ECU launches international online educational doctorate

Educators around the world face many of the same difficulties when pursuing advanced degrees, like completing their research and dissertation while working, but East Carolina University now provides a unique solution. 

Earlier this year, the ECU College of Education launched a new program – the only one of its kind – where educators can earn their doctorate in educational leadership online in just three years, including the dissertation.

Nationally, less than 40 percent of educators complete their doctoral degree within seven years. The new online educational doctorate at ECU allows participants to shorten that time by combining their current jobs, research and dissertation, according to program founder Dr. Matthew Militello, the Wells Fargo distinguished professor in educational leadership. The program also features individualized help from an ECU faculty mentor and travel opportunities.

“We are the only program in the UNC system that has a three-year, online EdD,” Militello said. “I say online, but it is really a hybrid since we meet face-to-face each summer and there is personal dissertation coaching. And, when taking in all these features, we are unique in the world.”

The first cohort – consisting of 16 educators from across the U.S., Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore – started in June with a meeting at the Thai-Chinese International School in Bangkok, Thailand. Participants got right to work with their mentors on dissertation preparation. 

A lot of programs claim to be three years, but that often does not include the dissertation, Militello said. “We’ve embedded the dissertation throughout the coursework. This feature is distinct. Our focus is on training practitioner researchers, and to balance inquiry with action.”

Too often, programs just do research, Militello said. “There has always been a huge disconnect between K-12 schools and higher education. What universities are researching is not always what K-12 teachers are doing. This is an attempt to bridge the gap.”

The next cohort will not begin until 2018, which will allow Militello and other faculty plenty of time to focus on their goal of a 100 percent success rate for the first cohort. Right now the program is self-funded, but could get state funding as it continues to grow. The program is a bit more than standard tuition but still competitive compared to other education doctorates.

ECU is part of the Carnegie Project on the Educational Doctorate, a consortium of more than 80 schools of education in the U.S., Canada and New Zealand, housed at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. In addition to gaining international recognition, ECU is helping to improve the EdD and the field of education itself by providing a model that other institutions could emulate, Militello said. 

“The EdD is focused on the preparation of current and future educational leaders,” Militello said. “The new educational doctorate has a single focus: to build capacity for school, district and community leaders that our educators, parents and students deserve. To do so, we have reimagined the EdD.”

Photo by Cliff Hollis