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Athabasca University

Doctor of Education in Distance Education
Program Regulations

The doctoral program is cohort-based. Normally, 12 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.

A cohort is defined by the year in which the Doctor of Education in Distance Education (EdD) students first begin their program of study (e.g. students beginning in 2015 would be referred to as cohort 8). If a student falls behind their cohort group (e.g. through a program deferral), the student may join a later cohort group in order to complete the courses remaining in their program.

At the beginning of the first year of the program, a required five-day orientation workshop is conducted. 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. The on-site orientation normally takes place during the third week of August, from Monday through Friday.

Courses are offered on a paced basis with specified start and completion dates. Courses will normally be taken in sequential order from EDDE 801 through EDDE 806.

Residency Requirement

Students may transfer a maximum of two courses (6 credits) into the EdD program, on approval of the EdD Program Director. Students will not be awarded credit for courses previously used towards another credential.

To meet the residency requirements:

  1. Students must complete a minimum of four courses (12 credits) from the core curriculum through Athabasca University.
  2. Students must complete the proposal defence/candidacy examination, and all of the dissertation requirements with Athabasca University.

Program Requirements

The EdD program is comprised of six online courses and an on-site orientation. All courses and the orientation are mandatory in the program curricula. The courses are normally taken in the sequence they are offered.

Year 1:

  • Admission to Program
  • Appointment of Interim Dissertation Supervisor
  • On-Site Orientation
EDDE 801 Advanced Topics and Issues in Distance Education (3)
EDDE 802 Advanced Research Methods in Education (3)

Year 2:

EDDE 803 Teaching and Learning in Distance Education (3)
EDDE 804 Leadership and Project Management in Distance Education (3)

Years 3 and 4:

  • Appointment of Dissertation Supervisor and Supervisory Committee
EDDE 805 Research Seminar I (3)
EDDE 806 Research Seminar II (3)
  • Development of Dissertation Proposal Candidacy
  • Examination/ Proposal Defence
  • Dissertation Research – data gathering and writing the dissertation
  • Submission of dissertation to Dissertation Supervisory Committee
  • Oral Dissertation Defence

Completion Requirements

  1. To be awarded the EdD, the student must have:
    • successfully completed the requirements set out in 2. below;
    • completed an application for graduation form;
    • paid all fees owed to the University and returned all library resources;
    • satisfied all other regulations of the University.

All applications for Graduation must be approved by the Athabasca University General Faculties Council.

  1. The EdD is comprised of six 3-credit courses for a total of 18 credits. The following are also required:
    • a one-week on-site orientation workshop;
    • completion of the candidacy examination*;
    • completion of a dissertation and oral defence*, as per Faculty of Graduate Studies policies.

    * The candidacy examination and dissertation and oral defence are normally conducted at a distance, using appropriate Internet-based technology, e.g. audio/video 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.


When the student is admitted to the EdD program, the Interim Dissertation Supervisor is appointed to provide advice, as required, and assist with the determination of an appropriate Dissertation Supervisor.

The appointed Dissertation Supervisor will advise on the dissertation research and chair the Dissertation Supervisory Committee. This will normally not take place until year three.

Full-Time Involvement

All active students enrolled in the EdD program and who are in good standing are considered full time.

Active Status and Good Standing

Active status refers to an EdD student or doctoral candidate who is progressing in an expected manner toward the completion of their program and/or dissertation research.

In good standing refers to an EdD student or doctoral candidate who has no more than one grade of B-, who has paid all fees, and has not withdrawn, failed, or been expelled from the program.

Completion Time Limits

Students must complete the program within five years, commencing with their program start date, and will normally complete in four years. After the fourth year, continuation fees will be levied.

Extensions of up to one additional year may be approved by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and the EdD Program Director, or designate, and require the payment of a continuation fee.

Academic Expectations

To maintain program status, students must complete 6 credits of course work during each academic year (September 1 to August 31).

To be awarded the EdD degree, students must pass all courses. Only one grade of B- is allowed in a student's program. All other grades must be a B or higher.

Students receiving a B- in a course may re-register in the course, subject to the approval of the CDE Director. Only one re-registration will be allowed.

The mark received in the second attempt of the course will be counted towards the program. Both registrations and grades will appear on the official student transcript.

Students re-registering in a course will be required to pay the tuition for that course.

Student who fail a course (i.e. receive a grade of less than B-) will normally be withdrawn from the program, with no opportunity to re-register in the course unless exceptional approval is given by the EdD Program Director and the Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Program Deferral

A deferral is typically reserved for situations when extenuating circumstances are present. Having multiple competing responsibilities is usually not sufficient to be considered extenuating circumstances. Students with questions or concerns should discuss these with their supervisor, the Program Administrator, or the EdD Program Director.

The length of time of a deferral is not included in the time period for completion of the program, and deadlines will be adjusted accordingly after a deferral.

EdD students may defer the start of their program for a period of no more than one year, upon approval of their request by the EdD Program Director and payment of the first program fee. If, after the one-year deferral, the student has not commenced the program, he/she will be required to reapply if he/she wishes to rejoin the program.

Program Withdrawal

Students may withdraw from the program by submitting their request in writing to the program director. Students who withdraw may be re-enrolled in the program by following the application procedures. Students requesting re-admission to the program will be competing against all other applicants and will not receive special consideration.

Progress Reports and Transcripts

Annual progress reports will be completed according to the processes set by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Grading System

The grading system for the EdD will follow the Graduate Grading Policy. The dissertation proposal defence/candidacy exam and the final dissertation oral defence are assessed using the following categories as outlined by the Faculty of Graduate Studies:

  • pass
  • pass subject to revision
  • adjourned for re-examination
  • failed


Information effective Sept. 1, 2020 to Aug. 31, 2021.

Updated April 13 2021 by laurab

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