What It’s Like to Be in an Online EdD Program

by topic_admin

The decision to pursue a doctoral program is one that’s unique for everyone. For me, earning a doctorate was a lifelong dream—and Northeastern’s online EdD program made that dream possible; here’s why.

Having moved to the U.S. from Greece as a young child, my family instilled hard work, determination, and the pursuit of education and opportunity at a young age. I thought to myself, “If the opportunity is in front of me, then why not seize the moment and accomplish as much as I can?” This is what I did in pursuit of my EdD.

Having climbed the career ladder—working in different public and private sectors within the education industry—it became clear that in order to further my credibility, augment professional opportunities, expand my scholarship knowledge, and satisfy my intellectual curiosity, I’d need to pursue my EdD.

Prior to taking on an international education role at Northeastern University, I worked at an education consulting firm. After the transition, I knew I wanted to cultivate and build on the analytical and critical thinking skills I had acquired in that role. Like many of us, I like to aim high and aspire to “Think Big.” The online EdD program not only fed my intellectual curiosity, but it enhanced my theoretical skills and made me a more versatile professional.

Why Pursue an Online EdD?

Added Flexibility

I was determined to keep my full-time job, so I sought an online EdD program that gave me the flexibility and opportunity to accomplish my goal without totally disrupting my work life. Northeastern’s online EdD coursework allowed me to complete assignments and readings at my own pace. I knew the deadlines in advance and could schedule my time accordingly.

Ability to Hold Myself Accountable

As an online EdD student, I knew I would have to show determination and commitment to finishing the program, given the virtual environment and demand for self-discipline. Although faculty members are available to answer questions, there is a student ownership component to the online EdD program.

I held myself accountable to ensure I was able to meet all course requirements without having to schedule frequent faculty meetings. Going into an online EdD program, you should be prepared to further develop your time and project management skills.

Download Our Free Guide to Earning Your EdD

What you should know before applying, from how to choose your dissertation topic to ways you can leverage your doctorate.


I would set aside a designated weekend or chunk of time during the day to focus exclusively on my doctoral program. But I also scheduled time off. I noticed that reserving a night or weekend for myself made my work a higher quality. Finding work-life balance is tough, but doable.

The added responsibility of being an online EdD student means that, although the time you set aside needs to be allocated and followed, you do have the flexibility to study whichever hours work best within your schedule. I sometimes found myself jotting down an idea I had during the day or voice recording it for later to ensure I maximized my time and didn’t lose a thought if I wasn’t close to a computer or was running from one meeting to the next.

Connecting to a Global Network

The ability to not only have a cohort-based network, but one that crossed cohorts and continents, allowed me to have a far richer and deeper experience. I learned from students with different perspectives who came from different industries across a number of countries. By earning an online EdD, you’re able to grow a global network of like-minded individuals who are all seeking to develop their scholarship.

You’re also able to develop virtual team-building skills. Often times, group projects completed in the virtual environment require flexibility and patience as your team members may be located in geographies across different time zones. Keep in mind that although you might have to stay up a bit later or have an early virtual group meeting, at the end of the day, you’re building an extended network of colleagues and peers.

Incorporating New Skills Into My Daily Work

The skills I strengthened and acquired as an online EdD student were often exercised in my daily work, and the experience made me a better professional. Given the large volume of material I needed to read, comprehend, and synthesize on a weekly basis to meet the discussion board requirement, this exercise optimized my critical thinking skills and was directly applied in my daily work.

Don’t be surprised if, all of a sudden, your technology skills are at a new high. I had never used certain technology platforms and now, because I was learning online, I had exposure to new systems that I was able to leverage and incorporate into my everyday work.

The use of technology has its perks, but also its interruptions, and that can test your patience. Mine improved over the course of the program, however, because I accepted the fact that, sometimes, things are out of your control. That attribute was helpful in my daily work, but also in my personal interactions.

Support During the Dissertation Phase

Once I reached the dissertation phase, I actually appreciated the virtual environment of the online EdD program. That environment motivated me to build a strong rapport with my faculty advisor early on in the process to ensure I hit certain milestones and stayed on track to complete the dissertation phase and graduate by my preferred time.

My advisor and I set up a virtual meeting during the second week of the first semester and established a timeline of target dates, which I monitored and adjusted depending on my progress and any life events that arose. At the onset of the conversation, I suggested that we set up bi-monthly 30-minute check-ins to use as necessary. This scheduled meeting kept me on task and provided a platform to talk through the chapters, edits, and other various aspects of my dissertation. Of course, my advisor was also available ad hoc if I needed some urgent clarity, feedback, or advice as I prepared for my proposal and dissertation defense.

There Was Still an In-Person Component

As part of the online EdD program, I was required to participate in two weeklong on-campus residencies, which offer workshops and seminars to help you progress in your doctoral journey.

For me, the face-to-face component of the online EdD program provided a richer, more meaningful experience. You’re able to interact with your peers after building an online rapport with them, and the time you spend getting to know each other over the week’s residency is extremely rewarding. You’re not only able to put a face to a name, but you can engage in deep dialogue and brainstorm about your problem of practice, share your progress in the program and experiences with faculty, as well as hear about other students’ journeys. You also come face-to-face with professors who have helped you succeed.

The residency’s workshops and seminars, which complement the coursework, offer an inside peer perspective on important milestones along the doctoral journey and allows you to introspect on your own path.

Reflecting on the five years it took me to complete the online EdD program, the ability to learn in a different delivery mode allowed me to exercise and strengthen existing skills and attributes, while also gaining a new appreciation for online education; it fit my lifestyle, professionally and personally, and I was able to accomplish my lifelong scholastic goal.

As a recent graduate of the online EdD program, I can truthfully say it was the best decision for me in pursuit of my lifelong dream.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept