A look at the 4 online Ed.D. foundational courses

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Professionals who want to dedicate their lives to academic leadership and advance their careers in this field may find value continuing their education beyond the master’s degree level. By earning new credentials that demonstrate commitment and building detailed and up-to-date knowledge on education practice, practitioners can prepare themselves to meet the challenges of the present environment, as well as the changes coming to the field.

A doctorate degree in education can suit these academic leaders’ needs. The curriculum in such a program is designed around the fundamentals of educational leadership, in consideration of today’s systematic challenges and individual needs.

Discovering the core Ed.D. courses

At the heart of an Ed.D. program are the core courses, which every student takes and which explain the fundamental concepts. The ideas and trends explored in these classes will inform and influence the rest of a learner’s time in the Ed.D. program and academic leadership in general. The following are four unique courses in the Bradley University Ed.D. program, each one dealing with a primary force in modern education:

Boards and Educational Governance

What this course teaches: Policies that affect higher education institutions are often determined at the board level. Aspiring administrators at colleges and universities must therefore study the way boards develop policies and interact with the rest of the school community. This means studying accountability roles, pressure groups and their impact on policy, formal and informal ideologies, the impact of politics on higher education, and the working relationship between board members, administrators, and faculty.

Why it matters: Higher education leaders at all levels must deal with boards. By learning effective educational governance, in both theory and practice, they will be better able to resolve conflicts and positively influence the direction of educational policy. When administrators and board members understand one another and work together well, they can make shared progress on important issues for the university or college, but this is not as common as it should be. The Association of Governing Boards asked public institution presidents whether board members understand faculty responsibilities, and only 34 percent said yes. In addition, only 18 percent of those presidents said faculty understand the role of the board. Administrators who can promote better connections may prove valuable to colleges and universities.

Ethical and Political Foundations of Educational Policy

What this course teaches: Practicing educational leadership, especially from a policy creation perspective, is inherently tied to politics and social justice. Departmental heads in higher education settings should be aware of what goes into advocating for positive change. Students in this course will perform critical readings of current policies around learning and proposals for progress. By studying effective examples of advocacy, they prepare to embrace similar roles in their careers, delivering more equitable and just conditions for students in their immediate care and around the country. Students leave the class with a greater understanding of how political processes work, as well as how best to engage with them.

Why it matters: The current educational environment is not equitable for individuals of all constituencies and social backgrounds, and working to correct these imbalances is one of the most significant contributions a leader can make. Reforms can take many shapes and cover all issues relevant to schools from kindergarten to higher education. By studying the issues covered by industry groups such as the National Education Association, educators can grasp the breadth of these policies. The NEA’s present priorities range from gun violence prevention and support for immigrant learners to nutrition and funding. Preventing discrimination and delivering high-quality education to everyone are priorities that remain eternally pertinent, meaning there will always be a need for industry advocacy.

Learning in an Era of Technology

What this course teaches: Experienced educators taking this course will learn effective uses of technology in learning and the systemic structures necessary to ensure that technology practices result in effective learning for students, educators and administrators. The coursework prepares Ed.D. students to collaboratively develop, articulate, implement, and steward a shared organizational vision of learning through technology consistent with organizational goals, to assess organizational effectiveness, and implement plans to achieve goals for an educational organization. Additionally, students will learn how to collaboratively construct to advocate, nurture, and sustain organizational cultures and instructional programs through technology, design and evaluate a comprehensive, rigorous, and coherent technology curricular and instructional organizational program.

Why it matters: Technology is a key part of 21st century learning environments. Education Week named a few of the positive effects of this digital-age transformation. For example, tech-enabled learning materials enable greater customization than traditional offerings. With higher education courses often administrated through online portals, new developments can have immediate and significant effects on learners’ experiences.

National Trends in Assessment, Data Analysis, and Accountability

What this course teaches: this course teaches educational decision-makers to use information on performance to maximize their organization’s offerings for students. By learning about the current trends in assessment and performance monitoring, education leaders will gain deeper insights into how their governance and accountability practices can inform continuous improvement. One of the main duties of an educational department head is to keep a university or program on an upward path in performance terms, and this course helps them use data to power their thinking.

Why it matters: Continuous improvement frameworks are important for educators, as progress is always possible in the way universities and departments are run. Nonprofit group AdvancED described what goes into a modern accountability system, explaining that the program will touch on everything from budgeting to culture and management. Plans developed by a continuous improvement framework will point the way toward both long- and short-term goals, with the resulting plans being persistently updated and modified rather than set in stone. Organizations embracing improvement are making concrete progress toward the universally held goal of providing better higher education outcomes.

Studying for an Ed.D.

Beyond the core coursework, Ed.D. students learn about more specific and granular areas of administration and reform such as financial management, online program oversight and academic affairs oversight in higher education. Participants deepen their understanding of the areas of education that matter most to them by participating in action research projects.

When students take Ed.D. courses 100 percent online, they gain location and schedule flexibility, allowing them to stay in full-time professional roles while studying to increase their knowledge and credentials. At the conclusion of the program, they are eligible to seek out or new roles, putting the information acquired in their core Ed.D. courses to good use in a professional leadership setting.

Being a leader in today’s educational field is a long-term commitment — the type of career that strives to have a positive impact on many colleagues and learners through action on education policy issues. An Ed.D. program and the core courses therein may help these administrators enforce valuable and effective change.

Learn more about the Bradley University online Ed.D. program and see if it’s the right next step for you.


Recommended Readings:

What is the difference between an Ed.D. and a Ph.D.?

Education in the C-suite: How to become a chief learning officer

Bradley University Online Doctor of Education Program



National Education Association – Issues And Actions

Education Week – Technology in Education: An Overview

Bradley University – Online Ed.D. Higher Education Administration Curriculum

Association of Governing Boards – Shared Governance: Is OK Good Enough?

Inside Higher Education – Shared Governance, Not Shared Power