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Distance education began as correspondence courses all the way back in the 1700s, and it has come a long way since then. Some of the pioneers of online distance education began offering classes in the ’90s and now, you can earn entire degrees with the same rigor and course content as you would encounter in a traditional classroom. The landscape of education is ever-changing, and teachers are the ones who need to be ahead of the curve, aware of trends, and prepared to deliver their classes in innovative ways that suit the needs of the modern student.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, online teaching jobs are projected to grow (along with all other professor positions) at a rate of 13% between 2014 and 2024; this is faster than any other job during that time period. This is likely because online learning has been growing steadily since it began and it is showing no signs of slowing down. Because of the changing landscape of education, there are more academic opportunities opening up for teachers who want to reach their students online.

Earning an Online Teaching Degree

Whether you are interested in teaching courses online at the university level or even online elementary teaching jobs, there are some very specific things that go into being a distance educator that don’t necessarily come into play when you’re solely working at a brick and mortar institution. Online teaching programs take those things into consideration and cover the skills that you’ll need in order to effectively deliver your curriculum and more.

Choosing to earn a PhD in online teaching takes that a step further. You can earn a degree in learning technology, which would help you to secure a job designing online learning software. You can choose to pursue a different focus area in online teaching such as researching the best methods for distance education delivery or online education policy. Programs that prepare students for teaching online are going to include courses like the following:

  • Instructional Design for Online Learning
  • Foundations of Online Learning
  • Theory of Instructional Technology
  • Theory and Practice of Distance Education
  • Educational Technology Systems Design and Management
  • and more.

As the field of education continues to grow, there is a higher call for more highly educated teachers. Teachers with more education and from more diverse backgrounds, with more experience in research are more in-demand because they will be more apt to serve students from equally diverse backgrounds and foster their academic growth. For those of you who want to grow with the field, or are just looking to advance your knowledge in the career you already have, choosing to earn a PhD might be a great next step.

However, we understand what a huge undertaking it is to pursue the greatest academic honor in the nation. Earning a doctorate takes a lot of work, and when you’re already busy as a teacher or just a professional in the field of education, that can seem like a very daunting thing. However, choosing to earn your PhD in Online Teaching online can allay some of those worries.

Earning an online teaching degree from home on the web makes it, so you don’t have to relocate, you don’t have to quit your job, and very often, you won’t spend as much money. With that in mind, we chose to rank to Top 10 PhDs in Online Teaching. All of the schools featured were ranked according to the following.


In order to rank the best online PhD programs in online teaching, we started by researching all of the schools in the country that offer relevant degrees. Because of the significant amount of overlap in educational doctorate programs, we chose to allow Doctor of Education degrees in this article as well as long as the school met our initial criteria. In order to be eligible, each school had to have proper accreditation, not operate as a for-profit institution, be based in the United States and had to offer at least one relevant program online whether fully-online or in a hybrid format.

Once we had collected a list of schools, we assigned them a score based on three factors:

  • Freshman Retention Rate (⅓ of final score)
  • Graduation Rate (⅓ of final score)
  • Affordability (⅓ of final score)

Each factor could have an individual score of 100 points, which were then added together to get the composite score we used to rank each school. The maximum possible score was 300 points. We collected all of this information from the school’s website whenever possible. In some cases, we also used the databases of the National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. News & World Report, and All of the cost data used to calculate affordability and provide you with the sticker price for each school was collected from Once each school had a score, we placed them in order according to that score below. In the event that two schools received the same score, we used the alphabetical ordering of their names to determine their placement in the ranking.

We’d like to mention that no school we feature in this ranking or in any of our other pieces has been given preferential treatment of any kind. Some schools may not be present due to incomplete information or per their own request; however, the results we reached can be repeated by following the methodology above.

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  1. MERIT: 269
    View Profile Average Cost: $21,131

    Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Educational Technology

    University of FloridaThe University of Florida offers an online Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Educational Technology. This is a research-oriented program that is designed for those who are interested in how educational technology impacts academic environments. It is presented in a cohort model, and you will encounter experiences that synthesize theory, research, and practice in order to maximize the application of what you’re learning in a professional setting.

    The program is presented online, but there are three mandatory on-campus experiences. This includes a two-day orientation in the first semester, and four-day summer sessions at the end of your first and second year in the program. This degree is designed for those who already work in educational technology, regardless of in what capacity. It is designed to fit the needs of a diverse group of professionals.

    You will be able to continue working full-time as you complete this online teaching doctorate at UF. It consists of 54 credits in total and could be completed in as little as three years. All of the courses are presented in eight-week sessions and cover topics like educational media, instructional design, educational technology, and more. This program requires a dissertation as well.

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  2. MERIT: 263
    View Profile Average Cost: $12,488

    Doctor of Education in Instructional Systems Technology

    Indiana University-BloomingtonIU Bloomington offers an online Doctor of Education in Instructional Systems Technology. This degree program teaches you how to conduct research and apply it to building and testing products and services for education and training. It is a 60-credit program that is only open to those who have already completed a master’s degree.

    This degree prepares you for leadership roles in designing instructional and performance technology. It does not require for you to be a licensed educator because this degree is applicable across other industries as well. You could see yourself applying this degree to work in e-learning development, instructional design, corporate training, and more.

    You will take some mandatory courses such as Early Research Experience, Intermediate Statistics, and Learning and Cognition in Education. You will also take electives in Instructional Systems Technology and in a self-designed minor. The program culminates in a dissertation. All of the course materials are offered online, and there is only one face-to-face meeting required, which is for the IST Annual Conference held in the spring.

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  3. MERIT: 248
    View Profile Average Cost: $23,462

    Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Educational Technology

    The University of South Carolina offers an online Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Educational Technology. This degree is designed to prepare educators to rise up and meet the challenges of technology-based learning in both K-12 and higher education institutions. This online teaching doctorate program takes a practical and project-based approach to help you develop your skills in a variety of aspects of online education, including design, development, implementation, and evaluation.

    It consists of 60 credit hours and can be completed in just three years of full-time study. The only reported on-campus requirement is an orientation where you can meet the cohort you will progress through the program with. Then you will complete your coursework online. You’ll take classes like Applications of Learning Principles, Design, and Evaluation of Information Access and Delivery, and Management of Technology Resources.

    The program’s curriculum is broken up into categories, so you will complete Core Curriculum & Instruction Courses, Education Technology concentration courses, Research courses, and Cognate courses. After completing all of the coursework, you will then prepare your dissertation. All of the classes in the program are condense down to just eight weeks each. You will also have the benefit of working with faculty that has extensive experience teaching online as you expand your knowledge of online teaching and develop more technological competence.

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  4. MERIT: 217
    View Profile Average Cost: $24,980

    PhD in Learning Technologies

    University of North TexasThe University of North Texas has an online PhD in Learning Technologies. There is an annual meeting on-campus each fall, but this program is otherwise available entirely online. Cohorts begin every summer, and the entire degree is made up of 69 credits. One thing that sets this program apart is that it is one of very few online teaching PhD programs that are available entirely online and in an asynchronous format. You can continue working while earning this degree if you find that you are able to dedicate the appropriate amount of time to your studies.

    This online teaching degree is broken up into segments. First, you will complete the core courses that help you to understand the relationship between theory and technology in learning. The Topic courses focus on the field and cover a range of subjects like artificial intelligence, instructional systems design and implementation, and more. You also take Research courses which cover methods and data analysis and a Dissertation.

    There is a component of the curriculum that is called Tools, and those classes cover current technologies used in the development of media and learning technologies. Students that have a Master of Science in a related field may be able to waive these courses, which shaves off nine required credits for graduation. It is also possible to include a minor or cognate in the program if you so choose.

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  5. MERIT: 214
    View Profile Average Cost: $15,076

    Doctor of Education in Educational Technology

    Boise State University’s Doctor of Education in Educational Technology is an online teaching degree that doesn’t require any time on campus. You can even complete all of your exams and the defense of your dissertation at a distance, which is a truly unique opportunity. This degree is very interdisciplinary and covers topics ranging from online teaching and learning to educational software development.

    Financial aid is available for distance learners; however, there is no additional charge for out-of-state students, and this is one of the best values for online graduate education nationwide. The entire program is 66 credits and is presented in a cohort model. Cohorts are modest in size (typically 12 to 15 students), and they are admitted once per year in May.

    Up to half of the required credits can be completed prior to entry to the program as part of a master’s program. You can not transfer any more than 33 credits into the program. As you study, you’ll take courses like Leadership in Educational Technology, Innovative Practices in Educational Technology, and a diverse range of research courses. The program culminates in a comprehensive exam and a dissertation. We’d like to add that while it is 100% online, there will be some synchronous elements.

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  6. MERIT: 214
    View Profile Average Cost: $25,794

    PhD in Education with a concentration in Instructional Design and Technology

    Old Dominion University offers a PhD in Education with a concentration in Instructional Design and Technology online. It is a joint effort between the university’s Darden College of Education & Professional Studies and the Department of STEM Education & Professional Studies. The entire program is 60 credits and offers students the opportunity to pursue their goals and interests in a variety of topics like instructional design, distance education, human performance technology, and more.

    If you’re interested, you can also earn a Modeling and Simulation certificate in Education & Training as part of this degree program. This online teaching doctorate program is only open to those who have already earned a master’s degree. You will take some core classes in instructional design technology research and then have the freedom to choose courses in an area of focus that aligns with your professional goals. You will also be required to complete a dissertation.

    The courses in this program are live and regularly scheduled, but the university is committed to flexibility. You can complete your assignments and access your course materials online from anywhere and work when it is convenient for you to do so. In addition to that, tuition is under $600 per credit hour. Some transfer courses may be allowed, but you will have to work with an advisor to determine if you have credits that will transfer.

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  7. MERIT: 214
    View Profile Average Cost: $30,028

    PhD in Education with a concentration in Educational Technology and Online Learning

    Regent UniversityRegent University was honored by U.S. News & World Report in 2018 for offering the best online graduate programs in education in the state of Virginia. The university offers a PhD in Education with a concentration in Educational Technology and Online Learning that you can complete online. The curriculum covers a range of topics in curriculum and instruction, and assessment and evaluation and gives you the skills you need to apply those in an online education setting.

    This degree will prepare you for leadership roles in K-12 online education, higher education distance learning, or even in a corporate learning environment. The program is a minimum of 75 credit hours and allows you to complete all of your coursework online in convenient eight-week sessions.

    There are two one-week residencies required as part of the program; you will also complete a dissertation and may have to attend the campus in order to defend it. You will take classes like Research Design and Analysis, Instructional Design for Online Learning, Trends in Educational Technology, Educational Statistics, and more. Sessions start each May.

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  8. MERIT: 213
    View Profile Average Cost: $23,931

    Doctor of Education in Instructional Systems Design and Technology

    SHSUSam Houston State University offers a Doctor of Education in Instructional Systems Design and Technology online. It has a collaborative curriculum that was designed by the SHSU’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction and the Computer Science Department. This blend of technical application and instructional theory will prepare graduates to take on leadership roles in instructional technology in both academic and corporate settings.

    This is a fully-online program that is made up of 60 credits. Students are admitted each fall. The curriculum is broken into two components, which are an Instructional Systems Design and Technology core and an Educational Research core. You’ll take classes in Distance Learning, Instructional Planning, Educational Network Design, and Leadership in Technology Administration.

    The curriculum also covers professional development as well as including an internship and field studies. You will complete a written and oral comprehensive examination after completing all of your courses, and then you will be required to complete a dissertation.

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  9. MERIT: 195
    View Profile Average Cost: $31,659

    Doctor of Education in Leadership

    2 City-logoThe City University of Seattle offers an online Doctor of Education in Leadership that allows you to create a specialized study concentration. One of the common options that the university cites is online learning. This degree is competitively priced and can be delivered entirely online. There is a minimum of 90 credits required to graduate, with the opportunity to transfer in up to 12 graduate credits. Students with extensive relevant experience could also challenge as many as 12 credits in their selected concentration.

    The curriculum is composed of a Leadership Core and a Research Core, as well as 24 credits in your selected concentration area. Some examples of courses you could take as part of your specialized study in online learning include Differentiated Instruction, Instructional Theory and Design, and Assessment for Student Learning, along with many others. You will work with an advisor to select courses that both fulfill your degree requirements and align with your professional goals.

    You will conduct research in your specialized study area throughout your entire academic experience at the university. You will also complete a comprehensive exam and prepare and defend a dissertation to earn your degree. You will have to complete three residency requirements as you study, each of them lasts for just two days and take place over the summer.

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  10. MERIT: 192
    View Profile Average Cost: $25,205

    Doctor of Education in School Improvement

    University of West GeorgiaThe University of West Georgia offers a Doctor of Education in School Improvement online. While this doesn’t sound at first related, you have the opportunity to select a specialized area of concentration in K-12 Online Learning or Instructional Technology. This online teaching degree is presented in a cohort model that begins each summer.

    There is one on-campus requirement as part of this program, which is an intensive two-day orientation during the first summer that you’re in the program. There is a total of 60 credits required for graduation, and all transfer credits are subject to review. No maximum amount is detailed on the school’s website. The core curriculum covers topics in leadership, professional development, and school reform.

    The Area of Concentration builds on that curriculum as appropriate. In the K-12 Online Teaching track, you will see courses like Instructional Design and Introduction to Distance Education. In the Instructional Technology track, you will take Instructional Design and Diffusion of Innovations. This program does require you to complete a dissertation. One thing that is unique about this program is that you will work on your dissertation along with your coursework instead of completing it afterward.

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What Does Digital Learning Mean?

Digital learning is an umbrella term that applies to all types of learning that incorporate technology as an instructional practice or to supplement traditional instruction. Digital learning is not online learning in and of itself, but it does encompass online teaching with a long list of other concepts. Some other concepts that are part of digital learning would be learning analytics, gamification, blended learning, digital textbooks, and more. Digital learning can be applied in academic settings from pre K all the way up through higher education. As technology advances and our understanding of how to appeal to different learning styles continues to grow, the prevalence of digital learning grows as well.

Digital learning is not something that is used to replace traditional methods of instruction but instead to enhance it. Instruction and educational materials that are augmented with technology are also used outside of academic settings as well. Digital learning is a key component of a lot of job training modules, professional development programs, and a range of other corporate applications.

This innovative method can be used in many different fields.

Why is Digital Learning Important?

Digital learning, which encompasses everything from online teaching and digital instruction materials to gamification and virtual reality, is incredibly important. Digital learning was designed specifically to add depth to traditional teaching methods rather than to replace them. The use of digital learning, technology-based instruction, and online teaching has a hugely positive impact on students.

One of the key reasons that digital learning is important is that it plays an important role in advancing school reform. This is true because implementing technology into instructional practice makes education more accessible and increases equity. More students being met with they are and reached with technology-augmented learning materials means that more students are being reached and being given the opportunity to learn, something that is fundamental to school reform.

Another reason that digital learning is important is that online teaching, educational games, and other tech-based components help keep students more engaged. These experiences tend to be more collaborative, and they can be more easily tailored to the needs of an individual student.

In the realm of professional development and corporate training, digital learning is important because it increases access to continuing education and high-quality training for professionals who otherwise wouldn’t have access. It helps people to draw connections between theory and application more easily, which leads to them grasping concepts more quickly; this ensures that the professionals who rely on this type of training, which are primarily educators at present, spend less time away from performing their jobs.

What Can I Do With an Educational Technology Degree?

An educational technology degree is useful to have if you’re interested in pursuing a career in online teaching, but it is a very multifaceted area of study that can be applied in a number of other positions as well. The majority of those who have a degree in educational technology work in a K-12 setting; however, this degree is also applicable in higher education, corporations, district-level jobs, government agencies, and more. The reason why there are so many potential applications of an educational technology degree beyond online teaching is that you have a lot of choice when it comes to specialization.

Some of the classes that you may encounter as you work towards earning an educational technology degree, just as part of the core curriculum, would be Technology Curriculum and Planning, Research in Instructional Technology, Technology and Inquiry-Based Learning, and Managing Educational Technology Resources, as well as several other courses centered on the theory behind digital learning, and more. You have the chance, in most cases, to build on that with specializations. The possibilities are nearly endless, especially in a flexible doctorate program. Some areas you could choose to center your studies around could be Instructional Delivery System Development or Online Teaching.

Based on the routes you decide to take and your goals, you could see yourself working as an Instructional Coordinator, an online teacher, an eLearning Developer, Interface and Multimedia Designer, a training director, or even a Chief Learning Officer.

Is Online Education Better Than Traditional?

This type of question is entirely subjective because everyone has different learning styles, different needs, and different preferences. However, we can tell you about the benefits of online education and even explore why traditional education might be a better fit sometimes.

Online education is amazing because it increases accessibility, allowing more people to receive the high-quality education they deserve with fewer barriers. Online education also might be better for some students. If you’re someone who finds it difficult to pay attention in a traditional classroom setting, technology may be more engaging. You may also prefer to work in a more self-paced way. Distance learning allows you to do that, while still having the benefit of working with instructors who are experienced in online teaching. It is also nice to be able to study online because you don’t have to worry about relocating, commuting, or any of that.

While there are some awesome benefits to online learning, it’s true that it may not be for everyone. If you’re someone who isn’t very good at staying motivated on your own (it happens to the best of us!), you may find that the structure of showing up to a face-to-face class every day keeps you on track. Some people are also more collaborative learners so being able to have active discussions in person is great for them. However, we’d like to note that online learning does still offer a lot of opportunity for collaboration.

When it comes down to choosing if online learning is better, what matters is selecting what works best for your personal, academic needs.

What are Digital Tools for Students?

Digital learning makes use of a lot of digital tools. We tend to think of these as being more formal, such as a course delivery platform. However, digital tools for students can be any tool or resource that can be used in a digital learning environment. Things like iTunesU, cloud-based word processors, file-sharing platforms, and even YouTube Channels can be considered digital tools when they are actively being used to create or contribute to an online learning environment.