Texas Tech University

Events and News

Ag Education Doc@Distance Program Admits New Cohort

by Kelly Podzemny

A seventh cohort of 17 doctoral candidates was admitted into the distance-delivered joint doctoral degree in Agricultural Education last month known as Doc@Distance. Many of the students came to Lubbock for an orientation on the Texas Tech University campus in late August, and attended a welcome dinner at the Bayer Museum of Agriculture where graduates of past cohorts told new students about their experiences in the program.

The Doc@Distance program is a joint program between Texas Tech University Department of Agricultural Education & Communications and Texas A&M University Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications that allows students to pursue a Doctor of Education in Agricultural Education from wherever they are. The program was the first of its kind when it launched in 2000, and has continued to evolve as new distance delivery methods have become available.

"This program is a living organism that continues to grow and mature," Texas Tech Professor of Agricultural Education & Communications David Doerfert said. "At first we used interactive television. There were no web-based courses at the time. Everything was live."

The faculty began to realize that even though they were teaching from a distance, students were driving great distances to receive instruction at one of four interactive television sites. Some of the instruction moved online as web-based courses and Blackboard became options at Texas Tech.

"In cohort three we began to use a lot more alternative delivery methods," Doerfert said. "We were getting much better at asynchronous [instruction], and we were willing to make changes if it enhanced student learning and their distance experience."

Instruction for the Doc@Distance program is administered by more than 30 faculty members of Texas Tech and Texas A&M. Both schools were ranked among the top 10 agricultural education departments in the United States based on a 2009 national study of the profession.

"Texas Tech and Texas A&M both have high quality faculty," Texas A&M Professor and Head Jack Elliot said. "It's a 'who's who' of agricultural education. The leaders of this program are the key researchers in their fields. There are almost too many choices for students to select from for their graduate committees."

Students of the program must apply for admission to both universities.

"No other program combines two separate institutions like this," Elliot said. "Students wear colors from both universities in their doctoral hoods. Even their diplomas have both schools' seals."

Doc@Distance is a flexible program that allows students to grow in their careers without being limited by their locations. And it provides opportunities where other options may not be available.

"The doctoral-level agricultural education program I was in at the University of Minnesota was discontinued before I was finished," Madelia, Minnesota-based student Megan Roberts said. "So this was a creative solution to my problem."

Roberts is a new student that was admitted into cohort seven. She's currently an agribusiness instructor at South Central College, a Minnesota community and technical college, and hopes the Doc@Distance program will expand her career options.

"I'm passionate about teaching people who want to be farmers or work at agribusinesses," Roberts said. "I'd like to continue teaching and researching in higher education, potentially at the university level."

Forty-nine students have graduated from the program since its inception in 2000. A new cohort is admitted every two years, so the next cohorts will begin in 2017 and 2019.