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Athabasca University

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. 

EDDE801: Advanced Topics and Issues in Distance Education (3 credits)
In this course, students examine current activity and thinking in the field of distance education, by exploring various issues and topics, including relevant research. Guest experts participate in the course to provide a range of current perspectives.
EDDE802: Advanced Research in Education (3 credits)
This course explores selected areas of distance education research and evaluation studies, in order to foster advanced knowledge of the characteristics of good research and research methodology in distance education. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches are examined.
EDDE803: Teaching and Learning in Distance Education (3 credits)
This course addresses advanced topics on teaching methods, research on teaching, and the development and delivery of distance courses. Students examine a range of learning theories and instructional frameworks, and explore their application in distance education. As part of their studies, students engage in a practicum, where they may obtain actual distance teaching experience in the Centre for Distance Education (CDE). As an alternative, teaching using distance education modalities in the K-12 sector, in workplace learning, or in the delivery of undergraduate Athabasca University courses may be approved.
EDDE804: Leadership and Project Management in Distance Education (3 credits)
In this course, students examine a range of leadership theories and practices, and explore their application to the management and governance of distance education. Project management in distance education is examined. Selected research on leadership in distance education is analyzed.
EDDE805: Research Seminar I (3 credits)
In this first of two senior-level research seminars, students are provided with a supportive environment to engage in active discourse about their dissertation research. Proposal writing and advanced research methods and analyses are addressed.
EDDE806: Research Seminar II (3 credits)
The second senior-level research seminar is designed to provide support to students actively engaged in research and dissertation writing. Opportunities are provided for students to engage in scholarly discourse about their dissertation research, to exchange ideas and discuss experiences, and to examine means for communicating the results of their investigations.

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.

Updated June 01 2020 by DE

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