Although our perceptions regarding distance education (DE) have changed significantly, there still remains a perceived lack of quality in the development, management and delivery of DE programmes. Unfortunately, DE offered in developing countries depends largely on first and second-generation delivery modes and relies heavily on print as form of information dissemination. Thus, technological drawbacks are often hailed as the main reason for such setbacks. This article discusses the findings of a comparative study involving an education programme that runs as both a contact and a distance programme. The assessment indices include access, delivery and output, while the Transactional Distance Theory is adopted to ascertain the extent to which the theory accounts for excellence in a given programme. Findings clearly support the importance of the relationship between dialogue, structure and autonomy. However, the researchers proffer that the Transactional Distance Theory should apply not just to learning material, but to the totality of a given programme. Finally, suggestions on enhancing the total quality of programmes in this context include: the introduction of generic courses; provision of bursaries; introduction and decentralisation of pre-orientation programmes, provision of quality learning material; and workable tutoring and counselling systems.