Introduced by Morten Flaute Paulsen this theory is much more than the backbone of NKI (Norwegian Knowledge Institute) Distance Education. It meets online education needs arguing that virtual environments may combine flexibility and freedom of individual learning with group collaboration and social unity.
Paulsen, Morten Flate. 2003. Cooperative Freedom: An Online Education Theory in Online Education and Learning Management and Systems, Global E-learning in a Scandinavian Perspective, p.39-49, Oslo: NKIForlaget
In this chapter the author updates and revises his distance education theory, Cooperative Freedom, which was first published in 1992.
To back up his theory the author defines the major elements in a distance education program and the implications of CMC in this type of education. From the three theoretical positions on distance education identified by Keegan, Cooperative Freedom is classified as a theory of autonomy and independence. Based on other authors, M. Paulsen defines cooperation as a process implying voluntary interaction among learners, which may be facilitated by the new technologies. The “freedom” concept establishes the wide range of choice a learner should have.The hexagon of cooperative freedom, another concept coined by M. Paulsen, pictures the six facets of special importance to distance learning, which are: time, space, pace, medium, access and content. Cooperative freedom in distance education takes place in a system that balances students’ freedom and cooperation; the author presents the strengths and the weaknesses of each of the six facets in freedom.
Freedom, flexibility and cooperation and to what extent they are provided in distance education define how far this theory can be effective.
Although online distance can be seen as a solitary process, this theory argues that virtual learning environments foster individual work and group collaboration at the same time, enhancing the advantages in each of them.
Professor Morten explains his theory in this video:
You may also find a cartoon about the Theory of Cooperative Freedom at
This slide presentation shows Cooperative Freedom as a "guiding star for online education":