Rick Shearer

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Dr. Shearer has been involved in the field of distance education for over 35 years. In his administrative and instructional design roles he has developed distance education courses for computer-based instruction, educational television, traditional print correspondence courses, two-way interactive video, and the internet. Dr. Shearer has worked for both private and public institutions of higher education and has consulted on distance education projects with community colleges, and public-school systems. His research interests include systems dynamic modeling of distance education processes, learner control in distance education, content/interaction analysis and deep learning, and current policy issues surrounding accreditation and copyright law. Dr. Shearer has published several articles and book chapters on the field of distance education and presented at numerous conferences. His recent chapter in the fourth edition of the Handbook of Distance Education reviews the theory of transactional distance and the community of inquiry model and how they impact instructional design and practice in distance education, and his and Dr. Saba’s recent book ‘Transactional Distance and Adaptive Learning’ examines the system dynamic models inherent within higher education.


Dr. Shearer currently teaches for the Lifelong Learning and Adult Education program at Peen State. Previously, he was the Director of Research for Penn State World Campus and for several years lead the instructional design unit for Penn State World Campus. In his role as the Director of Research he was responsible for overseeing the R&D unit and worked with a number of GA Fellows and other staff who were and continue to explore a number of key theoretical and pragmatic areas related to distance education. Current projects include looking at deep learning within the context of the theory of transactional distance and the community of practice.


In addition to his work in distance education Dr. Shearer as been involved with institutional research initiatives within higher education and has helped design a number of studio classrooms and video teleconferencing facilities. He has also worked at the executive level for corporations.


Prior to joining Penn State Dr. Shearer was the Director of Research and Instructional Systems at National University.


Dr. Shearer currently serves on the editorial board for the New Zealand Journal of Open and Distance Learning and assists with the Advisory Board for UW-Madison's Distance Education Professional Development (DEPD). He also previously served as the chair of the UPCEA Distance Learning Community of Practice and as a member of the UPCEA Learning, Instruction, and Technology Commission.