Online PhD in Instructional Design

Have you ever wondered who plans, implements and fixes online learning platforms? If you are interested in a career that combines the most innovative methods of both technology and education, then Instructional Design may be of interest to you. An online PhD in Instructional Design can prepare you for a high-level leadership position in an online learning environment at an academic institution, a health care organization, a corporation, the government or the military. If your interest is to pursue a career specifically in Education, it is important to note that Instructional Design PhD degrees do not satisfy licensure requirements for teachers at the K-12 public school level. For an applied-based degree, it would be better to pursue a Doctor of Education, or Ed.D in Instructional Design. It is also important to note that earning a PhD in Instructional Technology requires conducting your own research in addition to completing a high-quality dissertation. Students in online PhD Instructional Design programs are expected to learn about collaborative technologies, online virtual reality environments, multimedia, social media and more. Learning about these things over the internet would give you an edge over competition who earned similar degrees in traditional bricks-and-mortar institutions because you would have experienced the pros and cons of your subject matter—the online learning experience—firsthand.

About Online PhD Programs in Instructional Design

Institutions like Capella University offer an Instructional Design in Online Learning PhD program exclusively via the internet while other institutions, such as the Virginia-based Old Dominion University offer both traditional on-campus classes in addition to distance-learning options for study. This can be an incredible asset to the learning experience as whatever online learning platform you'll be using was likely created and enhanced by an Instructional Design expert. Capella University requires 120 credit hours toward the degree. Up to 48 of these credits can be transferred from another institution. Old Dominion University's program is offered through their Darden College of Education and requires 60 credit hours in addition to electives toward degree completion.

Year One:

  • Foundations of Theory and Practice in Doctoral Studies. Offered through Capella University's online PhD program as well as Old Dominion University (where it is called Foundations of Instructional Technology), students are introduced to the basics of developmental and behavioral tendencies of academics through research, communication and critical thinking within the context.
  • Instructional Design Theory. Offered through Old Dominion University's online PhD program, this course allows students to investigate instructional design theories and models as well as cognitive hierarchies.
  • Instructional Design and Technology Seminar. For new PhD candidates, this course provides an orientation to study at the doctoral level. Students are expected to critique and analyze empirical research, theories and real-world instructional issues.

Year Two:

  • Advanced Research Design and Analysis. This course, offered through Old Dominion University provides students an in-depth examination of quantitative research approaches, sampling techniques and writing quantitative methodology descriptions for research proposals.
  • Qualitative Research. This course provides students with an in-depth examination of methods and techniques commonly used in interpreting and applying qualitative data and how to best use it towards doctoral research.
  • Instructional Technology Product Evaluation. Serving as a basic overview of scientific evaluation, students will explore several different topics to focus on the many demands of technological learning environments.

Year Three:

  • Applied Instructional Design. In this problem solving course offered at Old Dominion University, students are expected to find solutions for real-world instructional problems based on applied instructional design theories.
  • Principles & Practice of Human Performance Technology. Principles and practices of human performance technology are explored in this course, as well as the reasons why instructional designers need to be well-versed in the facets of Human Performance Technology.
  • Research Residency. The prerequisites for this course at Old Dominion University include 12 hours of statistics and 18 hours of coursework. As the title suggests, this course is to introduce students for conducting instructional technology research that can lead to their dissertation proposals.

Old Dominion University requires that students take 6 hours of introductory courses; 15 hours of research core courses; 24 hours of concentration courses and 15 hours of Capstone and Dissertation courses. As part of their colloquia residency requirement, doctoral candidates at Capella University online must attend three week-long conferences before their dissertation is completed.

One example of a dissertation from Old Dominion University is Synchronous Text-based Chat Vis-à-vis Asynchronous Threaded Discussion: An Instructional Strategy for Providing an Option in Two Course Delivery Schemes.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Instructional Design

By earning your Instructional Design degree online, you are essentially using the learning method that you are researching and hoping to improve upon after you've completed your studies. That being said, many schools do not offer this program exclusively online. The majority of scholarship and fellowship opportunities for Instructional Design doctoral programs are offered through traditional bricks-and-mortar institutions such as Yale and University of Southern California. Nonetheless, the degree itself would be an incredible asset as more institutions are converting to online teaching models. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that job growth for Instructional Design experts will be faster than the average and many job opportunities will become available in the next decade. As with many technology-based PhDs, however, one possible drawback could be that technology can eventually advance beyond your research in the future, making your dissertation somewhat outdated if it discusses specific methods or trends that are no longer applicable. An important question to ask yourself before pursuing an online PhD is whether or not you'd still have the potential to earn just as much money with just a bachelor's or master's degree. Some of your competition may not have a PhD, but may have the experience to make them just as qualified—if not more so—than you are.

Application & Admission Requirements

Old Dominion University requires GRE scores, your undergraduate (or graduate) GPA, 3 letters of recommendation, and an interview with a member of the program's faculty. Aspiring candidates must also submit an entrance essay describing how a PhD in Instructional Design will enhance your career. At Capella University, aspiring candidates must submit a completed application, all post secondary transcripts, and a résumé. They must have completed a Master's degree from an accredited institution. Capella limits students to seven years to complete their doctoral degree.

Career Options & Job Market

The types of careers you can get after completing your course work are not limited to just one job option. Instructional designer, instructional coordinator, multimedia instructional designer are just a few careers that an online PhD in Instructional Design can qualify you for. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for Instructional Designers and Coordinators is positive, with projected job growth expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations. The number of instructional designers in the work force is expected to grow by 23 percent by 2018. Instructional designers with experience in math and reading curriculum development are expected to have more job opportunities, as well as instructors with experience in special needs and English as a Second Language curriculum development. As of May 2008, the median annual wages of instructional designers were $56,880, with the middle 50 percent earning between $42,070 and $75,000. Many jobs and salaries that go along with an online PhD in Instructional Design are based on teacher salaries.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Generally there are two types of funding available to students pursuing an online PhD Finance degree: scholarships and grants. Scholarships are usually need- or merit-based, and can be highly competitive. Grants can take a number of forms depending on the source of the funds—the two most common are government grants, given to students with demonstrated financial need and outstanding educational history, and research grants, awarded after a proposal has been submitted to a government department, a corporation, a business, or sometimes an individual, promising to research a submitted topic and return with data and conclusions about it.

Tuition costs for one semester or quarter vary from school to school, but to give a preliminary picture of what total expenses for an online doctorate in Instructional Design for Online Learning will be, here are the tuition rates of two online universities: 1) Capella University—$4,485 per quarter, with a limit of three courses per quarter (except dissertation quarter, which are $3,945), and 2) Walden University—$4,380 per quarter. That puts total cost for Capella University somewhere between $43,644 and $51,768, and between $35,040 and $52,560 for Walden University.

The following websites will be instrumental in a search for funds for an online Finance PhD:

  • ASTD Scholarship. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) awards outstanding students of instructional design with a scholarship that covers membership in the association, providing all the resources that come with it.
  • AECT Legacy Award. The Association for Educational Communications and Technology awards a scholarship to a practicing teacher or school library/media specialist to assist in her further education in the field.
  • STC IDL SIG Scholarship. STC (Society for Technical Communication) IDL SIG (Special Interest Group) Scholarship — Assists students pursuing a graduate degree in instructional design with a scholarship, which can be used toward tuition or toward the registration fee for the STC Summit.

Essential Advice

  • Weigh your options and do the research. You'll need to know for sure whether an additional degree will increase your earning potential more than a bachelor's or master's degree in a similar field would.
  • Try to obtain a scholarship, fellowship or grant. Studying at a PhD level is costly, and you may not be able to predict how many years it will take you to complete it.
  • Talk to current PhD candidates and graduates about course load, time management, what admission materials they submitted, and so on. This is the best way to learn if the program is right for you.
  • Check the school's credentials. Once you find a program, make sure it is accredited by an accrediting institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.