An online Doctorate in Education (commonly abbreviated as EdD) is a doctorate degree for emerging leaders in the education space, delivered through a blend of online interactions and real-world experiences.
Traditionally, this degree has a research focus and prepares its earners to work in educational private, public, or civil institutions in a leadership, research, academic, clinical, or administrative capacity (or all of the above!). Its key differentiator from a PhD in Education is that the degree should prepare holders to solve key issues in education, not just study them. It’s a great education option for those who are keenly interested in both the future of education and solving its current challenges.
Depending on the type of program you choose, not much should change from brick and mortar to online: an online EdD curriculum is very similar to a traditional EdD program taken on campus.
But that curriculum itself will significantly vary from program to program, and between specializations. You can expect a mix of core classes related to your education object (leadership, curriculum planning, research/theory) and concentration courses more specific to your specialization.
How Does an Online EdD Curriculum Look Like?
Whatever your focus, common themes in a Doctorate in Education degree often include studying:
Instruction technology and methodology
Policymaking in education
And learning objectives in these areas can include:
Gaining the ability to see situations from different perspectives
Applying theory from your classes to solving real world education problems
Using research to improve policy, programs, and practice in places of learning
Identifying discrimination/prejudice and advocating for social justice in educational institutions
The Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership (Ed.D. in OCL) degree is for current and emerging leaders looking to create and foster learning environments that drive systemic improvement across a range of organizations.
The Doctorate in Education in leadership and learning in organizations is for experienced mid-career professionals interested in gaining the critical skills in leadership, organizational development, learning and design, and data and analytics.
What Are the Different Types of Online EdDs?
Depending on your interests, career objectives, and background, there’s a wide variety of concentrations you can choose from, and types of degrees you can earn that all fall under the heading of “Doctorate in Education (EdD).”
Here are some of the most common variations of this degree, depending on the type of career you’re preparing for:
Organizational change: a great fit for those who want to drive systematic change in their institutions
Educational technology: exploring the use of current and “on-the-horizon” edtech and its use in teaching and learning
Educational psychology: approaching learning, instructional tech, mental health, motivation, and assessment from a psychological and counseling standpoint.
Higher education: for those who want to work at colleges and universities
Leadership: Driving change from the top
Curriculum instruction and teaching: for those seeking work in instructional development and leadership for teachers
Human resource development: managing HR in an education setting
Educational administration: preparing you to lead with a thorough understanding of political, social, economic, and cultural factors
Special education: exploring legal cases and federal mandates around disabilities education
It depends… what’s your current lifestyle like? Are you ready to quit your job for school or do you need to keep it? Do you have your heart set on a certain school or program? Are you comfortable using technology?
These are all questions to ask yourself when determining whether you should get a Doctorate in Education online or in a traditional program, because neither brick and mortar school nor online classes are perfect for everyone.
For one thing, not every school offers online versions of their programs, so if you already have one in mind and it’s on campus only, online might not be for you. Same goes for people who highly value in-person interaction in their classes. Perhaps you spend all day in front of a computer and would rather prefer lectures in a room full of your classmates. If that sounds like you, you might get more out of a traditional program.
An online EdD may be a better fit for those who are pressed for time, who want to access a program from a far-away campus, or who can’t (or don’t want to) quit their jobs to relocate for school. You can take online classes at home (or from your desk after work, or your hotel on vacation), and the time commitment is limited to live classes and homework/study time only. No commuting to class is required.
That makes online EdDs a great fit for:
Parents (working or stay-at-home)
Those who can’t commute or relocate for school
Those who live far from a desired program with an online component
A key difference between traditional and online EdD is the “classroom” experience. Again, depending on the program, your experience will vary, but shouldn’t require much: a built-in camera, a microphone, and a strong wifi connection. These are basic technologies that most people have access to, but cover almost all online classroom needs.
Many online classes often feature the following elements:
Virtual Live Classes: your built-in camera and microphone enable you to participate in face-to-face online classes and discussions, which allow you to interact with your teacher and classmates in real time
Learning Management System: this is the central hub where you can access course materials, homework, live sessions, and forums or message boards
Interactive Course Content: bringing coursework alive means incorporating a variety of mixed media, including videos, readings, and question/answer segments
Access to Tech Support: a strong tech support team is a must when dealing with time-sensitive, tech-dependent assignments
Mobile Access: one of the major perks of online classes is being able to bring your courses with you anywhere you go, across multiple devices and platforms.
Like homework in a regular classroom, offline components support the online curriculum: you’ll be expected to have watched lectures and completed homework exercises before attending live sessions so you’re ready to participate in discussions and in-class activities.
While live sessions mimic traditional classrooms, there’s sometimes no replacement for the face to face networking and hands on workshops that brick and mortar classrooms offer. To fill this need, many programs offer on-campus immersions, where students meet at regular intervals to network with each other and their teachers, and may work on group projects together for credit hours.
But keep in mind that each program varies and you will have to contact/go on your school’s website for information specific to their particular EdD degree.
Credits, hours, and requirements, and on campus vs. online benefits will vary depending on each school and technology platform. Choose wisely!
While the way in which classes are conducted for online EdD and online PhD programs will probably be similar, EdD’s and PhD’s in education have some fundamental differences. Compare curriculum, prospective careers, and learning goals for EdD’s and PhDs in education here.
Broadly speaking, an online EdD makes its earner an excellent candidate for a variety of leadership and administrative role in all types of education settings, whether that means heading up a private preschool, planning curriculum at a public high school, or researching new educational technology at a university.
Some common potential positions an EdD prepares you for include:
Leader in the armed services or police
Chief academic officer/Chief learning officer
Director of human resources in the private or public sectors
Choosing your specialization will narrow down the type of workplace you might land in, but if you need inspiration, check out our interview series with former teachers who moved into new careers with additional education: