Faculty Focus: Thomas Huelsmann

Thomas Huelsmann Brings Distance Education Within Reach

By Cheryl Balassone |   October 2010

Thomas Huelsmann , Faculty

Master of Distance Education
Graduate School of Management and Technology

UMUC’s Master of Distance Education (MDE) program is designed for students  who want to gain expertise in managing the distance education enterprise within  business, government, educational and non-profit sectors. The MDE program differs greatly from  the university’s other postgraduate programs: it is a joint venture between  UMUC and the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, Germany,  a leading European institution with extensive experience in  distance education. This unique partnership helps to ensure that the MDE program  has the broad, global perspective that is so critical to distance educators in  today's world.
  The MDE program  was created in 1999 in response to the need for professional instruction  in distance education that was able to capitalize on the rich experiences of instructors  in both the United States and  Europe. The global concept was devised to utilize  the capabilities of the new technologies and involve leading distance educators  from around the world in teaching in the MDE.  Great distance educators like Thomas Huelsmann. 

Thomas,  MDE program director and professor, has been involved in the program since its  inception. A mathematician by training, he ventured throughout Africa, teaching  mathematics and science at various levels in the Sudan,  Zimbabwe, and Madagascar.   After his work as consultant to the  Ministry of Education in Madagascar,  Thomas opted to take the Master's in Education and International  Development offered by the London Institute of Education. He was invited to  join the MDE after his work as research fellow at the International Research  Foundation In Open Learning (IRFOL) brought him into contact with Uli Bernath,  the MDE director at that time, who sought Thomas’ talent and experience to  support the upcoming launch of the program.

“Even  though the MDE at the time was not yet the highly prestigious program it is now,  it was both exciting and attractive to work with some of the leading experts in  the field,“ recalled Thomas.  

An accomplished author, over the past decade  nThomas has incorporated his distance learning knowledge into more than a dozen  publications and articles.  Developing  courses on the "Costs and Economics of Distance Education," where he cooperated  with the foremost authorities in the field like Greville Rumble and Tony Bates,  and "Policies for Distance Education in Developing Countries," where he worked  with Hilary Perraton, allowed Thomas to draw on many of his own international  experiences.

Awareness and appreciation of the  MDE program has grown quickly. Most recently,  the program was awarded EFMD CEL accreditation, the highest  international standard of technology-enhanced learning programs in the field of  management education. The awarding body carefully examined the effectiveness of  the program’s teaching and learning process and regarded UMUC's MDE program as  a “best practice case in academia”.

Stella  Porto, MDE program director at UMUC, and Thomas are currently working  together to create a UMUC alumni doctoral option at the School  of Education in Oldenburg. It is supported by key members of  the School of Education  in Oldenburg as  well as the presidents of both universities.

Said Thomas,  “If this all this works as planned, it will initiate an even closer  relationship between our two institutions. That should make for some  interesting prospects.”

UMUC's MDE program has received numerous recognitions and accolades, including the 2003 UCEA award for Program  of Excellence within the Distance Education Community of Practice and the 2003  Sloan-C Most Outstanding Online Teaching and Learning Program.