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Doctor of Education in Distance Education - Program structure

The doctoral program consists of six (6) courses (18 course credits), a candidacy examination, and the completion and defense of a dissertation.

Courses in the doctoral program use a variety of delivery modes and technologies to ensure that, over the course of their program, students have first-hand experience with a wide range of distance delivery formats. Collectively, courses will include print, online, and face-to-face instruction (during orientation week); individual and collaborative learning; synchronous and asynchronous interaction; and various forms of technology-mediated conferencing.

Candidacy examination

Students enter the program as provisional doctoral candidates, and are required to complete EDDE 801, EDDE 802, EDDE 803, EDDE 804, and EDDE 805 before requesting the Candidacy Examination.

To become a doctoral candidate, the student must successfully pass the candidacy examination, including presentation and approval of the dissertation proposal. The candidacy examination includes both written and oral components, to assure that the student’s knowledge, presentation abilities, and conceptual and analytical skills meet the required standard, and are sufficient to permit the student to successfully complete the rest of the program, including completion of the dissertation. The candidacy examination may be conducted at a distance using any technologies acceptable to all parties.


Research is an important focus of the doctoral program. Given that most students will already be experienced distance educators, research will tend toward an examination of practice, but could also include theory-building and more basic research. In addition, students who wish to pursue more conceptual or theoretical interests may be accommodated.

Doctoral students will be required to meet high standards of proficiency in scholarship, research, and teaching, including writing and presentation skills. In their studies and dissertation research, students are expected to produce scholarly publications, and take an active part in the opportunities presented by Athabasca University’s online journal, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Doctoral students must also demonstrate proficiency with technologies for communication and information access, as well as for supporting teaching and learning. Developing and demonstrating these skills will be a component of each student's program.

Delivery format

The doctoral program is cohort-based. Twelve students will be admitted each year, and will (unless individual circumstances prevent it) progress through the program as a group. Cohort-based delivery provides exposure to and networking among a diverse group of highly skilled, experienced professionals, and promotes collaborative learning in a scholarly learning community.

At the beginning of the first year of the program, a required five-day orientation workshop is conducted in Athabasca. This time will be spent in instruction (i.e., the first course will commence), in program planning, in discussions with faculty and colleagues, in community-building activities, and in technology-related tutorials.

In addition, over the course of the program students are encouraged (but not required) to attend special research seminars sponsored collaboratively with the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute (TEKRI) and the Athabasca University Research Centre. These gatherings provide an additional opportunities for contact with faculty and colleagues.

Completion time

Students must complete the program within five years, and will normally complete in four years. After the fourth year, continuation fees may be levied.

Updated February 09, 2024 by Digital & Web Operations (