Instructional Design for Online Learning PhD in Education

Doctor of Philosophy in Education

Shape and improve the learning experience

Meet today’s online education challenges with advanced skills in the Capella University PhD, Instructional Design for Online Learning degree. Lead organizations and work groups through hands-on experience in creating and applying instructional design models. You’ll expand your expertise to create new strategic instructional design initiative for diverse populations.

At a Glance

  • Online & in-person
  • 6 Core courses
  • 8 Specialization courses
  • 3 Elective courses
  • 3 Residencies
  • Comprehensive exam
  • Dissertation

Reduce your tuition by 30%

Enroll in an eligible program and apply for our Front Line Heroes Discount to save 30% on your doctoral degree.

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Classes Start October 12th

Ready to get started? We’re ready for you. Chat with an enrollment counselor or apply now to take the first step on the journey toward your future.

$50 application fee (waived w/promo FALL20).

PhD in Instructional Design program highlights

Instructional design skills

Curriculum is based on principles set by the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance, and Instruction (ibstpi®).

Focus on your goals early

In your first course, you’ll create a professional development plan that can help you stay on track throughout your program.

Learn and apply best practices

Use research to contribute to the enrichment of instructional design and development, the broader scholarly community, and society.

Our unique doctoral structure

Our PhD in Education, Instructional Design for Online Learning program is designed to remove roadblocks for you and demystify the dissertation process. This unique approach centers on supporting you in three ways: through program structure, a dedicated faculty and support team, and online resources. To help generate momentum toward graduation, you’ll begin your dissertation early in the program. Our faculty, support team, and online resources will help guide you every step of the way.

Cost & learning format

Online education isn’t one-size-fits-all. We know you’re busy—you need a learning experience tailored to your life, not the other way around. Capella has learning and tuition formats to suit you, however you learn. 

A more structured learning format with an active peer community and faculty guidance. We’ll set the schedule, you meet the deadlines. 

  • Based on the quarter system; 1-3 courses per 10-week quarter
  • 1 semester credit = 1.5 quarter credits
  • Weekly assignments and courseroom discussions
  • Pay for what you take, price varies by courseload or term
$745 per credit, 92 total quarter credits, 16 max transfer credits

Get the details

Speak with an enrollment counselor to get a personalized cost estimate for what you can expect to pay.

Accredited & recognized

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Accreditation and recognitions provide the assurance we meet standards for quality of faculty, curriculum, learner services, and fiscal stability. See all of our accreditations and recognitions

Ways to save

At Capella, we believe your education is an investment in your future. It’s also an investment within your grasp. Your goals are achievable—there are more ways to save than you might think. 

Transfer credits

We can accept many transfer credits from regionally accredited schools.


There are a variety of need-based federal grants available to help pay for tuition and costs.

$20K toward your doctorate

Apply for a $20K Capella Progress Reward, a scholarship to help you fund your doctoral degree.

PhD in Education sample courses

Our PhD in Education, Instructional Design for Online Learning balances instructional design with the psychology of learning and technology. Curriculum emphasizes research and leadership in instructional design, and development and implementation of educational interventions. The program includes dissertation research seminars which allow you to get an early start on your dissertation.

Show course with description
ED7504 *
Leadership for Instructional Design

Learners in this course study the leadership and management skills necessary for the effective design and delivery of web-based instruction. Learners develop multiple leadership approaches through a series of assignments that demonstrate competencies in collaborative team planning, decision making, problem solving, and change management. Prerequisite(s): ED5802, ED5803, ED7624, ED7620. Cannot be fulfilled by transfer.

4 quarter credits
ED7496 *
Advanced Instructional Design

This course focuses on practical applications of instructional design in various work settings. Learners explore and evaluate current and emerging instructional interventions and identify ways to apply these approaches in education and industry settings. Prerequisite(s): ED5802, ED5803, ED7624, ED7620. Cannot be fulfilled by transfer or prior learning assessment.

4 quarter credits
ED8829 *
Research in Instructional Design and Development

This course builds upon previous research courses and encourages learners to begin the transformation from practitioner to scholar engaged with theory and research impacting instructional design and development in an e-learning environment. Learners explore the fundamental elements of research in instructional design and development, generate potential dissertation research topics relevant to the Instructional Design and Development specialization, and discuss their potential to contribute to the body of instructional design and development knowledge.  Prerequisite(s): ED5802, ED5803, ED7620, ED7624, ED7860.

4 quarter credits
ED5803 *
Processes of Instructional Design

This course emphasizes the process of instructional design and provides learners the opportunity to apply design research and theory while developing instructional strategies. Learners examine the systematic process of addressing the needs of the student, structuring the content, and applying principles of learning and instruction to create effective instructional solutions. Prerequisite(s): ED5802. Cannot be fulfilled by transfer or prior learning assessment.

4 quarter credits

What you’ll learn

The right education can change everything. Gain leadership skills that can help you influence and improve education.

  • Implement learnings to lead development of new strategic instructional design initiatives.
  • Lead instructional design organizations and work groups.
  • Use multiple models, resources, and management strategies to meet the needs of and engage diverse populations.
  • Develop assessment-driven, standards-based instruction or training.
  • Conduct research as a scholar-practitioner to lead the evolution of practice in professional settings.
  • Apply technology effectively to improve learning, productivity, and professional practice.

Instructional Design career insights

6 Tips for Transitioning to Online Teaching

Review tips for making a smooth transition from teaching face-to-face to teaching online.

The Role of the Instructional Coach in Schools

Instructional coaches can be valuable assets to any school. Learn more about them and what they do.

Quick Guide to EdS, EdD, and PhD Degrees

Compare advanced degree options for K-12 educators, including Doctor of Education and Education Specialist degrees.

Instructional Design for Online Learning professional paths

Here are just some of the career options you could explore with our instructional design for online learning doctoral degree.

Related job titles to explore*

  • Director of instructional design
  • Director of e-learning
  • Director of education and development
  • Director of instructional technology
  • Director of technology assisted learning
  • Director of distance and continuing education
  • Dean of distance education
  • Full-time faculty of education courses

Employment settings to explore

  • Land-based or online college or university
  • Public and private corporation
  • Community college
  • Vocational school
  • Military education
  • Health care
  • Government—local, state, federal

*These are examples intended to serve as a general guide. Some positions may prefer or even require previous experience, licensure, certifications, and/or other designations along with a degree. Because many factors determine what position an individual may attain, Capella cannot guarantee that a graduate will secure any specific job title, a promotion, salary increase, or other career outcome. We encourage you to research requirements for your job target and career goals.

Other programs to explore

Is this program close to what you need, but maybe not a perfect fit? The programs below might be interesting. Check them out to find one that suits your academic and professional goals.

Ready for the next step?

Learning online doesn't mean going it alone. Help is here. From faculty, coaches, advisors, and more. Plus a supportive community of students who are as passionate about their careers as you are about yours.