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Postbaccalaureate Certificate in
Distance Education

Program summary

Meet the rising demand for distance education professionals. The program was designed by the founding director of the American Center for the Study of Distance Education, and it focuses on adult education principles, distance learning course design, and research and evaluation in distance education.

Application deadline

Apply by July 8 to start August 21

Credits and costs

9 Credits $1,007 per credit

Demand Increases for Trained Distance and Online Education Professionals

As the number of traditional college and K–12 students taking online courses continues to rise, and as more working professionals seek online education to help secure a new job or improve their advancement opportunities, the demand for distance education professionals continues to increase.

To help meet this rising demand in the higher education, K–12, corporate, and health care sectors, Penn State World Campus has partnered with the College of Education to offer this online postbaccalaureate certificate in distance education as well as an online master’s degree program in adult education

Why a Certificate in Distance Education Online at Penn State?

Penn State gives you the opportunity to gain a new perspective on distance and online education as you complete your course work entirely online. This program was designed by world-renowned faculty such as Penn State Professor Michael Grahame Moore, founding director of the American Center for the Study of Distance Education and founder and editor of The American Journal of Distance Education. Dr. William C. Diehl (adviser and instructor for the certificate and master's programs) is the current director of the American Center for the Study of Distance Education, and is also the associate editor of The American Journal of Distance Education. Dr. Moore and Dr. Diehl co-edited The Handbook of Distance Education, 4th edition.

Course topics — including adult education principles, distance education course design, and research and evaluation in distance education — are presented to you by the same faculty who teach on the University Park campus.

Act 48–Approved

Penn State is an Act 48–approved provider for Pennsylvania educators, so the courses for the postbaccalaureate certificate in distance education may count toward professional development hours.

Who Should Apply?

If you are an administrator, educator, instructor, instructional designer, or trainer who wants to expand your knowledge and build skills in the field of distance education, this could be the postbaccalaureate certificate program for you.

Information for Military and Veterans

Are you a member of the military, a veteran, or a military spouse? Please visit our military website for additional information regarding financial aid, transfer credits, or application instructions.

Online Education at Penn State

Penn State has a history of 100+ years of distance education and more than a decade of experience in online learning. We create an online learning environment that offers you the same quality education our residential students experience in a face-to-face setting. Learn more about Penn State World Campus


This 9-credit certificate program is available completely online, allowing you to learn the content of distance education through the process of distance education.

Course topics include:

  •     adult education principles
  •     distance education course design
  •     instructional technology
  •     research in distance and online learning

Position Yourself for the Future

Distance education and online learning are widely embraced by companies, and educational institutions are searching for cost-effective alternatives to traditional workshops, conferences, and classroom instruction.

A certificate in distance education positions students for career advancement in the field and in their current professional settings. New career opportunities for distance education and online learning professionals are available in continuing education centers, community colleges, universities, K–12 schools, and training and consulting firms.

Convenient and Flexible

Each course is taught online to maximize flexibility while maintaining teacher and student interaction. As a Penn State World Campus student, you can learn when and where it's most convenient for you.   

Required Courses (9 credits)

  • 3

    An introduction to the history, philosophy, organizations, learning theories, and instructional procedures used in American and foreign distance education.

  • 3

    In-depth study of the practices of designing courses taught by print, broadcast, and telecommunications media to adult distance learners.

    • Prerequisite

      ADTED 470, INSYS 415

  • 3

    Study of previous, current, and needed research, and of strategies and issues concerning evaluation, in distance education.

A note about prerequisites: Prerequisites as listed may be waived by the course instructor if you can demonstrate the required level of competency.

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.

Costs and Financial Aid

Graduate Tuition

Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.

2022–23 Academic Year Rates

How many credits do you plan to take per semester? Cost
11 or fewer $1,007 per credit
12 or more $12,082 per semester

Financial Aid and Military Benefits

Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.

Paying for Your Certificate

Students pursuing a certificate are considered "nondegree," a status that is not eligible for federal student aid, including the Federal Direct Stafford Loan program. A private alternative loan may be an option to consider.

Additionally, Penn State offers many ways to pay for your education, including an installment plan and third-party payments. Penn State World Campus also offers an Employer Reimbursement and Tuition Deferment Plan. Learn more about the options for paying for your education.

Students pursuing a degree and meeting all other eligibility requirements may qualify for financial aid.

How to Apply

Deadlines and Important Dates

Your degree application, including receipt of all transcripts, should be received by the following deadlines to be considered complete.

  • Fall DeadlineApply by July 8 to start August 21
  • Spring DeadlineApply by November 15 to start January 8
  • Summer DeadlineApply by April 15, 2024, to start May 13, 2024

Admissions Help

If you have questions about the admissions process, contact our admissions counselors.

Admission Requirements 

For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.

All applicants are expected to have earned a junior/senior grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

To enroll in graduate-level courses, or to earn the certificate in distance education, you must have a baccalaureate degree.

What You Need

Applications are submitted electronically and include a nonrefundable application fee. You will need to upload the following items as part of your application:

Official transcripts from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State, but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. If you are admitted, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.

GPA and Test Scores — postsecondary (undergraduate), junior/senior (last two years) GPA is required.

GRE or GMAT scores are NOT required.

English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.

References — You will need to initiate the process through the online application by entering names, email addresses, and mailing addresses of references. Upon submission of your application, an email will be sent to each reference requesting they complete a brief online recommendation regarding your commitment for success in an online program. Please inform all recommenders they must submit the form in order for your application to be complete.  

Program-Specific Questions/Materials

Résumé — Upload your résumé (one page) to the online application.

Statement of Purpose — Describe your professional goals, experiences, and responsibilities. Please limit your answer to a maximum of two pages.

Start Your Application

You can begin your online application at any time. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials.

Begin the graduate school application

  • Choose Enrollment Type: "Certificate Admission"
  • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus
  • Choose "Distance Education" as the certificate

Checking Your Status

You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form.

Technical Requirements 

Review the technical requirements for this program.

Ready to Learn More?

Get the resources you need to make informed decisions about your education. Request information on this program and other programs of interest by completing this form.

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State graduate certificate?

Apply by July 8 to start August 21. How to Apply

Start or Advance Your Career

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You can use the knowledge gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in a variety of fields, depending on your goals.

Job Titles Related to This Degree

Many graduates of our program are employed as:

  • teachers
  • trainers
  • instruction coordinators
  • instructional designers
  • course builders
  • program managers
  • administrators
  • online learning directors
  • librarians

Career Services to Set You Up for Success

Student having a virtual meeting on a laptop with a career counselor

From the day you're accepted as a student, you can access resources and tools provided by Penn State World Campus Career Services to further your career. These resources are beneficial whether you're searching for a job or advancing in an established career.

  • Opportunities to connect with employers
  • Career counselor/coach support
  • Occupation and salary information
  • Internships
  • Graduate school resources 

A Head Start toward a Master’s Degree

A figure standing halfway up a set of stairs leading towards a graduation cap

Not only can this program help create opportunities in your career, it can also give you a solid head start toward a full master’s degree.

Degree Program Related to This Certificate

Some or all credits earned for this certificate can be applied to the following Penn State World Campus degree program:

Develop the skills needed to serve adult learners as a teacher, trainer, or leader. This online master's program can prepare you with practical methods to effectively engage and lead in adult education.

Learn more about the Master of Education in Lifelong Learning and Adult Education  

Contact Us

To learn more about the Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Distance Education, offered in partnership with the Penn State College of Education, please contact: 

World Campus Admissions Counselors
Phone: 814-863-5386
Email: [email protected]

Dr. William C. Diehl
Lifelong Learning and Adult Education Program
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park PA 16802
Email: [email protected]


  • José Cossa, Ph.D.

    Ph.D., Cultural and Educational Policy Studies, Loyola University Chicago

    Dr. José Cossa is a Mozambican scholar, writer/author, researcher, poet, blogger, “twitterer,” podcaster, entrepreneur, and associate professor in the College of Education at Penn State. Cossa holds a Ph.D. in cultural and educational policy studies with a depth area in comparative and international education from Loyola University Chicago. He is the author of the book Power, Politics, and Higher Education in Southern Africa: International Regimes, Local Governments, and Educational Autonomy; the recipient of the 2012 Joyce Cain Award for Distinguished Research on People of African Descent; a co-founder of AI4Afrika; and a member of the MacArthur Foundation 100&Change Panel of Judges for two consecutive years (2018 Inaugural Challenge and 2019). Cossa’s research focuses on adult online and distance education, education in Africa, African Renaissance, and power dynamics in negotiation over educational policy; unveiling issues inherent in the promise of modernity and working toward de-colonializing, de-bordering, de-peripherizing, and de-centering the world; higher education policy and administration; system transfer; international development; global and social justice; and related topics. Cossa is engaged in a new (exterior to modernity) theorizing, which he coined as Cosmo-uBuntu. Cossa has taught in South Africa, Egypt, and the United States.

  • William C. Diehl

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Adult Education, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.S., Elementary Education, Penn State

    Dr. William C. Diehl is an assistant associate professor of education in the lifelong learning and adult education program. He is also the coordinator of online graduate programs and lead faculty. Dr. Diehl is the director of The American Center for the Study of Distance Education and associate editor of The American Journal of Distance Education. His research includes foundations of distance and adult education, online teaching competencies, emerging technologies, and intercultural communication. He serves as an adviser to the graduate assistant group and Lifelong Learning and Adult Education GSA group.

Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State graduate certificate?

Apply by July 8 to start August 21. How to Apply