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Instructional Design Ph.D. Programs

by Jana Sosnowski

The Ph.D. in Instructional Design is offered as an education degree. The doctorate includes the study of instructional design, research, measurement and evaluation. An instructional design doctorate prepares students for work developing educational and training outcomes in a variety of settings, using design, theories, tools and technologies.

Degree Objectives

While doctorate programs in instructional design focus on research, an additional emphasis is on the expertise to design learning programs. The purpose of the academic research portion of the degree is to prepare students for work as faculty in research universities or as researchers in other institutions. The professional studies portion of the degree includes the development of management and leadership skills to prepare for work on teams, including training teams, in a variety of professional settings.

Degree Variations

With an emphasis on the design of the learning experience, programs such as the one at Capella University, which is offered online, focus on instructional design with a specialization in online learning. This specialization acknowledges the challenges faced in designing online learning experiences. Additionally, programs such as the one at the University of Cincinnati focus on instructional design and technology. The focus of this degree program is the convergence of cognitive science, education and computer science. Instructional design and technology Ph.D. programs prepare students for a variety of learning situations, including in museums, health institutions, non profits and corporate training.

Core Courses

The core study for the Ph.D. in instructional design includes an overview study of designing and developing courses. Core instructional design courses include modeling and simulations in education, motivation in instructional design and knowledge management in instructional design. Courses in evaluation and research methods may also be required, including techniques in educational evaluation, concepts and issues in educational evaluation, survey research and nature and design of inquiry. Other broad course topics may include interactive technologies, project management and human performance, continuing education and lifelong learning, game design, multimedia studio and design of blended learning environments.

Other Requirements

In addition to coursework, programs like the one at Syracuse University include assessment requirements. One assessment requirement is a portfolio at the end of the first year of study, which is a compilation of documents demonstrating competence to complete doctoral work. Additionally, a research apprenticeship program is required, which requires a report of an empirical research project under the direction of a single faculty member. A qualifying exam, in the form of a written exam, is also required for the degree at Syracuse University. Finally, a dissertation and defense is required to complete the degree requirements.

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Jana Sosnowski holds Master of Science in educational psychology and instructional technology, She has spent the past 11 years in education, primarily in the secondary classroom teaching English and journalism. Sosnowski has also worked as a curriculum writer for a math remediation program. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from the University of Southern California.

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