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Doctor of Philosophy in Instructional Design (PhD-ID)

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100% Online Doctorate

Complete your studies on your own time.

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New start date every Monday

Start your first course when it’s convenient for you.

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37 Months to your Doctorate

Finish your PhD-ID in as few as 20 courses.

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Doctor of Philosophy in Instructional Design

Create effective learning pathways with the 100% online Doctor of Philosophy in Instructional Design (PhD-ID) degree program at National University. This degree will help you gain practical, hands-on experience working with subject matter experts, managing complex projects, and carrying out research projects. You’ll have the skills you need to shape learning environments and contribute to the overall body of knowledge in the field of instructional design.

NU’s PhD-ID program is centered on helping you develop advanced skills and knowledge related to the learning experience and instructional design. This program aligns with instructional design competencies established by the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Improvement©, the Association for Talent Development, and the Association for Educational Communication and Technology. 

Research, Shape, and Influence Learning

Learn how to evaluate design processes, explore the design and development of simulations, games, and mobile learning, and contribute to the body of knowledge through research. NU’s one-to-one learning model will provide you with the guidance, attention, and support you deserve throughout your education.

Please be advised that this program is NOT accredited in Kentucky by the Education Professional Standards Board and is NOT recognized for initial, additional, or renewal of certification or salary enhancement (rank change) for P-12 educators in Kentucky. For more information, please visit the Education Professional Standards Board’s website at http://www.epsb.ky.gov/mod/page/view.php?id=12.

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The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accredits public and private schools, colleges, and universities in the U.S.

Course Details

  • Credit Hours: 60
  • Courses: 20
  • Estimated Time to Complete: As few as 37 Months

The Doctor of Philosophy in Instructional Design (PhD-ID) program can be completed in 60 credits. Each foundational course runs 8 weeks, and some dissertation courses run 12 weeks.

This program can be completed with a minimum of 60 credit hours, but may require additional credit hours, depending on the time required to complete the dissertation research. If needed, additional courses will be added to the student degree program in alignment with the SAP and Academic Maximum Time to Completion policies. Students who do not complete their program in accordance with these policies may be dismissed.

This foundational course will introduce you to the concepts and practices of advanced graduate study. You will examine concepts and expectations of advanced graduate study and academic integrity as well as investigate best practices of scholarship and research. You will explore university resources and supports associated with student success, including technologies for learning and research. You will also evaluate the program process and requirements for success. Finally, you will advocate for self-care and reflection during your studies.

Academic writing is at the heart of scholarly writing. How you explore and navigate your topic of interest is both a personal and professional matter. In this course, you will integrate effective research and writing skills, and evaluate standards of academic writing, honesty, and integrity. Literature and writing are closely related, so this course also offers you a first chance to examine the elements of conceptual and theoretical frameworks and critique the role of supporting literature and inquiry with conceptual and theoretical frameworks. Finally, you will synthesize the frameworks commonly used in educational research.

In this foundational course, you will examine major theories and practices of organizational development and improvement in educational settings. You will also critique educational leadership competencies related to ethical behavior in educational organizations and synthesize various leadership theories using an educational approach to leadership. Finally, you will utilize educational leadership theories as they apply to real-world leadership situations in education and explore self-evaluation and personal reflection techniques supportive of leadership improvement within educational organizations.

This course explores the current best practices and the future of instructional design. Students will examine instructional solutions and recommend procedures for collaboration projects that are based on relevant assessment and evaluation data. Students will produce media-rich learning assets that are appropriate for specific design projects. 

This course will explore various models of instructional design. Students will evaluate instructional design models using an evaluation method that will validate the use of the models for future educational trends. Students will generate research-based recommendations for evaluating instructional and training solutions and develop strategies that address resistance to these solutions.

This course will explore the theoretical foundations of instructional design and their influence on design projects. Students will generate theory-based solutions that address design project needs, justify theoretical foundations used in design practices, and integrate these foundations for performance improvement.  

This course explores the design and appropriate use of interactive media in current and future instructional and training solutions. Students will evaluate delivery systems for interactive media and utilize design methods based on audience and learning context. Students will explore gaming theory and the use of inclusionary practices in designing interactive media.

This course will explore the various considerations and challenges to developing culturally relevant and inclusive pedagogical practices in design projects. Students will examine various laws, populations, and responsibilities related to inclusion in instructional design and will evaluate instructional design models and frameworks that work best for these practices. Students will recommend media and assistive technology for use in instructional design projects. 

This course explores the various components of project management and establishes best practices in the field of instructional design. Students will examine the role of key stakeholders in the project management team and will identify optimal communication strategies for all stakeholders. Students will examine all stages of project management including formulating a project plan and implementation strategy, creating a process to monitor progress and maintain quality control, and evaluate the efficacy of the completed project.

This course will provide application of the topics covered in previous courses for use in design and development projects. Students will reflect on professional growth in the instructional design program and will compile relevant theory to make design choices and justify chosen design models. Students will specify project management processes and produce media-based portfolio supported by theory and practice in instructional design.

This course offers foundational knowledge to become a critical consumer of statistical-based research literature. The emphasis will be on understanding non-inferential and inferential statistical concepts, the conventions of quantitative data analysis, interpretation, and inferences from statistical results. Statistical computations will be completed using statistical software applications for quantitative data analysis. The course culminates in a synthesis project to demonstrate statistical skills and aligned with APA guidelines for presentation of statistical results.

In this introductory research course, you will explore the underpinnings of the research process, examine research paradigms, and investigate theoretical and practical foundations of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies used within educational research. You will identify criteria for the development of a quality research study that is ethical, accurate, comprehensive, cohesive, and aligned. Specific course topics will involve the ethics of conducting research; data collection and analysis techniques; and issues of feasibility, trustworthiness, validity, reliability, generalizability or transferability, and rigor. This course is intended to familiarize you with concepts and skills associated with conducting theoretical and applied research.

You will develop effective search and scholarly writing strategies to create a scholarly review of literature. The course emphasizes how to: (a) use effective literature search strategies; (b) develop a scholarly synthesis of research literature; (c) organize research literature around identified research themes, including a study problem, purpose, and theoretical perspectives for an empirical research study; and (d) focus on developing a scholarly exposition that reflects divergent viewpoints and contrasting perspectives. The overarching goal of this course is for you to understand strategies to survey scholarly empirical and theoretical literature to avoid bias, focus on educational practice-based research problems, and address the required components of a scholarly literature review.

This course focuses on qualitative research methodology and designs and the methods used to collect and analyze data in educational research. You will examine the principles of qualitative research and explore commonly used designs (also referred to as qualitative traditions or genres) with a focus on application and feasibility. Qualitative data collection and analysis methods will be examined for their suitability with regard to the research design selected. Alignment between qualitative designs and research methods, issues of trustworthiness pertaining to qualitative research, and the role and responsibilities of the qualitative researcher will also be explored.

This course explores the quantitative research methodology and associated designs and methods. You will examine paradigmatic perspectives along with the tenets and conventions of quantitative research. This examination of designs and methods will include topics such as feasibility, validity, reliability, variable operationalization, inferential designs, and analytic software applications used within the quantitative research paradigm. You will also explore the components of aligned and coherent quantitative research designs that support meaningful research within the field of education.

This course builds on a foundational understanding of qualitative designs and measurements to focus on analyses of the data. The course takes you deeper into the skills and techniques necessary to ensure the appropriate analyses of qualitative data, including integrating relevant frameworks, verifying trustworthiness of the findings, and selecting suitable methods to present the analyses and findings.

You will learn advanced statistical principles and how to apply them to quantitative research. You will be provided an overview of advanced statistical concepts used in empirical research, including inferential analyses. Advanced computations will be performed using SPSS. The focus involves helping you build independent scholarly skills with an emphasis on understanding multivariate data; the use, comprehension, and evaluation of sophisticated statistical concepts; and presentation of statistical results.

Prerequisites: Completed all foundational, research, and specialization courses as required by program.

The doctoral comprehensive assessment in your Ph.D.-ID is your opportunity to demonstrate your preparation for entering the dissertation phase as a doctoral candidate. Throughout this course, you will synthesize discipline-specific content with scholarly literature as you create a prospectus for a theoretically based research study focused on furthering knowledge in the field of education. Ph.D.-ID research has a focus on contribution to theory, whereas Ed.D.-ID research focuses on addressing a researchable problem that has practical applications. The two are similar in that they both apply the scientific method to collect data, analyze data, and present results. However, the results are given greater emphasis in terms of theory for the Ph.D.-ID In the Ph.D.-ID degree, you will therefore conduct research that contributes to the broader discipline rather than a specific problem rooted in an applied, professional practice. This prospectus will likely become the foundation of your Ph.D.-ID dissertation. Note that you will take this course only after all foundation, specialization, and research courses have been completed.

Students in this course will be required to complete Chapter 1 of their dissertation proposal including a review of literature with substantiating evidence of the problem, the research purpose and questions, the intended methodological design and approach, and the significance of the study. A completed, committee approved (against the minimum rubric standards) Chapter 1 is required to pass this course successfully. Students who do not receive approval of Chapter 1 to minimum standards will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of Chapter 1.

Students in this course will be required to work on completing Chapters 1-3 of their dissertation proposal and receive committee approval for the Dissertation Proposal (DP) in order to pass the class. Chapter 2 consists of the literature review. Chapter 3 covers the research methodology method and design and to includes population, sample, measurement instruments, data collection and analysis, limitations, and ethical considerations. In this course, a completed, committee-approved Chapters 2 and 3 are required and, by the end of the course, a final approved dissertation proposal (against the minimum rubric standards). Students who do not receive approval of the dissertation proposal will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of these requirements.

Students in this course will be required to prepare, submit, and obtain approval of their IRB application, collect data, and submit a final study closure form to the IRB. Students still in data collection at the end of the 12-week course will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to complete data collection and file an IRB study closure form.

In this dissertation course students work on completing Chapters 4 and 5 and the final Dissertation Manuscript. Specifically, students will complete their data analysis, prepare their study results, and present their findings in an Oral Defense and a completed manuscript. A completed, Committee approved (against the minimum rubric standards) Dissertation Manuscript and successful Oral Defense are required to complete the course and graduate. Students who do not receive approval for either or both their Dissertation Manuscript or defense can take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of either or both items as needed.

Degree Requirements

The PhD Program may be completed in 60 semester credit hours. Additional credit hours may be allowed as needed to complete dissertation research in alignment with the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) and Academic Maximum Time Frame policies. Students who do not complete their program within these requirements may be dismissed.

NU may accept a maximum of 12 semester credit hours in transfer toward the doctoral degree for graduate coursework completed toward a doctoral degree at an accredited college or university with a grade of “B” or better. Transfer credit is only awarded for coursework that is evaluated to be substantially equivalent in content with the required coursework for the PhD program. See the Transfer Credit Policy in the Course Catalog for additional information.

Career Potential*

  • Instructional Coordinators
  • Instructional Designers and Technologists
  • Training and Development Managers
  • Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School
  • Education Administrators, Postsecondary
  • Education Administrators, All Other
  • Distance Learning Coordinators
  • Training and Development Specialists
  • Education Teachers, Postsecondary
  • Postsecondary Teachers, All Other

*Positions may require additional experience, training, and other factors beyond successfully completing this degree program. Depending on where you reside, many positions may also require state licensure, and it is the responsibility of the student to ensure that all licensure requirements are met. We encourage you to also review program specific requirements with an NU advisor. Any data provided on this page is for informational purposes only and does not guarantee that completion of any degree program will achieve the underlying occupation or commensurate salary.


Faculty assists each NU Doctoral student to reach this high goal through a systematic process leading to a high-quality completed dissertation. A PhD dissertation is a scholarly documentation of research that makes an original contribution to the field of study. This process requires care in choosing a topic, documenting its importance, planning the methodology, and conducting the research. These activities lead smoothly into the writing and oral presentation of the dissertation.

A doctoral candidate must be continuously enrolled throughout the series of dissertation courses. Dissertation courses are automatically scheduled and accepted without a break in scheduling to ensure that students remain in continuous enrollment throughout the dissertation course sequence. If additional time is required to complete any of the dissertation courses, students must re-enroll and pay the tuition for that course. Continuous enrollment will only be permitted when students demonstrate progress toward completing dissertation requirements. The Dissertation Committee determines progress.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this program, students will be able to:

  • Manage complex design processes and products collaboratively with diverse stakeholders.
  • Examine different principles, theories, and models related to instructional design.
  • Develop strategies to address ethical, legal, and political factors influencing design and development solutions.
  • Evaluate technologies used in instructional and training solutions.
  • Contribute to the theoretical body of knowledge in instructional design.


National University’s dedicated admissions team is here to help you throughout the admissions process. We accept and review applications year-round, and once you’re admitted, you can begin your studies as soon as the next week.

To apply to the Doctor of Philosophy in Instructional Design (PhD-ID) you must have a conferred graduate degree from a regionally accredited academic institution or a qualifying international institution.

Questions? Call our admissions team at 866.776.0331 or request information, and an advisor will be in touch soon. Ready to apply? Start your NU application today.

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Program Disclosure

Successful completion and attainment of National University degrees do not lead to automatic or immediate licensure, employment, or certification in any state/country. The University cannot guarantee that any professional organization or business will accept a graduate’s application to sit for any certification, licensure, or related exam for the purpose of professional certification.

Program availability varies by state. Many disciplines, professions, and jobs require disclosure of an individual’s criminal history, and a variety of states require background checks to apply to, or be eligible for, certain certificates, registrations, and licenses. Existence of a criminal history may also subject an individual to denial of an initial application for a certificate, registration, or license and/or result in the revocation or suspension of an existing certificate, registration, or license. Requirements can vary by state, occupation, and/or licensing authority.

NU graduates will be subject to additional requirements on a program, certification/licensure, employment, and state-by-state basis that can include one or more of the following items: internships, practicum experience, additional coursework, exams, tests, drug testing, earning an additional degree, and/or other training/education requirements.

All prospective students are advised to review employment, certification, and/or licensure requirements in their state, and to contact the certification/licensing body of the state and/or country where they intend to obtain certification/licensure to verify that these courses/programs qualify in that state/country, prior to enrolling. Prospective students are also advised to regularly review the state’s/country’s policies and procedures relating to certification/licensure, as those policies are subject to change.

National University degrees do not guarantee employment or salary of any kind. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to review desired job positions to review degrees, education, and/or training required to apply for desired positions. Prospective students should monitor these positions as requirements, salary, and other relevant factors can change over time.