Master of Education in Distance Education (MDDE) 602

Research Methods in Distance Education

Course cover

Delivery Mode: Group Study (with eTextbook)

Credits: 3

Prerequisite: None.

Availability: All terms

Note: MEd program students must complete Mdde601 & Mdde602 prior to all other courses
Early access to the Moodle Learning Management System begins a few days before the official start date of your course. At that time you will have limited course access.


This core course addresses the subject of research design and data collection methods. It focuses on the tenets of sound research practice to allow students to make reasoned judgments about research they read or undertake and to understand the relationship between research and knowledge development in distance education.

On completion of MDDE 602, students will be able to evaluate project design, data collection, and data analyses common in academic and professional journals. Students who wish to complete a thesis will have foundational knowledge in research design and methods, including a decision-making framework for identifying research questions and choosing an appropriate research design.

Course Goals

The goals of the course are to provide you with the following:

  1. Understanding the research process: It is the role of those with a graduate-level education to manage society’s knowledge base, such that it is an appropriate and useable entity to guide and shape human existence. The research process is the mechanism by which society’s knowledge base is developed and managed. Understanding the research process teaches students how new knowledge is generated and evaluated, and former knowledge is checked, replicated and reconstituted.
  2. Differentiating between small "r" and big "R" research: In this course, small ‘r’ research means research completed to develop and inform our individual knowledge and decisions. Small "r" research taps the collective knowledge base in order to develop our own! Big "R" research refers to adding to the collective knowledge held by society. Big “R" research starts with a comprehensive understanding of what society knows about a topic. Research is then designed to replicate, verify, or augment what is already known. This research may be descriptive, exploratory (in reference to possible relationships between concepts), or explanatory (testing the plausibility of cause and effect relationships between concepts). Graduate education focuses on big "R" research.
  3. Becoming an informed consumer: Students will understand the research process so they can analyse and evaluate research concepts, designs, and processes. For students who wish to be discerning ‘consumers’ of knowledge, this course is adequate. For students who wish to become researchers themselves, additional courses in specific research methods and research tools are required.
  4. Becoming critical thinkers: Learning about and informing research activity facilitates the development of well-reasoned arguments. Learning the process of identifying a sound research or project question requires exposure to and understanding of a rational, careful, and thorough thought process. In addition, identification of the research question must be made in reference to an already well-reasoned body of literature. Analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating current knowledge on an issue or question is a central part of the research design process.

Course Outline

Module 1 Science, Social Science and the Construction of Knowledge

  • Unit 1 History of Science and Research Methods
  • Unit 2 Epistemology, Theory and Research

Module 2 Understanding Quantitative Data Collection and Analysis

  • Unit 1 Creating A Research Design
  • Unit 2 Quantitative Data Collection and Analysis

Module 3 Understanding Qualitative Data Collection and Analysis

  • Unit 1 Qualitative Data Collection
  • Unit 2 Analyzing Qualitative Data

Module 4 Engaging the Research Enterprise

  • Unit 1 The Knowledge Base and Ethics in Research
  • Unit 2 Dissemination and Politics of Research Findings

Learning Resources


Registration in this course includes an electronic textbook. For more information on electronic textbooks, please refer to our eText Initiative site.

Neuman, W. L. (2011). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (7th ed.). Toronto: Pearson.

Other Materials

IBM SPSS® software, (includes installation CD and license key).

Student Assessment

Your grade will be based on three assignments and your participation in the course.

Activity Credit Weight
Assignment 1: Analyzing Quantitative Data 30%
Assignment 2: Analyzing Qualitative Data 30%
Assignment 3: Research Article Critique. 30%
Conference participation 10%
Total 100%

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.