Distance Education Special Interest Group at Duke

By Marc Sperber (Guest) and Haiyan Zhou

Marc Sperber, Educational Technologies Consultant, Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI), and Haiyan Zhou, Academic Technologies Consultant, Duke Center for Instructional Technology (CIT) have started a distance education special interest group at Duke (DE SIG @ DU).  The primary foci of attention are program administration, pedagogy, and technology.


Duke has not had an active distance education group in a number of years.  Based on personal experiences and a survey of Duke DE leaders, an exploratory meeting was held recently and we discovered that there was indeed strong support for a new group.  Among other things, the people we spoke to and surveyed said they desired:

  • A community of DE practitioners
  • Networking opportunities
  • To improve their programs by learning from others
  • To enhance their programs’ processes, technologies, and instructional design
  • To learn how to better support their programs from administrative and faculty perspectives
  • Professional development (through group activities and by learning about outside opportunities)
  • To share resources
  • To create new Duke DE resources together
  • To give advice and to share stories of success and lessons learned to others at Duke


After two meetings, the DE SIG @ DU already includes distance education program administrators, faculty, educational technologists, instructional designers, e-Learning developers and trainers, IT leaders, and distance education IT support staff, etc.  The group is open to anyone at Duke with an interest in DE – both faculty and staff are welcome.

What We Have Done So Far

In December 2011, at an exploratory meeting with several Duke DE leaders and practitioners, we discussed the purpose of the group, what topics would be addressed at meetings, strategies for covering these topics, how often we should meet, and who should be invited to join the group.

Based on the consensus at the first meeting, a second meeting was held in February.  Fourteen people attended and seven group members spoke about their DE program(s).  Program overviews were approximately ten-minutes each and addressed a list of topics that included target audience, modality, primary media and technologies used, DE staffing, instructional design, training and support, student and faculty satisfaction, quality assurance, and challenges faced.

DE @ Duke

Based on what we have learned so far from this endeavor, there are at least nine units at Duke offering distance education.  Programs range from videoconference delivery, to online, to blended and include:

  • The Duke Clinical Research Training Program at SOM
    • Master of Health Sciences in Clinical Research degree
    • The Online Core in Clinical Research certificate program
  • Duke School of Nursing
    • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • Duke Environmental Leadership Program (Nicholas School of Environment)
    • Duke Environmental Leadership Master of Environmental Management (DEL-MEM) program
  • Pratt School of Engineering
    • Distributed Master of Engineering Management Program (d-MEMP)
  • Integrative Medicine, at SOM
    • Health Coach Training Program
  • Duke Divinity School
    • Master of Arts in Christian Practice (MACP)
    • Doctor of Ministry (DMin)
  • Continuing Studies & Summer Session
    • The Summer Session course offerings (one in English, one in Education, and one in Public Policy)
    • Paralegal Studies Certificate
    • Legal Nurse Consultant Certificate Program
  • The Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP)
    • eStudies
    • eSeminars
  • Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business
    • Cross Continent MBA program
    • Global Executive MBA program
    • Weekend Executive MBA

Upcoming Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for April 24, 1 -2:30 pm, Bostock Library 039.

Dr. Rita-Marie Conrad will speak on the subject of engaging students from a distance.  She has written several books on the subject and has spoken at many conferences.  Read her full bio here.  For the remaining 60 minutes, we will continue the theme of engaging students from a distance with a faculty panel and then a guest speaker who will talk about ways to use a specific technology to engage DE students.  Faculty panelists, guest speaker, and DE technology are TBD.  RSVP is not required, but is requested.  Visit the survey, mentioned below, to RSVP.

Join us

We use a Sakai Project site as our vehicle to share meeting notes and resources and for  communication and discussion. If you are interested in joining the DE SIG @ DU and/or in coming to our next meeting, please fill out this survey.  In addition to allowing us to gather some information about you, this survey will give you the opportunity to share your suggestions and ideas with our members.  Once you complete the survey, we will add you to our Sakai Project site.

Credit: The photograph is from 2006-2007 Annual Report, Duke Clinical Research Training Program, produced by the Office of Creative Services and Marketing Communications ©2007 Duke University Health System MCOC-4965.

Haiyan Zhou

Author: Haiyan Zhou

Haiyan consults with faculty on the integration of technology into their teaching, primarily with the Health Sciences, and on developing online course materials and planning ways to offer programs through online or blended online/face-to-face formats. Her professional interests include collaboration tools, online teaching methods, e-learning, and internationalization in higher education.