners in response to the learners’ demands” (Moore, 1973, p. 672). This theory encapsulates both communication and learning systems situated in an active model where “people are the sources of their own behavior” (Moore, 1973, p. 667), and perform their own learning, hence, the autonomous learner. Since the learner in this system conducts their own learning, the teacher’s role is more of a resource instead of direction provider. When the learner and teacher are not in the same place, or distant, from each other the teacher is responsible for selecting appropriate and multiple media tools in order to respond to the learners’ needs and demands. Wedemeyer’s influence on Moore’s work started to be displayed through the creation of this theory.

Transactional Distance Theory

After completing his doctoral studies in Wisconsin, Moore traveled to a different country, yet again, and this time it was north to Canada to where he was an Assistant Professor for three years at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia (AJDE, n.d.). In 1977, he relocated back to the UK and began working in academic and managerial roles at the Open University, and remained there until 1985. 1983 was a monumental year in regards to Moore’s 1972 theory of independent learning and teaching. It was the year that Moore applied a name to the theory that has stuck throughout the years, and that is transactional distance theory. As cited in Barbour and Reeves (2006), Moore’s description of transactional distances state “there is now a distance between learner and teacher which is not merely geographic, but educational and psychological as well. It is a distance in the relationship of the two partners in the educational enterprise. It is a ‘transactional distance’” (p.58). In the Handbook of Distance Education, Moore (2007) explains that “the term transactional distance was first used in the 1980 Handbook of Adult Education” edited by Boyd and Apps, and meshes with Dewey’s concept of transaction stating how the behaviors of individuals in a given situation interact with their environment (pp. 90-91). As related to distance education, transactional then means, “The interplay of teachers and learners in environments that have special characteristics of their being spatially separate from one another” (Moore, 2007, p.91).

Throughout his time at the Open University, Moore would visit the University of Wisconsin and one summer he persuaded Jerry Apps, Chair of the Department of Adult Education at the time, to sponsor a distance education conference (Shin, 2000). Apps agreed and in August 1985, the first distance education conference was held (Shin, 2000; Moore, 2009). Moore gave the keynote address at the conference and pronounced, “In the US, we needed an annual conference on distance education, a national journal, a research agenda, and a series of graduate courses” (Shin, 2000, p. 216). That summer day in Wisconsin in 1985 in a room that could accommodate 100 people, but was packed with 150 plus, gave distance education a new lease on life, and the field accelerated from then on (Moore, 2009).

Establishment of Firsts

During the year that the conference was held, Moore relocated back to the states and began working as a Professor of Education for Pennsylvania State University (PSU) and remains there today in the Department of Learning and Performance Systems. Working diligently on the tasks that he laid out in his keynote address the previous year in Wisconsin, Moore established, and is still the editor today, The American Journal of Distance Education (AJDE). The internationally recognized, research-based, and peer reviewed journal’s mission is to: disseminate information about research and scholarship in the field of American distance education” and is intended “for teachers in schools, colleges and universities; trainers in corporate, military, and professional fields; adult educators; researchers; and other specialists in education, training, and communications (AJDE, n.d.). With support from the administration at PSU, Moore was able to establish the American Center for the Study of Distance Education in 1986, which helped structure and attack an objective-based research agenda (Shin, 2000). Moore stated in an interview with Shin that he regards his: main contribution since we set up the ACSDE [American Center for Study of Distance Education] to be that of a catalyst, a kind of ‘impresario,’ a person who stimulates, persuades, and nurtures others to come together and build this field – I mean the scholarly study of distance education – which, after all, just twenty or thirty years ago, hardly existed (Shin, 2000, p. 214). The first American symposium on research in distance education was held in 1988, and from the meetings developed a need for a discussion network, which led to the creation, around 1990, of the Distance Education Online Symposium (DEOS), which was “the first on-line network in distance education” (Shin, 2000, p. 217).

In regards to establishing a national distance educational organization, Moore, at one time, served as president of a group called American Council for Distance Education and Training. The group, unfortunately, did not have the resources to stay functioning or build, and eventually dissolved. In his interview with Shin (2000), Moore does state that the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) is an organization that many involved in academics would fit in comfortably, and still supports the idea of a national organization for distance education.

Moore continued to chisel away at his list of necessary items for a successful distance education community, and the next item he attacked was establishing graduate courses of study. In 1989, PSU developed three graduate courses including: (1) Introduction to Distance Education, (2) Course Design and Development in Distance Education, and (3) Research and Evaluation (Shin, 2000, p. 217). The courses were successful in that they established the first group of students, who legitimately recognized the study of distance education, and both experimented with the delivery process in a laboratory setting and taught the content, and focused primarily on international distance education (Shin, 2000, p.217).

ACSDE conducted experimental work in teaching by teleconferencing to as many as 100 students equally distributed in USA, Mexico and Europe with study groups in Vera Cruz, Guadalajara, Mexico City, Tallin (Estonia), Turku, Helsinki and Lahti (Finland). These were sustained courses of 15 weeks that were delivered for several years, using early computer conferencing (Bitnet) audio-conferencing (Darome telephone speaker systems) and audio-graphics. This was unique and ground breaking towards the era of Globalization. The pedagogy, now, is common in social networking and was first explored in these experiments.

Outside of Academia

1996 produced an opportunity for Moore that absolutely thrilled him. While at a conference in Russia, Moore was approached by Peter Knight, of World Bank, with an opportunity he couldn’t refuse. World Bank was looking to incorporate “distance education as a means of economic and social development,” and Moore accepted (Shin, 2000) taking two years out of Penn State to work full-time at the Bank in Washington DC. It gave him the opportunity to apply both of his passions of distance education and international development, and the fruits of his labor resulted in the “Global Distance Learning Network.” Moore regards international work as his main research agenda and views distance education and economic development as his strengths (Shin, 2000, p.217). Moore has performed consultant work for other organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, and various United Nations agencies. In 2000 he was “still involved in a large action-research project with the Ministry of Brazil, where distance education is used in training 35,000 unqualified school teachers” (Shin, 2000, p. 217).

Added Impacts on the Field

The reading thus far demonstrates Michael Moore’s scholarship, research, and commitment to the enhancement of superior quality distance education. Along with well over 100 published articles and monographs, Moore is the editor of the Handbook of Distance Education, both the 2003 edition with William Anderson, and alone on the 2007 edition. The handbook can be noted as one of the most noteworthy compilations in education. As stated by the book’s publisher, Routledge Education, “while the book deals with education that uses technology, the focus is on teaching and learning and how it’s management can be facilitated through technology” (Routledge, 2007). He has authored many books, and one, Distance Education: A Systems View, has been used internationally as a textbook for higher education distance education courses. A few of his books have been translated into, at least, four languages. Moore has been instrumental in establishing distance education programs in Latin America, Scandinavia, Asia, and Africa. Introducing distance education to universities in Finland, Estonia, and Mexico, and to the armed forces of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, are a few other noteworthy accomplishments (Shin, 2000, p.217). He has served as Vice President of the International Council for Distance Education (ICDE) from 1988-1992, sat on editorial boards for various distance education journals, recognized with awards by many organizations, including the University of Continuing Education Association and the American Society for Training and Development. In 2002, Moore was inducted into the United States Learning Association’s Hall of Fame. Moore’s international pioneer of distance education status and impact has led him to over 30 countries delivering speeches and presentations.

Concerns and Advice for Future Distance Education Programs

Concerns. Technologies, such as email, the Internet, and mobile equipment and applications have improved the interaction and speed of communication between students and instructors in a distance education environment. Through interviews with Shin in 2000, and Gerritson in 2005, Moore addresses some of his concerns about the explosion of distance education in today’s society. His main concern is that “everyone in education who can access the Internet thinks they are in distance education, and most think they are entering unexplored territory,” and many think that distance education began with the Internet (Shin, 2000, p. 218). Their enthusiasm for distance education leads to developing courses and programs that are of poor quality, and “not well designed pedagogically or well conceptualized” (Gerritson, 2005, p. 8). This enthusiasm leads educators to the belief that they can move “directly from classroom teaching to Internet [teaching] with little knowledge of distance teaching in between” (Shin, 2000, p. 220). The need to rush to distance teaching via the Internet does not come from classroom teachers alone. Educational institutions, especially in higher education, are taking advantage of the Internet to attract new learners, especially parents and full-time workers. Moore has two concerns about this enthusiastic rush to on-line learning. First, institutions are not assessing their niche in the market, and many do not have the human resources in place to provide quality design and delivery. They are not providing good academics or instructional design. His second concern, and probably his biggest, is the direction the original mission of distance education is taking. In his interview with Shin (2000), he states that “The core mission of distance education since its invention in the nineteenth century has been to open access to those who were denied opportunity in the conventional systems, especially in higher education,” (p. 220) and he continues on by stating that the online era may contribute to widening the knowledge gap of those who have it (knowledge) and those who do not. As the cost of online learning in higher education continues to rise, the knowledge gap continues to widen.

Advice. Moore, along with his concerns of the field, also offers future distance educational researchers and practitioners some direction and advice for planning and implementing good quality programs. He claims that it is imperative that institutions assess their human and technical resources, and decide if there is an advantage to what they can provide compared to that of possible competitors (Shin, 2000). Another step is to submerse in readings from AJDE, and other journals, and any work of Wedemeyer, Keegan, Holmberg, Peters, and conference reports from the ICDE (Shin, 2000). He advises to ground research and practice with models that have been tried and tested for effectiveness, and to take pride in providing a high quality program to the target audience identified. Moore urges to be aware that a high quality program “will require substantial investment, careful marketing, new organizational structures, and distance education pedagogical expertise” (Shin, 2000, p. 219). He also adds that teachers should not focus entirely on the course content, but instead on the interactions with learners (Gerritson, 2005). Being cognizant of the concerns, and adhering to the advice Moore provides, gives guidance for those interested in furthering the study and practice of distance education.

Continued Influence

As of this writing Moore remains at PSU as a Full Professor teaching online courses in the graduate Adult Education program, with research focused around Web 2.0 technologies. He recently returned back to Pennsylvania after taking a sabbatical leave appointment during the 2008-2009 academic year. During that time he served as a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge and Visiting Professor at the Open University, also in the UK. In August 2009, he presented the keynote address for the Annual Conference of Distance Teaching in Learning in Madison, Wisconsin, to commemorate the conference’s 25th year anniversary, since its inception from one of Moore’s early career visions for the field of distance education. A sluggish economy did not deter over 800 participants representing 360 organizations world-wide from attending the anniversary celebration (University of Wisconsin-Madison, n.d.)

Moore will, without a doubt, continue to impact the direction and future of distance education. His work and contributions to the field are too substantial to lose influence for future study. He continues to build upon and recognize the work of others who have impacted the history of the field through his research, presentations, guidance of students, and other endeavors that will continue to be reflected in the years ahead. Moore is currently working with one of his graduate students, William Diehl, on bringing the past, or historical background of distance education, to the present through the Museum of Distance Education and Technology located in Second Life. The museum exhibits focus on the evolution of distance education scholarship, and Moore declares that “knowing the sources of scholarship is a necessary foundation for today’s research and practice” (Moore, 2009). The museum will be an archive of historical materials for future scholars and practitioners, and he and Diehl are Looking for slides, photographs, and other materials to contribute to the Second Life museum, and encourages anyone who can contribute to email him at

Moore’s work in the Florida Higher Education System in mid-‘90’s, will continue to impact distance education’s influence on the K-12 educational system. His work in Florida provided him the opportunity to play “a big part in developing their state education system” (Shin, 2000, p. 218). Florida was the first state to require “that all [K-12] school districts provide their students with online learning opportunities,” and Michigan and Alabama require an “online experience in order for students to graduate high school” (Barbour & Unger, 2009, p. 785), and this trend will continue in order for school districts and states to overcome budget cuts.

The organizations and the AJDE, which Moore has established, will continue to provide communication avenues for collaboration between current and future individuals interested in the field and advancement of distance education. His studies and influences have led the groundwork for those interested in the field, and with reflection upon and incorporation on his work, and his predecessors, future researchers and practitioners can build upon his contributions in all educational environments.

Michael Grahame Moore

A glance at his professional career

1959 • University of London, Bachelor of Science in Economics • High School History and Geography Teacher • Adult Education Teacher

1963 • Education Officer in Africa • University of East Africa – Instructor in Adult Education Department for seven years

1967 • Began reviewing work of Charles Wedemeyer, because of his interest in providing knowledge via radio to those in East Africa

1969 • Began graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison • Research Assistant for Charles Wedemeyer

1972 • Published first distance education theory – The Theory of Independent Teaching and Learning

1973 • Received Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin – Madison • Relocated to Canada as an Assistant Professor for three years at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia

1977 • Returned to UK to work in academic and managerial roles at the Open University for eight years

1983 • Transactional Distance Theory name is applied to his 1972 distance education theory

1985 • Responsible for the First Annual Distance Education Conference is held in Madison, Wisconsin • Relocated back to the states and began working as Professor of Education for Pennsylvania State University (PSU) in the Department of Learning and Performance Systems, and remains there today

1986 • Established The American Center for Study of Distance Education

1987 • Established first distance education journal: The American Journal of Distance Education

1988 • Responsible for organization of the first American research symposium on distance education • 1988-1992 – Vice President-International Council for Distance Education (ICDE)

1990 • Created first on-line network in distance education; Distance Education Online Symposium (DEOS) • Established first distance education graduate courses

1992 • April 7: Distance Education and Corporate Training Seminar at Ford Motor Corporation

1996 • Consultant at World Bank

2002 • Inducted into the United States Learning Association’s Hall of Fame

2003 • Published Handbook of Distance Education

2007 • Published Handbook of Distance Education, 2nd Edition

2008 • Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge • Visiting Professor at the Open University

2009 • Keynote Address for 25th Anniversary of The Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning


Barbour, M. K. & Reeves, T. C. (2006). Michael Grahame Moore – A significant contributor to the field of educational technology. Educational Technology 46(6), 58-59.

Barbour, M. K. & Unger, K. (2009). Challenging teachers’ preconceptions, misconceptions, and concerns of virtual schooling. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (785-790). Norfolk, VA: AACE.

Finn, J. D. (1957). Automation and education: II. Automatizing the classroom – Background of the effort. AV Communication Review 5(2), 451-467.

Gerritsen, J. (2005, December 8-14). Conquering the tyranny of distance. New Zealand Education Review, pp.7-8.

Merriam, S. B. (2001). Andragogy and self-directed learning: Pillars of adult learning theory. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2001(89), 3-14.

Moore, M. G. (1973). Toward a theory of independent learning and teaching. The Journal of Higher Education, 44(9), 661-679.

Moore, M.G. (2007). The theory of transactional distance. In M.G. Moore (Ed.), Handbook of Distance Education (2nd ed., pp. 89-105). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Moore, M. G. (2009, August). The scholarship of distance education: A story of which we can be proud! Keynote presented at the annual conference on Distance Teaching and Learning, Madison, Wisconsin. Retrieved November 6, 2009 from

Routledge Education (2007). Handbook of distance education: Second edition. Retrieved from isbn9780805858471

Shin, N. (2000). Michael G. Moore. In M.G. Moore & N.Shin (Eds.), Speaking personally about distance education: Foundations of contemporary practice (214-221). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

The American Journal of Distance Education (AJDE) (n.d.). The American journal of distance education. Retrieved from

The Open University (n.d.). About the OU: History of the OU. Retrieved from

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Continuing Studies (n.d.). The annual conference on distance teaching and learning: Attendees list. Retrieved from <nowiki>Insert non-formatted text here</nowiki> Insert non-formatted text here --Klu728 19:02, 31 January 2010 (UTC)

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