Online PhD in Instructional Design for Online Learning

An online PhD in instructional design for online learning provides students with the backbone education needed to pursue their careers as online post secondary instructors. Ph.D. students gain important skills in this program that they'll need to understand their students, the way students learn from a distance, and how to teach effectively from a distance. These include imperative management, leadership, organization, strategic planning, and research skills. Students also learn to design online educational programs in ways that make learning efficient.

Students are prepared for online education instruction in various fields, like government and the military. Graduates are fit for advanced careers as professors, managers, and leaders in their field. The qualifications provided by a doctorate lead not only to advanced careers, but an increased chance of higher earnings than students would not realize with only a bachelor's or master's degree. Additionally, graduates get to enjoy a rewarding career in a field that is constantly evolving methodically and technologically.

About Online PhD Programs in Instructional Design for Online Learning

Students in online PhD in instructional design for online learning programs can expect to take about three years of full-time Ph.D. courses. These courses are composed of core, specialization, and elective courses, much like those found in Capella University's online PhD in instructional design for online learning program. Students are also often required to complete residencies, which further students' learning experience through in-person peer and instructor interaction. Additionally, a huge part of Ph.D. students' education is their dissertation.

Year One:

  • Educational Research Methods. In this course, students become well-versed in research methods utilized in educational settings.
  • Introduction to Qualitative Research. Students learn research methods that focus more on answering “why” and “how” questions rather than producing hard data, as in quantitative research methods; this course is meant to prepare students for the extensive research they will be conducting for their dissertation.
  • Statistics for Educational Research. Statistics for Educational Research is a statistics course geared towards the education field. Students learn to understand and analyze statistics for both their careers and dissertation purposes.

Year Two:

  • Principles of Instructional Design. Students become familiar with the fundamentals of instructional design, such as instructional design theory.
  • Processes of Instructional Design. In this course, students become skilled at the processes used to construct various instructional designs.
  • Ethics and Social Responsibility in Distance Education. Students learn about their responsibility as online educators and become well-versed in ethical dilemmas common to the industry.

Students begin working on their dissertation right away as the cultivating of research and writing techniques are part of their course curriculum. Usually around year four, students begin to work on their dissertation full time with the assistance of their dissertation advisor. The completion of a dissertation requires extensive research, analysis, editing, reviewing, and rewriting. Students typically spend between three and four years working on this project and upon its completion, publish it as an expert contribution to their field.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Instructional Design for Online Learning

There are several positive aspects to an online Ph.D. in instructional design for online learning. Students become experts in their field, making original contributions to the world and their field. Their expertise is highly sought by companies, the government, and educational institutions. They tend to earn more than those with a bachelor's or master's degree. And, most of all, because doctoral degrees require so much dedication, graduates typically enjoy a very rewarding career.

There are also negative aspects to this online degree. Doctoral programs are very demanding in terms of time and brain-power. The time it takes to complete a Ph.D. can be the better part of a decade, and all the while students must sacrifice their personal lives. Moreover, students must truly devote their attention to their program in order to succeed. Online programs in general can also be difficult for some students, who have trouble balancing their work and home lives with their academic pursuits when not in an academic setting.

Application & Admission Requirements

Students must submit several documents in order to be considered for admission. Schools prefer students with relevant work experience and who have a master's degree in a related subject. Students can apply for admission online and submit important documents like their official bachelor's and master's transcripts, a CV or resume, relevant standardized test scores, and an application fee via mail. Most schools also require an essay or statement of purpose as well as letters of recommendation from three professional or academic acquaintances.

Career Options & Job Market

Students who earn their online doctorate in instructional design in online learning typically seek careers as online professors at four-year universities. A Ph.D. is the academic requirement for such a position, leaving them prepared to obtain a job upon graduation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that in 2010, that the mean annual salary for professors was $62,050; though salaries differ on an individual basis, this is the BLS's report on the average professor's salary. The job outlook in this industry is average, with a projected 17% increase in employment expected through 2020.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

To fund their education, Ph.D. students have both internal and external options. Internal options can be found through their school's financial aid office, which provides information about scholarships and financial aid provided by the school. Meanwhile, external options include private and public grants, financial assistance, and scholarships. Students must apply for all of the above. Grants are more commonly conferred on Ph.D. students than those enrolled in lower academic programs. They tend to be field-specific and require students to complete field-related research. Further information on scholarship and grants students can seek when enrolling in an online Ph.D. program can be found at

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan. Ph.D. students often find it beneficial to apply for the Federal Direct Stafford Loan, which provides at a maximum $20,500 per academic year at the low, fixed interest rate of 6.8%.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. Those Ph.D. students who are considered to most need financial assistance also often qualify for the Federal Perkins Loan, which awards $3,500 on average to students at a low, fixed interest rate of 5%.
  • Campus-Based Aid. Another option Ph.D. students have are those financial programs offered by their financial aid office, which manage various programs provided by the government.

Essential Advice

  • Doctorates are expensive so you should make an effort to vigilantly pursue funding. Ph.D. students often have a greater chance of being granted various forms of financial assistance. Spend the time it takes to apply for as many financial aid opportunities as possible so you can graduate with as little debt as possible.
  • Have a specific idea of what you'd like to write your dissertation on before you begin applying to programs. This will better prepare you for your search for the right school and program.
  • Expect your Ph.D. to be your job. Unless you're one of the rare cases, expect this degree to take you six to seven years to complete. It is a very time- and mind-consuming academic program that will require your full attention to be successful.
  • Double check the schools and programs that interest you for accreditation. Entering into a school or program that isn't accredited could make getting a job post-graduation impossible and your degree effectively useless.