What is a Master of Distance Education?

Jessica Reed
Jessica Reed
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

The Master of Distance Education degree prepares individuals for a career overseeing a distance learning program used by a community college or university. More and more students have a family or a full-time job that takes up most of their time and prevents them from earning a traditional, on-campus education. Distance education allows students to learn from home by accessing lecture materials and submitting homework over the Internet. Hybrid courses may require students to visit the campus once a week, while other programs present materials and tests entirely online. The Master of Distance Education degree prepares the individual to organize effective distance learning classes and ensure professors understand how to communicate with their students through email or computer chat.

When earning a Master of Distance Education, the individual is learning how to deal with the specific challenges presented by distance education. Students have little or no face-to-face time with their professors, and must rely solely on recorded or printed materials to learn. It is imperative that professors set up easy and regular communication, often through email, with students and monitor their progress by providing weekly feedback. Those who master in distance education learn how to teach college professors what to expect when teaching an online course compared to an on-campus class.

Planning and goal setting are the most important skills taught by master of distance education courses. A college may offer several distance learning degrees and courses, but the overall setup should be the same. As the leader of the distance education department, the individual must determine how to set up online classes, put a technical support team in place, and ensure the hosting server can handle the constant traffic from students and professors logging in at all hours of the day and night.

To earn a Master of Distance Education, the individual first needs a bachelor's degree. Often this degree focuses on an educational or business management field. Classes in distance education leadership should focus on organizational and leadership skills, goal setting, people skills, and information technology so the individual understands the technical challenges of setting up an online course.

Though colleges are the most likely to implement distance learning programs, businesses and organizations are starting to embrace the technology as well. For freelance or at-home workers who cannot make it in to the office daily, businesses may offer distance learning options to instruct employees on new projects. They may also train employees through distance learning so the employee can work from home. This is especially common when a business wants to hire a high-profile employee, but she lives too far away to drive in for training.

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