University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership | OnlineUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership | OnlineUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership | Online

Step up as a leader of tomorrow with the knowledge, skills and experiences needed to empower those around you and guide organizations to achieve transformational goals.Step up as a leader of tomorrow with the knowledge, skills and experiences needed to empower those around you and guide organizations to achieve transformational goals.Step up as a leader of tomorrow with the knowledge, skills and experiences needed to empower those around you and guide organizations to achieve transformational goals.

  • Top-ranked school — Join the #25 best school of education in the U.S.1
  • No master’s degree required — Apply with your bachelor’s degree and three years of leadership experience.
  • Flexible schedule — Study part time to pursue your educational goals while you advance your career. 

Achieve Organizational Goals Through Human-centered Leadership

The online Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership program from the UNC School of Education empowers working professionals with the knowledge, skills, and experiences needed to achieve organizational goals through a human-centered approach to leadership. 

Through flexible and collaborative online classes, aspiring leaders learn to implement and foster high-quality practices and cultures to achieve organizational goals and exceed expectations for professional growth.


The Online UNC Ed.D. at a Glance

No master’s or GRE required

54 credit hours

36 months to complete

Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership Curriculum

The curriculum is designed to equip students with the tools they need to empower the people around them to deliver on their organization’s goals and mission.

The 54-credit hour program consists of 17 courses, including a capstone project that asks students to explore a relevant organizational challenge based on their experiences.

An optional in-person immersion experience is available each spring semester to enrich the academic journey for students.

Learning Outcomes

The online Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership prepares students to create organizational cultures that welcome diverse perspectives, lead organizations toward equitable practice, and empower people within their organization to succeed. Students will learn to:

  • Apply a wide array of styles, strategies, and theories to effectively lead organizations to learn, improve, and change.
  • Create an organizational culture where diverse voices and perspectives are invited, considered, and empowered to contribute to learning and improvement. 
  • Recognize and attend to organizational context through its stakeholder groups and organizational networks to effectively manage organizations within complex systems and improve those systems for the better.
  • Assess organizational structure and context including key organizational resources, internal and external stakeholders and the relationships among them, and the sources of organizational power to change systems for the better.
  • Collect, analyze, and use data and evidence to evaluate and reflect on the process of organizational learning and make ethical and effective choices for organizational advancement.

Admissions — Online Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership

The online Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership program offers three start dates per year: January, May, and August. The UNC School of Education seeks applicants with a genuine interest in leadership and who are passionate about empowering people in their organization. A master’s degree and GRE/GMAT scores are not required.

Admissions Requirements: 

  • Minimum of three years of management or leadership experience in a professional work setting
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • A minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0; less than 3.0 will require an explanation to accompany your application

See admissions criteria and application requirements.

The Online Experience

A complex world calls for flexible learning designed to meet the needs of a global workplace. In the online Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership program, students will find an intuitive platform, comprehensive support, and top-notch education designed for real people with real lives.

  • Attend weekly face-to-face classes, held on Zoom, that allow for rich discussion and debate with peers and faculty.
  • Complete interactive assignments, using a customizable platform that follows best practices for online learning. 
  • Meet faculty and peers at optional in-person immersions, where you’ll network and apply what you’ve learned. 
  • Access full-spectrum career services, including interview prep, one-on-one coaching, self-assessments, and salary resources.
  • Connect with a student success advisor, who will serve as your dedicated partner throughout the program.

UNC School of Education Faculty

UNC School of Education faculty members in the Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership program are committed to empowering the next generation of responsible and passionate organizational leaders. Our exceptional faculty members have expertise in organizational change and implementation science, evaluation, and leadership, making the Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership a unique program where faculty provide students with the tools needed to be successful in the pursuit of a doctorate degree and in accessing professional opportunities. This program was designed and launched to help students acquire the skills needed in leadership within organizations and directly apply them in the field, making a difference across multiple industries in organizations.

Learn More

Sample Course Descriptions

The 54-credit lockstep curriculum is composed of 17 courses which include a culminating series of capstone seminars. Each term is 13 weeks long. Courses and/or descriptions subject to change.

  • This course engages in a systematic examination of leadership in practice and how these examples result in successful leadership practices relative to theories of leadership, ethical frameworks, and your personal strengths and abilities. From these reflections you will develop an intellectually-rigorous, personal statement of leadership.

  • Quantitative data is a resource for problems and identifying solutions. In order to make informed decisions in organizational leadership, it is crucial to be able to understand quantitative information about organizations and interpret data. In their career as an organizational leader, students will likely participate in quantitative analysis of data as well as be expected to review and understand a variety of quantitative studies which may influence decision-making in their workplace. Individuals who are able to discern and understand patterns and trends in quantitative data are valuable employees; they should also be able to formulate research questions and identify problems of practice for organizational improvement. This course will prepare students for all of these tasks.

  • Foundations of Inquiry – Qualitative Methods is a graduate level course designed to support students in developing an understanding of qualitative research methods and designs. The focus of this course is on the creation of research questions, the development of qualitative designs, employment of data collection approaches, and analysis procedures to address those problems. Given the allocation of time, the course will not include the full breadth of data collection methods or in-depth analysis techniques.

  • This course will provide the foundational knowledge for creating, sustaining, and leading an inclusive culture within organizations. You will learn to incorporate multiple stakeholders’ voices within and outside the organization through an equity-minded leadership lens. We will place a strong emphasis on collaboration and coalition building within organizations to create an effective organizational culture in which all stakeholders can thrive.

  • In these courses we focus on quantitative/qualitative forms of inquiry, highlighting the types of questions quantitative/qualitative data are best positioned to answer and common forms of data collection and analysis. To foster your development as a scholar-practitioner, the courses will provide you with the foundational knowledge to be a discerning consumer of qualitative and quantitative research and help you find the tools to answer your own well-formed practice-based research questions.

  • This course is designed to acquaint the student with theories of organization so that the student can begin to see principles which lie behind system architecture in which people, structures, duties, skills and role relationships can be juxtaposed and configured and re-configured as a matter of matching organizational functioning to the tasks facing a variety of educational organizations. It is also a course which will consider the structure and use of power in organizational life to force bureaucratic change, internally or externally. An expected outcome will be that the student begins to understand how structure, culture, context, and power interact within and without educational and other organizations.

  • In these courses we focus on quantitative/qualitative forms of inquiry, highlighting the types of questions quantitative/qualitative data are best positioned to answer and common forms of data collection and analysis. To foster your development as a scholar-practitioner, the courses will provide you with the foundational knowledge to be a discerning consumer of qualitative and quantitative research and help you find the tools to answer your own well-formed practice-based research questions.

  • In this course, students are introduced to and apply knowledge, skills, tools, and dispositions drawn from improvement science, organizational theory, change agency/psychology of change, strategic doing, relational leadership, team science, cycled learning, and collective impact that support the development of learning systems (in government, health care, education, social services, and industry) capable of bringing about their own continuous transformation. Students will engage with faculty from across campus in interprofessional learning opportunities, including panel discussions, interviews, case study, project-based learning, tool application, and team-based activities.

  • This course introduces the concepts, principles, and methods underlying the evaluation of interventions, practices, and programs in organizational contexts. You will study different approaches to evaluation design, data collection and analysis, and the reporting of results. The course will also consider the ethics and use of evaluation in organizations. You will apply this learning to the design and implementation of a practice-based evaluation.

    Prerequisites: Foundations of Inquiry (Quant and Qual)

  • In this course, students learn to apply the mindsets, methods, and processes associated with design thinking (i.e., human-centered design) to solve real-world problems. Design thinking is a creative problem-solving process that prioritizes co-design, convergent and divergent thinking, as well as rapid prototyping. Students will also practice equity-advancing design and liberatory co-design and will collaborate with community members to design solutions (e.g., programs, products) that are desirable, feasible, viable, and promote equity and justice.

  • In this course, students will be introduced to the basic principles and techniques of human resource management. Students will learn about effective human resource management practices, including leadership skills, employment planning, recruiting, selecting, and rewarding employees, employee compensation plans, and employee training and evaluation. By applying the principles, elements, and techniques learned in this course, students will be better positioned to contribute to the success of the organization.

  • This course is an introduction to learning analytics. Learning analytics are data produced when individuals use an educational technology designed to inform and to influence future learning. Through assignments involving learning by teaching, product evaluations, research reporting, and proposal/design projects, students will learn about various theoretical frameworks, digital learning platforms, and research and evaluation approaches relevant to the study and production of learning analytic solutions. Readings will include scholarly and popular media that span education, psychology, computer science, information science, business, policy, and other domains.

  • Applying lessons from implementation practice and research, students in this course learn the skills and competencies to tailor implementation frameworks and strategies to different settings to meet the unique needs of communities and to improve outcomes reliably and at scale. Equitable implementation occurs when strong equity components (including explicit attention to culture, history, values, and needs) are integrated into principles, tools, and cultures of work to facilitate the implementation of co-designed solutions for scale and sustainability.

  • This course is centered on the development of theory in leadership from both a modernist and postmodernist perspective. It is designed to provide the candidate with the basis for understanding the range of theories that have and continue to influence conceptual thought and practice in educational and organizational leadership. Since the practice of leadership in schools and organizations is both an applied science and an art, the course is far ranging in its scope. At issue is not only the content of what is considered educational and organizational leadership, but the boundaries of the “field” itself.

  • The Ed.D. capstone projects are a series of doctoral seminars rooted in a problem of contemporary organizational practice. Through each capstone project, students will demonstrate the ability to: (a) identify a problem of practice in a field setting; (b) apply a theory or conceptual model to the problem of practice; (c) study the problem using inquiry skills developed in coursework, be it quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods in nature; (d) make meaningful recommendations for addressing the problem derived from their study of a problem; and (e) compose and present arguments and evidence in a logical, systemic, and coherent fashion.

Optional In-Person Immersion 

Each spring, an optional in-person immersion in the Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership program provides a dynamic learning opportunity that fosters community building, connects students with program faculty, and offers a platform for exploration, exposure to real-world leadership practices, and networking with peers from other programs within the UNC School of Education. 

Key aspects of the immersion experience include:

Community building

Development of a strong and supportive community among students through team-building exercises, group discussions, and campus events — enhancing academic and professional networks for lifelong benefit.

Familiarity with program faculty

Build rapport with program faculty in an informal setting, gaining insights into teaching philosophies and research expertise, fostering a supportive learning environment and encouraging open communication.

Exploration of opportunities

Explore various academic and professional opportunities within the program, UNC School of Education, and the University, aiding in the alignment of the academic journey with professional goals.

Mentoring connections with leaders in practice

Connect with industry leaders in organizational learning and leadership through guest speakers, interactive discussions, and insights-sharing sessions, enriching understanding and networking in the field.

Capstone Project

The capstone experience in the Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership program is the culmination of the academic rigor and practical learning acquired throughout the program. The capstone is designed to showcase the student’s ability to apply theoretical knowledge, empirical research, and innovative thinking to address complex challenges within organizational learning and leadership. While the capstone project comes later in the program, the curriculum has been designed carefully to scaffold student work toward the capstone throughout the program. It provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate their expertise to make lasting improvements and impact in an organization. The capstone includes a three-semester course sequence in which students identify a problem of practice — a complex and/or pervasive problem within the organization in which they work or within another organization’s practice — and, using lessons from past coursework, explore ways to solve it. Their research results in a written capstone report that details the organizational challenge, their process and findings, and their decision-making — all of which their capstone committee will review. During capstone seminars, students explore best practices for working on large analytic projects, receive personalized guidance and feedback on their efforts from instructors, and learn from their peers as they both give and receive feedback on projects.

Key aspects of the capstone experience include:

  • The journey begins with the identification of a significant problem or challenge within an organizational context. This problem should be real and impactful, reflecting the complexities and nuances that leaders often face.

  • Students will conduct an in-depth review of relevant literature and theoretical frameworks. This phase helps them establish a solid theoretical foundation for addressing the identified problem and provides insight into existing research and best practices.

  • Choosing appropriate research methods and data collection techniques is a crucial component of the program and is offered through a series of research methods courses. Whether the capstone involves qualitative or quantitative research, surveys, interviews, case studies, or a combination of methods, the methodology should align with the challenge being studied.

  • Students will gather and analyze data to gain insights into the problem. This phase involves rigorously analyzing data to draw meaningful conclusions and patterns that will inform potential solutions.

  • One of the distinguishing features of this capstone is the emphasis on a human-centered approach. Students will focus on understanding the needs, perspectives, and experiences of individuals within the organization, recognizing that the success of any intervention or solution depends on the engagement and well-being of its members.

  • Based on research findings, students will generate innovative solutions and strategies that address the identified problem. These solutions are designed to be practical, actionable, and tailored to the specific organizational context.

  • A well-thought-out implementation plan is crucial for translating ideas into action. Students will develop a detailed roadmap for executing their proposed solutions, considering factors such as change management, resource allocation, and timelines.

  • After implementing the solutions, students will evaluate the effectiveness and measure the impact on the organization. This stage often involves revisiting the research data to assess whether the problem has been successfully mitigated and whether new challenges have arisen.

  • As a final step, students will reflect on their journey, lessons learned, and the combination of their academic and practical experiences. The reflection process contributes to the development of critical self-awareness and a deeper understanding of their role as organizational leaders.

Organizational Leadership Careers

This program prepares graduates to pursue a variety of organizational roles across multiple industries. Whether working alongside HR to develop talent and support employees in healthcare settings, working directly with members of leadership in higher education to drive positive change, or implementing new systems and practices to achieve greater efficiency in a nonprofit, graduates will be expert leaders, ready to achieve goals to fulfill their organization’s mission and make a difference. Examples of roles this program prepares graduates for include, but are not limited to, high-level leadership as a: 

  • Business and management consultant
  • Human resources manager
  • Project manager or coordinator
  • Medical and health service manager
  • Sales and marketing manager
  • Leadership coaching or development
  • Business or organization executive
  • Nonprofit administrator

Become a Human-Centered Leader in Your Organization

Gain the skills to positively change lives with the online Ed.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Let’s get started.

  1. 2024 Best Education Schools (2024). U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved April 10, 2024. ↩︎