Organizational Leadership, Learning and Innovation

Doctor of Education

Admission Requirements

Please refer to “The Graduate Admissions Process” section for general graduate admission information. For admission to the Doctor of Education program, applicants must satisfactorily complete a credential screening and a faculty committee interview, team exercise, and written essay. All applicants must submit the following:

1. Completed graduate (Ed.D.) application accompanied by a non-refundable application fee. Incomplete files will not be reviewed.

2. Official transcripts from a regionally accredited college or university verifying completion of a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Send official transcript(s) directly to Wilmington University Graduate Admissions Office from the identified college or university.  Cumulative grade point average of 3.0 is required for consideration. 

3. Three letters of recommendation. All letters must be completed by individuals who can attest to the applicant’s aptitude for doctoral-level study, propensity for problem-solving, and demonstrated leadership. One letter must be from an immediate supervisor and two from professional colleagues and/or academic professors. Recommendations are to be requested through your Admissions Portal. Delayed recommendation letters will hinder the admissions process. It is suggested you 1) inform those who are writing for you to highlight the areas mentioned in the first sentence and provide examples and 2) follow-up to ensure your recommendations are received in a timely manner.

4. Résumé that demonstrates 3-5 years leadership/managerial experience in adult learning in an organizational context.

5. Written statement of intent that specifies professional and academic interests.  Please consider the following prompts thoughtfully and provide a meaningful writing sample for the admissions committee to consider. Responses should be typed, double-spaced, and in APA 7th edition writing standards/format. Both the content of your answers and your ability to write are being evaluated, so proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling are important. Please submit your written statement in either a word document or PDF in your Admissions Portal.


Statement of Purpose (500-word limit)

  1. Describe a) your academic and professional experiences/background, b) your career ambitions, and c) your reasons for applying to the OLI program. Specifically explain how the OLI program suits your educational and career aspirations.
  2. Describe the skills, experiences, and values you will bring to your cohort and the OLI learning community at Wilmington University.

Reflection of Learning Goals & Problem of Practice (500-word limit)

  1. Describe the organizational issues you want to learn about and intellectual growth areas you hope to develop during the OLI program.
  2. Describe a problem evident in your organizational community/scope of practice that you believe can be addressed by relevant research skills and scholarly inquiry.

Since we do not require standardized test scores as criterion for admissions, the written statement weighs significantly in the initial screening process. Please give careful attention to the quality of the content, writing mechanics, and organization of thought.


All of the above documents should be submitted directly to the Graduate Admissions Office via the online Admissions Portal and you will be contacted directly by COE regarding the faculty committee interview, team exercise, and written essay.


Learning is key to continually improving performance, motivating stakeholders, and igniting innovation in organizations. 

The Organizational Leadership, Learning and Innovation (OLI) program aims to develop leaders who are equipped to face the dual challenge of managing operational excellence through continuous improvement and change, while at the same time inspiring stakeholders to help create the organization’s future through innovation.  The OLI program facilitates the leadership development of those interested in inspiring proactive stakeholder responses to the changing socio-economic, political and technological environment in all types of organizations including business, nonprofit, educational, and governmental. Positions held by past graduates include, but are not limited to, presidents of organizations, chief learning officers, corporate trainers, principals of consulting firms and HR executives.

The program is grounded in experiential learning and prepares today’s leaders by combining theory, practice, and research centered around real-world problems in today's organizations. The OLI program features a cohort model in which students engage with one another and faculty in course work, consulting experiences, building professional portfolios, summer institutes and applied dissertation in practice. A unique feature of the program is its three concentrations, which provide doctoral students flexibility in creating a doctoral learning experience to meet their unique needs. The three concentrations are: (1) Strategic Leadership, (2) Workplace Learning and Talent Development and (3) a Student Designed Learning Pathway.

The OLI program is offered in both flex hybrid and online live formats that allow for completion of program requirements in as little as three years.  Both formats take advantage of technology to facilitate instruction and collaboration with one required weekly synchronous session for most courses. Each cohort will have a day, which is set by Chair prior to the start of each cohort. The flex hybrid option combines weekly online video meetings with the opportunity to have some face-to-face flex sessions. The online live option requires at least one synchronous online video meeting per week. Courses are taught by full-time and adjunct faculty members who are subject-matter experts with extensive experience in applying creative, leading-edge practices to help organizations learn, innovate and be more effective.

Program Competencies

Graduates of the Ed.D. Organizational Leadership, Learning and Innovation program are expected to demonstrate program competencies through attainment of specific course objectives aligned with the following program standards:

1.  Personal Mastery—Engages in thoughtful reflection, assessment, and on-going personal and professional development.

2.  Leadership--Vision, Mission and Strategic Direction for Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management—Envisions, initiates, develops, communicates, and implements a shared vision of organizational learning that aligns with the strategic direction of the organization.

3.  Learning Organization Culture, Structures and Processes—Creates, sustains and changes organizational culture, structures, and processes that support learning, change and innovation.

4.  Talent Engagement, Development and Management—Fosters learning and growth among organizational members and engages them in high performance behaviors that create value for themselves and the organization.

5.  Organizational Performance Improvement and Innovation—Generates and supports continual improvement in current organizational performance, while at the same time promoting the innovation that with will enable the organization to flourish in the future. 

6.  Stakeholder Communication, Consultation and Collaboration—Proactively communicates with all organizational stakeholders in a manner that appreciates and values different perspectives and fosters information/ knowledge sharing and collaboration in achieving results that benefit all organizational stakeholders.

7.  Ethics, Citizenship, and Social Responsibility—Promotes organizational citizenship and social responsibility in an ethical manner that embraces integrity and accountability in all workplace practices.

8.  Assessment, Evaluation, and Research—Accesses, generates, interprets and manages the data necessary to assess and evaluate the effectiveness of organizational learning, the quality of organizational performance, and the need for innovation to meet changing client/customer needs or challenges in the competitive environment.

9.  Contextual and Organizational Acumen-Monitors and understands the social, political, economic, legal and technological forces that may impact organizational purpose and results. Uses that information to generate new strategies for learning that support the strategic plans of the organization.  

Students are expected to create a leadership portfolio that contains evidence of their competence across all OLI program standards. Evidence may consist of leadership development plans and reflections, relevant papers from coursework, consulting project contracts and reports, conference presentations, published articles, dissertation research, and outside activities that demonstrate competence on one or more program standards.

Program Design

The Organizational Leadership, Learning and Innovation (OLI) program combines theory, real-world practice, and inquiry to enhance students’ skills in leading learning and innovation at the individual, team and organizational levels. Four program components are integrated in a manner that allows program completion in three years.

The coursework component includes core courses and three concentrations. The core includes 27 credit hours spread across 9 courses and is designed to lay a strong theoretical and research foundation. The concentrations include: (1) Strategic Leadership; (2) Workplace Learning and Talent Development; and (3) a Student Designed Learning Pathway.  The Strategic Leadership concentration is for experienced organizational leaders seeking to enhance the strategic value of learning in improving organizational performance and creating an organization’s future through innovation. The Workplace Learning and Talent Development concentration will appeal to students more interested in the nuts and bolts of designing, providing, and evaluating workplace learning opportunities for organizational employees. The Student Designed Learning Pathway is for students who have clearly identified learning goals and are willing to take an active role in designing their own learning experience. This custom pathway requires a combination of five, three-credit courses. These courses may be selected from either of the existing Organizational Leadership, Learning, and Innovation (OLI) concentrations – Strategic Leadership or Workplace Learning and Talent Development, or from Special Topics and/or Guided-Study courses. Students may have the opportunity to take up to two courses from another Wilmington University doctoral program. At this time, courses from the DNP program are not available but do check with the OLI Chair. Please note that access to doctoral courses outside of the OLI program is not guaranteed and will be contingent on certain factors including, but not limited to, approval from the other Wilmington University doctoral program’s Chair, timing, seat availability and course prerequisites. Other conditions and specifics can be found in the Concentration Plan Form, which students will receive from the OLI Chair. All pathways must be approved by the OLI Chair before registering for coursework.

The second program component is the consulting project consisting of two courses for six credit hours and an engagement with an organization. This real-world experience links coursework to a mentor guided project that can be individual or collaborative but must addresses a practice-based problem related to learning, change, leadership or innovation. Students are expected to create a consulting firm identity, initiate a consulting project, contract with the cooperating organization, and complete this project with the guidance of a field mentor. The consulting experience results in a written and oral report presented to the cooperating organization. The consulting project report is included in students’ portfolios along with a detailed reflection on this learning experience.

The Dissertation in Practice (DIP) project is the third program component and serves as the culminating learning activity for students. A total of six credits are earned for the dissertation research project which should demonstrate the student’s research and analytical skills as well as the student’s ability to write for publication and to orally present for a professional audience.

The creation of a professional portfolio and participation in the weekend Summer Institutes is the final component of the program. In addition to leadership development plans and reflections for each of the three program years, students are expected to demonstrate how their leadership experiences, coursework, consulting experience and applied research project address the program standards.  Portfolios are presented for feedback purposes in Years 1 and 2, with a final graded presentation in Year 3.  Weekend Summer Institutes take place each year to provide opportunities for flex hybrid and online live learners across active cohorts to engage with one another, OLI faculty, and guest speakers. The focus of the institute varies with cohort year and will include learning activities, collaboration and research project guidance appropriate for each program year.


Program Requirements


Students are expected to successfully complete the six following program phases:

Phase I:

Admission (completion of the application process)

Phase II:

Course Completion including Concentrations (completing a minimum of 42 credits hours with a B or better average)

Phase III:

Consulting Field Experience (approved project for a minimum of 6 credit hours)

Phase IV:

Degree Candidacy (completion of Phases II & III, final portfolio presentation and candidacy meeting with faculty advisors)

Phase V:

Dissertation in Practice (Written and Oral Presentation – 6 credit hours)

Phase VI:

Summer Institutes

Year 1 - Orientation

Year 2 - Decisions about course work for second half of program

Year 3 - Celebration—Consulting Project & Dissertation Reporting


Core Courses (15 credits)

EDD 6102 E-Folio

OLI 7100 Personal Mastery and Communities of Practice

OLI 7102 Organizational Learning Theory, Culture and Practice

OLI 7103 Teams, Teaming and Knowledge Management

OLI 7104 Talent Development and Workplace Learning

OLI 7105 Technology and Organizational Learning

Research Core Courses (12 credits)

OLI 7101 Disciplined Inquiry and Writing

OLI 7106 Assessment and Evaluation Methods

OLI 7201 Problem Centered Research in Organizational Learning- I

OLI 7202 Problem Centered Research in Organizational Learning-II

Strategic Leadership Concentration (15 Credits)

OLI 7301 Leading Organizational Improvement and Innovation

OLI 7302 Leadership Communication

OLI 7303 The Strategic Role of Employee Engagement & Workplace Satisfaction

OLI 7304 Business Acumen and Strategic Leadership of Learning, Improvement and Innovation

OLI 7305 Ethics, Organizational Citizenship and Social Responsibility

Workplace Learning & Talent Development Concentration (15 Credits)

OLI 7401 Universal Design for Learning

OLI 7402 Facilitating Adult Learning

OLI 7403 Workforce Trends and Leading Talent Development

OLI 7404 Addressing Diversity in Workplace Learning

OLI 7405 Motivating Employee Engagement in Workplace Learning and Professional Development

Student Designed Learning Pathway (15 Credits)

A combination of five, three credit courses selected by the student.  These courses can be selected from either the OLI Strategic Leadership Concentration or the OLI Workplace Learning and Talent Development Concentration, Special Topics and/or Guided Study OLI courses. In addition, students may have the opportunity to take up to two courses from other selected Wilmington University doctoral program. At this time, courses from the DNP program are not available but do check with the OLI Chair. Please note that access to doctoral courses outside of the OLI program is not guaranteed and will be contingent on certain factors including, but not limited to, approval from the other Wilmington University doctoral program’s Chair, timing, seat availability and course prerequisites. Other conditions and specifics can be found in the Concentration Plan Form, which students will receive from the OLI Chair. All pathways must be approved by the OLI Chair before registering for coursework.

Field Experience Consulting Project (6 credits)

OLI 8001 Internal and External Organizational Consulting

OLI 8002 Consulting Project Execution and Reporting

Dissertation in Practice (6 credits)

OLI 9000 Applied Research Dissertation Project I

OLI 9001 Applied Research Dissertation Project II

OLI 9004: Dissertation Research Sustaining (if needed – 0 credits, ½ tuition).  Must maintain continuous enrollment in OLI 9004 until Dissertation research is completed.

Dissertation In Practice Project

The Dissertation In Practice (DIP) is supervised by a committee mutually agreed upon by the student and their DIP Advisor (6 credits). Students should follow the DIP Manual which includes an outline of the program’s four-chapter format.  All DIPs are expected to be "applied" research which focus on addressing an organizational related “problem of practice” which leadership agrees must be addressed through the development, implementation and/or assessment of a “solution”.  All dissertations in practice will go through a multi-step approval process which includes the Program Chair, Approval Committee, DIP Advisor and HSRC prior to any research being conducted. In some cases, additional University approval may be needed.

Qualifications for Degree

To qualify for the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree, a student must complete the prescribed 54-credit hour program with a minimum 3.0 grade point average. Successful presentation of the portfolio in the third year advances the student to candidacy. A culminating applied dissertation in practice project presented for written publication and orally to the dissertation committee is required. The dissertation presentation is open to the public. In addition, candidates are required to complete a consulting project and a reflective portfolio of development activities that demonstrates leadership competency across the OLI nine program standards. While students can complete the program in just three years, the entire program must be completed within five years. If the program is not completed within a five-year period, a petition for a time extension is necessary. Students may request a leave of absence for illness or work circumstances that preclude participation in the program.  Students need to formally reapply to the program if they have taken a leave of absence for more than a year. Students may need to re-take two of the research courses to be reinstated if they have taken more than a two-year leave of absence.

This information applies to students who enter this degree program during the 2023-2024 Academic Year. If you entered this degree program before the Fall 2022 semester, please refer to the academic catalog for the year you began your degree program.