Question: What is the difference between campus, online, and hybrid EdD programs?

Updated: February 1, 2023

Answer: While the curriculum and overall degree requirements are often identical for campus, online, and hybrid Doctor of Education (EdD) programs, these three formats differ significantly when it comes to how students receive instruction. In a campus program, students attend live lectures or seminars in traditional classroom settings, learning from professors in person and interacting with classmates face-to-face. Students in an online program, on the other hand, access the majority of their course materials via the web, logging onto a virtual classroom to view lectures, complete assignments, and communicate with professors or peers. Hybrid or blended programs offer a combination of both in person and online instruction, with students completing some requirements on campus and others at a distance.

There are a wide range of options available to students interested in pursuing a Doctor of Education degree, whether they prefer in-person instruction, flexible online coursework, or a mix of both. As program length and content is generally similar in each format (among programs in the same concentration), the type one chooses will depend largely on their particular learning style, schedule constraints, and proximity to schools offering degree options in their area of interest. To learn more about campus-based, online, and hybrid EdD programs, as well as their individual pros and cons, continue reading below.

Campus EdD Programs

Most students are already familiar with campus-based degree programs, as these have been around the longest and continue to be the most common form of postsecondary education. In this more traditional type of program, students travel to a college campus to attend classes in a physical classroom, interacting with professors and peers in person, then completing assignments or readings at home. Since students must be on campus at specific times during the week for lectures or seminars, this format offers very little flexibility when it comes to scheduling. However, in an on-campus EdD program, courses are usually offered during the evenings or on weekends to accommodate working professionals pursuing their doctorate.

Campus-based programs are a good fit for students who benefit from face-to-face instruction, learning best when presented with materials in a traditional classroom setting and receiving immediate feedback from professors. Those who require more structure to their studies, a set schedule to keep them on track on a weekly basis, may also find this format better suits their educational needs. A major drawback to campus programs, however, is that students generally need to live close to their school in order to attend class each week. Otherwise, assuming they live with commuting distance, students have to take additional time out of their day to travel to campus, which adds transportation costs to earning their degree. This may not be an issue for those who plan to relocate for their doctoral studies.

Online EdD Programs

Students in an online EdD program can expect to complete the majority (if not all) of their degree without setting foot on campus. Instead of physically going to school to attend classes, they typically watch lectures, participate in class discussions, and access all other course materials online through a learning management system (LMS), which is software used to deliver and manage web-based courses. There are two main types of instructional methods used by online programs: synchronous and asynchronous. In a program that uses synchronous instruction, students must be online at set times to watch and participate in live class sessions, often using video conferencing or text chat to engage with classmates and the instructor as the lecture is happening. Asynchronous instruction, on the other hand, relies mainly on prerecorded lectures, meaning students can watch them at any time it best fits their schedule.

Keep in mind, some online EdD programs include mandatory campus-based residencies or immersions, intended to supplement students’ online studies with in-person learning activities. These sessions can span anywhere from a weekend to one week at time, and give students the chance to meet and work with their classmates and faculty members face to face. To help prospective students better understand any campus requirements that may be included in an online course of study, only defines a program as online if it requires three or fewer campus visits per year. This does not include any internship opportunities or requirements which may also be part of these programs. (Note: Programs that require more than three campus visits per year are classified as hybrid or campus-based programs.)

The major benefit to pursuing an EdD online is flexibility. Students can typically attend class or access course materials from anywhere, provided they have internet access and a working computer (or tablet or mobile device, depending on the program). This eliminates the need to commute to campus on a weekly basis for classes, saving students valuable time they can devote to their career or other obligations. In fact, an online program may be the only option for some with busy schedules outside of school, such as those trying to maintain a full-time job while pursuing their studies, or students with families who may be unable to attend class during the evening or weekend. Online study also increases access to program options, giving students who live far from schools offering degrees in their area of interest the chance to pursue a doctorate that fits their professional goals without needing to relocate.

An online EdD program may not be the best option for all students, however, especially those who value face-toface interactions or prefer the structure provided by traditional campus-based instruction. In general, online study requires more self-motivation and self-discipline from students in order for them to keep up with course materials and assignments. While students are able to view lectures and complete assignments on their own schedule, online programs still have deadlines that must be met throughout the term. With that said, many online programs have systems in place to ensure students are participating on a weekly basis and not falling behind on their studies.

Hybrid EdD Programs

There are many different forms of hybrid (or blended) degree programs. Typically, this is a term used for programs that utilize online coursework, but also require students to visit campus on a regular basis for in-person classes or activities. While this may mean the program includes a balanced mix of campus and online instruction, it generally refers to those that combine mainly online study with a number of on-campus sessions spread throughout the year (more than a “fully” online program with residencies). On, we define hybrid programs as those that are primarily online focused but still include more than three campus visits per year.

This type of EdD program can be a good alternative for students who want both the flexibility offered by online learning and the opportunity to engage in more face-to-face interaction with their professors and peers. Hybrid programs often combine the best aspects of both campus-based and online education, allowing students to complete most of their credits at a distance, then enhancing this with periodic residencies or other in-person experiences. However, this also means students must be prepared to travel to campus when required, making more frequent trips to campus than they would in an online program with little or no on-campus requirements.

Note: Some programs may use the term hybrid if they offer a mix of on-campus and online courses.

Campus vs. Online vs. Hybrid EdD Programs

In many ways, EdD programs in each of these three formats are very similar. Most require around three years to complete, including roughly 60 credits of coursework and a doctoral research project (i.e., dissertation). Students can also find the same or very similar specializations offered in all three formats, sometimes at the same institution. Programs offered in different formats at the same school are typically identical when it comes to curriculum, course content, and requirements, just delivered in different ways. Students can expect to graduate with the same degree as their peers, whether they completed courses on campus or online.

The main difference when it comes to campus, online, and hybrid EdD programs is course delivery. Students pursuing their degree on campus must physically attend class on a weekly basis at a set time, while online students can access courses from anywhere with an internet connection, logging on to view prerecorded lectures or participate in live class sessions (depending on the program). As such, online programs offer significantly more flexibility for students with already busy schedules, who cannot afford the time or are otherwise unable to commute to campus each week for classes. Hybrid EdD programs, as discussed above, include a mix of both instruction types, and are a great option for those who want the flexibility of online coursework, but are also willing to travel to campus more regularly for face-to-face learning experiences.