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Athabasca University


MDDE 602: Research Methods in Distance Education

Delivery mode: Grouped study using Moodle

Credits: 3 - Core course

Prerequisites: None

Instructor: Cynthia Blodgett-Griffin


Thiscore 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

The course is divided into the following units:

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

Student Assessment

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

Assignment #1:
Analyzing Quantitative Data


Assignment #2:
Analyzing Qualitative Data


Assignment #3:
Research Article Critique


Conference participation




Course Materials

Online study guide and readings.


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. (eText).

IBM SPSS software, (requires internal or external cd drive).


Get Started Early

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 access to the course. On the Official Start Date of the course, instructors will be available and the discussion forums will become active.


Last updated by MM December 15, 2016

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