Research Spotlight: Justin Ortagus


Q & A withJustin Ortagus, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Higher Education Administration & Policy and Director of the Institute of Higher Education

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

My work is typically at the intersection of innovation and higher education. The primary research question driving my scholarship relates to the growing influence of online education and technology in higher education. Colleges and universities are often referenced as slow to adopt change in any form, but the use of computer-mediated instruction and information technology (IT) has become the new normal. My basic objective is to provide generalizable evidence pertaining to the impact of these relatively new technologies. In addition to questions related to online education and technology, I’m also interested in examining organizational responses to various broad-based policies and external pressures affecting the provision of higher education.

What makes your work interesting?

To answer this question, I’ll narrow the scope to focus on my work related to examining the effectiveness of online education in higher education. I’m not a futurist or someone who believes that online education can serve as a panacea for all of higher education’s problems, but computer-mediated instruction has the potential to offer relief to some fundamental issues facing colleges and universities, such as continually rising costs. Despite the potential for cost savings, faculty and administrators at many colleges and universities have questions regarding how effective online education has been in maintaining (or improving) the academic outcomes of various student populations across institution types. Surprisingly, nobody really knows the answer to these questions. My work seeks to fill that void by providing nationally generalizable evidence of the effectiveness of online education in higher education.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on several projects. First, I have two studies in which I provide generalizable evidence of (1) the profile of postsecondary online students and (2) the effect of online enrollment on several academic outcomes. Second, I’m examining the extent to which IT spending influences the makeup of higher education personnel. Finally, I’m also working on a collaborative project with Dr. Dennis Kramer in which we explore the role of no-loan programs on the post-baccalaureate enrollment choices of first-generation students. This work is funded by the Association for Institutional Research and the Access Group Center for Research and Policy Analysis.

OER Annual Report of Accomplishments for Fiscal Year 2015

The Office of Educational Research (OER) is currently completing a draft of its Annual Report outlining data on externally funded projects and grants activities. Faculty productivity has been sustained, and efforts toward securing external funding remain active.

The following represents a summary of accomplishments for FY 2015:

  • COE faculty members in all schools and centers submitted 89 proposals, requesting over $79 million in external funding. This represents a 27.9% increase in the total dollar amount of proposals as compared to the prior fiscal year. Proposals were submitted to 43 agencies.
  • COE Principal Investigators (PIs) and Co-PIs received funding for 54 new awards totaling over $28.8 million. These new awards included three contracts from the US DOE–IES, two contracts from the US DOE (Office of Special Education Programs), three contracts from the NSF, and one contract from the US VA. Of the total dollar amount of newly funded awards, 63% was funded by federal agencies or organizations. The COE experienced an 81.1% increase in the total dollar amount of newly funded awards, nearly doubling its newly funded award total dollar amount for the second year in a row as compared to the previous fiscal year.
  • COE schools and centers have 106 currently funded projects totaling over $97 million. Of the total dollar amount of currently funded projects, 71% was funded by federal agencies or organizations. The COE experienced a 12.3% increase in the total dollar amount of currently funded projects as compared to the previous fiscal year.
  • Research funding per faculty member totaled over $513,290, which is 14.7% higher than the previous fiscal year. Of the 189 COE faculty members eligible to submit proposals, 59 (31.2%) received external funding as PI or Co-PI, and 53 (28.0%) submitted a proposal. The total dollar amount of collaborative newly funded awards increased over nine times from the prior fiscal year, representing over $10 million in newly funded collaborations with PIs or Co-PIs outside COE.


NSF Launches New Automated Proposal Submission Compliance Checks

Effective August 1, 2016, all National Science Foundation (NSF) proposals will be subject to a new series of automated compliance validation checks to ensure proposals comply with requirements outlined in Chapter II.C.2. of the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG).

Please note that the new set of compliance checks are in addition to the compliance checks that currently exist in FastLane. See the NSF website for a complete list of FastLane auto-compliance checks.

The list specifies which checks are run depending on funding opportunity type (GPG, Program Description, Program Announcement, or Program Solicitation) and type of proposal (Research, RAPID, EAGER, Ideas Lab, Conference, Equipment, International Travel, Facility/Center, or Fellowship). It also specifies whether the check triggers a “warning” or “error” message for non-compliant proposals.

The new set of automated compliance checks will trigger error messages for each of the following rules:

  • Biographical Sketch(es) and Current and Pending Support files are required  for each Senior Personnel associated with a proposal; and
  • Biographical Sketch(es) can only be uploaded as a file, must not exceed two pages and can no longer be entered as text.

For more information, see the NSF Automated Compliance Checking of NSF Proposals webpage.

UF Issues New F&A (Indirect) Rates

The University of Florida has been issued new F&A (indirect) rates effective July 28, 2016. The on-campus research rate increases from 50% to 52.5%. The following provides details on the impact of these increases on new proposals, existing awards, and pending awards:

New proposals (including supplements and any other request for funding not already committed by a sponsor): Effective immediately all proposals must use the new F&A rates. Only awards with exceptions specifically identified in accordance with the University’s Facilities & Administrative Cost Policy (F&A Policy and F&A Directives and Procedures) may use rates different than those provided in the negotiated agreement. UFIRST has been update to reflect these rates. Progress reports, continuations, and other proposals to request release of already committed funding may continue to reflect the existing rate.

Note that under the new agreement, only ONE rate may be applied to each award. The rate will be determined by how the majority of activity is performed under the project (i.e. off-campus, in an REC, or for a particular activity – Research, Other Sponsored Activity, or Instruction), and that rate will apply to the entire award.

Awards received by UF before July 28, 2016: For awards received by UF before July 28, the F&A rate on the award (and likely entered into UFIRST and myUFL) will apply to that award for the life of the award. “Life” shall mean for the competitive segment approved by the funding agency at the time of the initial award. For those projects that receive scheduled installments within an existing award, (for example, multi-year NIH and NSF awards are often distributed to the university in one-year budgetary installments), the Office of Research will ensure that the rates in place prior to July 28 remain in effect for the life of these awards.

Awards received by UF after July 28, 2016 and with effective dates after July 1, 2016 (including those in response to proposals submitted with budgets based on old rates): For all awards received on or after July 28, 2016, the new rates will be applied. This includes all new, supplements and competitive segments to existing awards.  It does not include funding for incremental obligations on existing awards. In awards in which the proposed budget was submitted based on the old rates, you should not anticipate receiving additional funds from the sponsor or University to cover the increased cost of F&A. These projects may need to be re-budgeted with the direct costs reduced to cover the additional F&A.

Only awards with exceptions specifically identified in accordance with the University’s Facilities & Administrative Cost Policy (F&A Policy and F&A Directives and Procedures) may use rates different than those provided in the negotiated agreement.

The new rates are listed on the UF F&A Rates (IDC) webpage.

A DSP Reminder: No Cost Extension Requests

All no cost extensions are created and submitted through UFIRST–Award Modification. Creating a UFIRST Award Modification will facilitate collection of the appropriate programmatic justification, requested new end date, and changes to commitment required for the Division of Sponsored Programs (DSP) to review, approve, or request sponsor approval of a no cost extension.

You must meet the deadlines. No cost extension requests should be submitted through UFIRST to DSP no later than 30 days prior to the grant’s current expiration date. This allows plenty of time to meet federal deadlines, as follows:

This includes no cost extensions of NSF grants. By providing the information in UFIRST as an Award Modification, DSP will enter the information for you in Research.gov (Fastlane is no longer being used for no cost extension requests).

  • Upon approval of an internal extension, DSP must provide written notification to Federal Agency’s Grant Officer at least (10) ten days prior to the original expiration date of the award. If this notification deadline is missed, DSP may not exercise its ability to extend the grant, without the sponsor’s approval.

1) No Cost Extensions Approved by DSP

DSP may extend the final budget period of most federal grants, one time, for up to (12) twelve months beyond the original expiration date, as long as sufficient funds are available and no change in the project’s originally approved scope or objectives, and at least one of the following applies:

  • Additional time beyond the established expiration date is required to ensure adequate completion of the originally approved project.
  • Continuity of grant support is required while a competing continuation application is under review.
  • The extension is necessary to permit an orderly phase out of a project that will not receive continued support.

The fact that funds are anticipated to remain unspent is not a sufficient justification for an extension. Awards that have little to no available balance will not be extended.

2)  No Cost Extension Requiring Sponsor Approval

The Principal Investigator should construct a letter or email addressed to the sponsor’s contracting officer that provides a Scientific/Programmatic Justification for the need of additional time and should give an overview of the remaining budget and how the funds will be used during the extension period. In most cases, these requests are required to be countersigned or endorsed by a DSP Authorized official before being sent to the sponsor.

PI’s or Department staff upload the letter to the UFIRST Award modification and execute the Submit for Review activity. DSP will review, sign and forward to the sponsor. DSP recognizes we have a variety of sponsors and some sponsor are less formal than others and will accept reasonable and appropriate documentation from sponsor personnel that acknowledge they concur with the extension.

Upon the sponsor’s approval or concurrence, DSP will complete the UFIRST- Award Modification and transfer the record to C&G Accounting who will extend the myUFL Project’s end date, including any subprojects, as appropriate. The DSP subaward office will generate the no cost extension amendment for any subrecipient needing the additional time.

For more information, see the UF No Cost Extension Requests webpage.

Questions: If you have questions regarding no cost extension, please contact DSP at ufawards@ufl.edu.

UFIRST Awards Open Labs in August

From the Division of Sponsored Programs:

The Division of Sponsored Programs (DSP) is hosting UFIRST Awards Open Lab sessions to provide one-on-one help and answers to your questions about UFIRST. During these sessions DSP staff will be on hand to answer questions and provide assistance with entering items in the Awards module. These sessions are informal and users are welcome to arrive and depart as needed.

In order to best meet the needs of the campus community, open labs will now be offered at a variety of locations and times. No registration is required. Review the schedule below to find a session that’s convenient for you!

Tuesday, August 30th 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. HRS, Room 119
Tuesday, September 6th 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. HUB Computer Lab 221
Tuesday, September 13th 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. HSC Computer Lab C2-3
Tuesday, September 20th 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. HRS, Room 119
Tuesday, October 4th 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. HUB Computer Lab 221
Tuesday, October 11th 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. HSC Computer Lab C2-3
Tuesday, October 18th 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. HSC Computer Lab C2-3

For any UFIRST questions, please email ufirst@research.ufl.edu or call 392-5991.

NCES Introduces Online Dataset Training Modules

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has launched its Distance Learning Dataset Training (DLDT) system. The DLDT computer-based training module resource is an online, interactive tool allowing users to learn about NCES data across the education spectrum and evaluate data for suitability for particular research, policy, teaching, and other purposes.

NCES data are appropriate for use by researchers, students, policy specialists, education professionals, and anyone who is interested in student and school outcomes at all levels.

To help users conduct successful analyses and make appropriate use of NCES data, the DLDT is designed to introduce users to the intricacies of various NCES datasets including their designs, what the data represent, how the data were collected, and specific considerations for analysis.

The DLDT is also a teaching tool that can be used by individuals both in and out of the classroom to learn about NCES complex sample survey and administrative data collections and appropriate analysis methods.

There are two types of NCES DLDT modules available: common modules and dataset-specific modules. The common modules help users broadly understand NCES data across the education spectrum, introduce complex sample survey methods, and explain how to acquire NCES micro-data. The dataset-specific modules introduce and educate users about particular datasets.

Access the DLDT system and learn more about the NCES datasets at: http://nces.ed.gov/training/datauser/

You can also read more about the modules in our latest blog: http://nces.ed.gov/blogs/nces/post/learning-to-use-the-data-online-dataset-training-modules

Reprinted from IES Newsflash 7/6/2016

RAFT Program Begins in September

UF’s Division of Sponsored Programs and Contracts & Grants will once again offer the Research Administration & Financials Training (RAFT) professional development series providing UF research administrators with “a lifeline” to the research community.

Interested applicants should email a completed program application form to Steve Slater, grants training manager for UF Training and Organizational Development by August 19.

Designed for research administrators with one year or less of grants management experience, the RAFT Level One Cohort is a 12-session classroom series that provides a thorough introduction to all aspects of sponsored programs management at UF. In addition, the RAFT Level One Cohort is designed to foster peer relationships within the grants community. Each cohort is limited to a small number of participants to ensure networking and relationship building.  Participants who successfully complete the series will be awarded a certificate of completion.

The cohort will meet once a week starting in September and continuing through early December. To apply, participants must be able to attend all program sessions and have the appropriate supervisor support.

Session Date Time Location
1– Overview of Sponsored Programs 09/13/16 3:00-5:00 PM Clinical and Translational Research (CTRB 2161)
2 – Finding Funding & Limited Opportunities 09/20/16 9:00-11:00 AM HRS (Room 120)
3 – Solicitation Review & Proposal Development 09/27/16 9:00-11:00 AM HRS (Room 120)
4 – Budget Development 10/04/15 1:30-4:30 PM HRS (Room 120)
5 – Open Lab 10/11/16 2:00-5:00 PM HUB Computer Lab 221
6 – Awards: Negotiation & Setup 10/18/16 2:00-4:00 PM Communicore C2-033
7 – Non-Fiscal Compliance 10/25/16 11:45-1:30 PM HPNP G-114
8 – Cost Principles Advanced Topics 11/01/16 9:00-11:00 AM Communicore C2-033
9 – Effort Advanced Topics 11/08/16 2:00-4:00 PM Communicore C2-033
10 – Post Award Overview 11/15/16 2:00-4:00 PM Communicore C2-033
11 – Post-Award Best Practices 11/29/16 2:00-4:00 PM HUB Computer Lab 221
12 – Graduation 12/06/16 3:00-5:00 PM Clinical and Translational Research (CTRB 2161)

If you have questions about the RAFT Level One Cohort, please contact Stephanie Gray, assistant vice president for the Division of Sponsored Programs, at (352) 392-3516; or Tiffany Schmidt, associate director for Contracts & Grants, at (352) 273-3101.

Awarded Projects for July 2016

College of Education
Awarded Projects
July 2016
Principal Investigator: Isaac McFarlin (SHDOSE)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: University of Michigan (Subcontract – IES Flow Through)
Project Title: On the Importance of School Facilities Spending to Student Outcomes
Project Period: 1/1/2016 – 6/30/2017
Award Amount: $213,793
Principal Investigator: Donald Pemberton (Lastinger Center for Learning)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Florida’s Office of Early Learning
Project Title: Office of Early Learning VPK Instructor Support
Project Period: 3/4/2016 – 7/29/2016
Award Amount: $4,180


Submitted Projects for July 2016

College of Education
Submitted Projects
July 2016
Principal Investigator: Mary Brownell (SSESPECS)
Co-PI: Amber Benedict (SSESPECS)
Funding Agency: US Department of Education/IES
Proposal Title: Project Coordinate: Increasing Coordinated Use of Evidence-based Practices for Improving Word Study in an RTI Framework for Teams of 4th Grade Teachers
Requested Amount: $1,400,000
Principal Investigator: Cynthia Griffin (SSESPECS)
Co-PI: James Algina (SSESPECS), Nancy Dana (STL)
Funding Agency: US Department of Education/IES
Proposal Title: Efficacy of Prime Online: Teacher Professional Development for Inclusive Elementary Mathematics Classrooms
Requested Amount: $3,237,063
Principal Investigator: Mildred Maldonado Molina (Health Outcomes and Policy)
Co-PI: Lisa Langley (Lastinger Center for Learning)
Funding Agency: Florida Department of Education
Proposal Title: OEL Web Portal
Requested Amount: $21,737
Principal Investigator: Ann Corinne Manley (SHDOSE)
Co-PI: Amber Benedict (SSESPECS)
Funding Agency: US Department of Education/IES
Proposal Title: Project DIMES: Diagnostic Instrument for Morphology of Elementary Students
Requested Amount: $1,377,687
Principal Investigator: Donald Pemberton (Lastinger Center for Learning)
Co-PI: Walter Leite (SHDOSE)
Funding Agency: Florida’s Office of Early Learning
Proposal Title: Pay for Performance 2016-17
Requested Amount: $1,977,452
Principal Investigator: Donald Pemberton (Lastinger Center for Learning)
Co-PI: Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)
Funding Agency: Charleston County School District
Proposal Title: Charleston Literacy Coaching
Requested Amount: $675,000
Principal Investigator: Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)
Co-PI: Donald Pemberton (Lastinger Center for Learning), Thomasenia Lott Adams (Office of Educational Research), Carole Beal (STL), Joy Schackow (STL), Walter Leite (SHDOSE)
Funding Agency: US Department of Education/i3
Proposal Title: Math Nation: Cost-effectively Advancing Rigorous Standards
Requested Amount: $11,959,124