Distance Option

The SDM Distance Learning Experience at MIT

SDM’s distance experience is important for all SDM fellows, whether they are enrolled in SDM’s on-campus, distance, or commuter options, because in the program’s core course—ESD.411 Foundations of System Design and Management—all class assignments are designed to replicate today’s reality of geographically disparate teams in the workplace. Distance learning is included in the first-year course sequence.

Teams of SDM fellows use collaborative videoconferencing tools (such as WebEx or Zoom) to enhance their skills in innovating, collaborating and leading across organizational boundaries, international time zones and differences in work-family-school balance to complete successful projects on budget and on time.

Because MIT believes that immersion at MIT is a critical component of any MIT degree, distance learners are required to spend one full semester (13 weeks) resident on campus. Students typically will choose a semester during the second year to fulfil their residency requirement. The other second year semester is dedicated to thesis research and development and can be done at a distance.


The SDM program office will provide distance students and/or their internal conference/university program centers with a clear spreadsheet of information about each class (including dates and times) before the start of term.

Class participation

All students are expected to attend each class and to participate. Professors will call on students by site and personally. Students who need a closer look at the materials, or who have obtained prior permission from the professor to be excused from a particular class, will have access to recorded video archives that are produced for each session for review purposes.

Multiple teaching assistants (TAs) are assigned to the program’s core course. The TAs will be the main contacts for grading and feedback as well as for WebEx chat assistance for asking questions in class, as necessary.

The SDM program office at MIT has integrated course management into the existing MIT course support tool (Stellar).

Videoconference equipment and connections

SDM uses Zoom to connect multiple distance sites to the MIT classroom. This provides each distance student the opportunity to participate fully in each class.

Videoconferencing considerations

Equipment and environment: Choose either desktop or conference/classroom. Most students choose to videoconference from their desktop PC or Mac, over IP. Desktop videoconferencing is recommended for sites with only one student and/or if there is no dedicated room at the sponsoring company. A computer with a webcam is required for desktop videoconferencing. In addition, a headset is strongly recommended for both sending and receiving quality audio. Sponsoring companies may have dedicated videoteleconferencing rooms. Sponsored students will need to work with their company to secure dedicated VTC rooms, if available.


William Foley
SDM Distance Learning Coordinator
Phone: 617.258.0291
Email: wfoley@mit.edu