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Research Spotlight: Albert Ritzhaupt

Q & A with Albert Ritzhaupt, Associate Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning

What basic questions does your research seek to answer?

While my research interests are varied, my core research agenda attempts to answer two general research questions: (1) How do you design, develop, and albert-ritzhauptevaluate technology-enhanced learning environments? and (2) What factors influence technology integration into formal educational settings?

These two research questions have led me down a path to study a wide variety of technology-enhanced learning environments, ranging from multimedia learning environments to game-based learning environments. Further, I have studied factors that both facilitate and hinder technology integration in educational environments, such as the digital divide, leadership, and community engagement.

I use a wide variety of research methods to answer my research questions. I employ traditional experimental design research methods for testing many of my instructional designs and innovations in technology-enhanced learning environments. Additionally, I use classical and modern test theory to establish measurement systems to inform my research and the research of others, using procedures such as exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis, and more. I have employed literature synthesis and meta-analysis procedures to synthesize across primary studies. I have also used more complex procedures for analyzing larger data sets, including multi-level modeling and structural equation modeling techniques. Although I was never trained to use qualitative measures, over the years, I have added some qualitative techniques to my toolbox, such as the constant comparative method or phenomenology to answer different types of research questions.

What makes your work interesting?

I cannot answer this question for everyone else (you would have to ask others), but I can tell you what makes me passionate about my work. I have seen information and communication technology (ICT) open doors for students, teachers, instructional designers, trainers, and many others. ICT has given us the potential to do things we would not be able to accomplish otherwise, such as visualization, economy of scale, sharing of resources, and more. In all of my research, I try to provide the readers with a theoretical or conceptual framework to understand the empirical aspects of my work.

What are you currently working on?

Like most of us, I have TOO MANY projects going on right now to write about them all. However, I will note two projects that I am presently excited about. The first project is a meta-analysis of the flipped classroom empirical literature. Many educators are moving to a flipped classroom model where homework is done in class via collaborative problem-solving activities (active learning), and lecture is moved to the online space typically as video capture. We have already presented this research to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT). We are presently working on the manuscript, which we hope to submit to the Review of Educational Research journal.

The second project is a NIH grant funded project where I am a co-Principal Investigator with some excellent researchers in medicine at UF and at UC Denver. The purpose of the grant is first to design and develop a short course focused on estimating power and sample size for longitudinal multi-level model designs. Sample size is an important issue in that if you overestimate, you potentially expose more people to risk than necessary. Conversely, if you underestimate, you may not reach your scientific goals and objectives. We will create a workshop to teach researchers about these ideas, and then create a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for dissemination on a wider scale.

National Science Foundation Offers Free Webcast

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced that the Fall 2016 NSF Grants Conference Plenary (General) Sessions will be webcast live November 14-15, 2016 at no cost to the research community. NSF staff will speak to the state of current funding, review new and current policies and procedures, and provide updates on pertinent administrative issues.

You can expect to learn more about the following topics:

  • New programs and initiatives
  • Proposal preparation
  • NSF’s merit review process
  • Conflict of interest policies
  • Award Administration
  • NSF Faculty Early Career Program

The live webcast of the conference will be held on November 14-15, 2016.  We encourage you to view the full webcast agenda for additional information, and to see scheduled times. Please note that the conference is taking place in Pittsburgh, PA, so all times are EST.

Register here. Webcast login information will be emailed to registrants on Thursday, November 10th. These sessions will also be recorded for on-demand viewing once the conference has concluded. Presentations will also be available on the conference website.

If you have any questions regarding live webcasting, please contact us at grants_conference@nsf.gov, or call Allison Kennedy at: 703-245-7407.

How to Write Successful Collaborative Grant Applications

Multidisciplinary collaborative research grant applications are becoming the norm for early and seasoned investigators. But navigating through these applications is different from writing an application as a single investigator. For one thing, scientists from different fields need to share the writing. While there is literature on general strategies for writing a multidisciplinary grant application, this endeavor is still new enough that we continue to figure out the specifics.

This article identifies four key strategies to writing a successful collaborative grant application.

(Excerpted from an article by Barbara St. Pierre Schneider, a research professor of nursing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in the Grant Training Center blog, April 4, 2016)

My recent experience in writing an interdisciplinary collaborative research grant differed from my previous ones in that there were three rather than two of us involved in the process. In addition, my two collaborators were from a discipline far from my health science expertise: electrical and computer engineering.

There were parts of the methods that I just couldn’t write because they were beyond my expertise. I had mixed feelings about this inability to write. While I had confidence in my collaborators, I felt totally dependent upon them. On the other hand, this feeling of dependence meant to me that we had formed a true interdisciplinary collaboration.

Through this experience, I have identified four key strategies that worked for us to complete and submit the grant application and feel a sense of accomplishment during the process.

  1. Be clear about collaborators’ expertise and contributions.

Successful grant writing requires that collaborators are clear on what everyone’s expertise is and how this expertise fits with the project’s specific aims. Prior to this grant submission, we were asked to write a white paper. It wasn’t long into the writing process that I realized our good fortune of having written this paper: our research question and approach were solidified, our contributions and expertise were transparent, and our current effort was pure writing instead of conceptualizing as we were writing. But you and your collaborators don’t need to wait for an opportunity to write a white paper. Consider writing one as the collaboration is forming.

  1. Communicate frequently with your collaborators.

During a four-week period, we were in constant communication about the grant. Initially, the three of us had one in-person meeting to review our scientific approach. Then we communicated almost on a daily basis via email. One week before the application, I had another in-person meeting with one collaborator. This meeting was helpful as the collaborator had specific questions about the context of this proposed work within the state of the science. Not only did these questions enhance the collaborator’s understanding of the scientific field, but these questions also helped me to identify areas that I needed to strengthen or clarify within the proposal.

It’s common sense that constant communication is critical to the success of writing a collaborative grant application; however, we are not always intentional about our communication plan, and we all have different approaches to checking and responding to email. So it doesn’t hurt to discuss communication approaches at the start of writing the grant. For example, try to schedule at least two in-person meetings in advance—one at the start and one near the deadline. If you don’t need the second or subsequent meetings, then you can always cancel. It’s easier to schedule in advance than later. Also, to prevent any communication breakdowns, ensure all collaborators are included in email traffic. It’s a simple way to keep everyone in the loop and to create a record of reference for you and your collaborators.

  1. Outsource tasks when possible.

Because we only had four weeks to draft the grant, as the lead co-principal investigator (co-PI), I decided to seek assistance from others so I could focus on the science for the proposal. For example, in my department, we have one staff person who can create a budget table and prepare a budget justification and another staff person who provides guidance in creating National Institutes of Health (NIH) biographical sketches. In addition, I enlisted the assistance of an outside editor to do editing/proofing. This editor helped with ascertaining the strengths of our case, ensuring the grant application read as one voice and met the formatting and content guidelines, and writing mechanics were correct.

These support individuals made a huge difference in completing and submitting a polished grant application, so I highly recommend outsourcing these tasks to these experts. At a research university, staff who can advise about grant budgets are usually available. Also, for specific grant requirements (e.g., the NIH biographical sketch), reach out to colleagues who have completed a similar grant proposal or visit the institution’s website for guidance and/or samples.

In terms of editing support, check with your institution’s research or sponsored programs office to learn if editorial assistance is available. Another viable—and valuable—option is to hire a graduate student as an hourly worker to help with these tasks. A graduate student with a particular expertise can be just as effective at creating budgets, drafting biosketches, and editing your proposal as a full-time employee.

  1. Develop a strategic plan for writing the grant.

Finally, as the lead co-PI, I was strategic about the order in which the different application sections were completed. For our specific project, there were five required sections: the project narrative, the one-page summary for the future external grant application, the budget, the curriculum vitae (the NIH biographical sketch), and the description of current and pending support.

I chose to complete the project narrative first because I wanted to ensure that I had the creative energy and time for multiple revisions, especially since this application involved three writers. Plus, I needed to complete the project narrative before starting the one-page summary since this would describe the subsequent project to be submitted to an external funding agency. The budget table and justification were also completed early because the budget affected the project timeline, which was part of the project narrative. I was intentional in waiting until the project narrative was almost done to complete the curriculum vitae and support sections because I knew I would be outsourcing this task and could complete these even after much of my creative energy had been used up.

So when writing this type of grant, develop a strategic plan. This plan needs to account for the high and low points of your creative energy, the order in which multiple writers will need to contribute, the order in which sections need to be written, and the availability of support individuals. Even as a collaborator who is not the lead co-PI, you can develop a strategic plan so that your creative energy is highest when you need to contribute to sections, such as the project narrative. Finally, don’t forget to set deadlines as part of this plan. If you are the lead co-PI, you may propose these. If you are a collaborator, you may offer counter deadlines. When you can’t meet these, give new ones to ensure that the work will get done in a timely manner.

Although writing an interdisciplinary research collaborative grant application can be intimidating, implementing these four strategies will likely reduce this feeling, allowing you to be more confident and composed throughout the entire writing process.

Navigating Collaborative Grant Research

Collaboration pays, so funding agencies are promoting team research. Running a successful collaboration, especially one with several leaders at multiple sites, means thinking like a CEO: vetting partners, delegating responsibilities, and making tough management decisions. Researchers in multisite, multi-investigator projects need to adjust their grant-writing approach and work culture.

(Excerpted from an article by Chris Tachibana, September 13, 2013, in Science, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science)

“Resources are shrinking,” says Alicia Knoedler, associate vice president for research, University of Oklahoma. “So government, industry, and some private funders prefer a collaborative approach.” Getting experts to work together on a problem can be more effective than supporting many separate projects.

Strong Relationships

“My most important advice about collaborations,” says Knoedler, “is to build strong research relationships in advance.” All collaborators must know they are crucial members of the research team or they’ll drop the ball or drop out. And tokenism shows in a proposal, says Knoedler. “It’s obvious to reviewers when people have just been placed on a team and not integrated into it.”

Creating a functional cross-disciplinary research team requires serious vetting. Choose senior investigators because agencies tend to fund people with an established record. Look for team players and select collaborators who are experts in their field and people you can count on to deliver results that integrate into the overall project goals.

Diversity and Unity

Once you have your research dream team, set ground rules, says Barry Bozeman, an Arizona State University professor of public policy who is studying the dos and don’ts of collaborations for the NSF. “People focus on getting the money and don’t worry about other issues until it’s too late,” he says. “Intersector work can be fraught with misunderstanding and managing a heterodox team is hard.” Scientific disciplines differ in their norms about authorship and credit, work culture, and expectations about intellectual property rights and distribution of results. Discuss those issues in advance, says Bozeman. The decision-making process and the budget should be clear as well as the division of labor and timelines, he says. “Let people know what they are expected to do and when.”

Mark Gerstein a professor of biomedical informatics and computer science at Yale University says collaborating lets him contribute to research that has a greater impact than single-laboratory studies. Gerstein recognizes that this work doesn’t fit in the tenure-track groove, though. “Most universities expect you to bring in your own money and publish your own papers, so I do that as well.” Gerstein first puts students and postdocs in his lab on large collaborations, then gives them smaller follow-up projects for their own first-author papers. This strategy has placed lab members in faculty positions around the world. Collaboration has pros and cons, says Gerstein. “Sometimes you have to wait to publish until the consortium is ready, and you can’t always do things the way you want to. But the benefit is being on high-impact publications and highly connected work. For these projects,” he says, “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and I’ve profited from being part of the whole.”

5 Tips for Federal Grant Management: Multiple Awards

Are you managing multiple awards from multiple federal agencies? If so, then you know it takes planning and diligence to make sure that the federal dollars are used, tracked, and reported to each federal agency following the specific requirements set forth by the individual set of terms and conditions and the agency-specific grant regulations.

The following article provides five tips to help you better manage multiple federal grants.

(Excerpted from an article by Lucy Morgan CPA, MBA and director of MyFedTrainer.com, August 27, 2015)

Tip #1: Start right from the beginning.

When you first get a Notice of Award (NOA) there are a number of steps you should take to get started on the right foot:

  • Begin by reviewing all materials related to the award.
  • Set up a reporting calendar that identifies the various important dates mandated by the Federal agency.
  • Better yet, have a master calendar that includes all critical dates from all grantors.
  • Assign a team of people or a leader to administer each individual grant.
  • Alert financial staff of the new award and specific terms and conditions so they are on notice to ensure policies and procedures reducing the risk of both misuse and direct theft of funds are in place and regular monitoring is taking place.

Tip #2: Train program staff and other stakeholders on the requirements of federal grants.

Adequate training is one of the keys to administering multiple grants in ways that ensure the effective and efficient completion of the project along with compliance with individual grant requirements.

Here are some specifics:

  • Make sure that employees working on the grant (both directly and indirectly) are sufficiently trained to be effective at grant management.
  • Communicate requirements for time and effort reporting to individual employees.
  • Ensure that individual employee’s record their time throughout the work day indicating the duration of time and effort spent on different projects and mark it clearly on their timesheet.
  • Conduct regular reviews of project budgets, including exercising due diligence to find any errors and omissions where expenses may have been misapplied among multiple awards.

Tip #3: Select a central person as the grant administrator.

When you have multiple grants, managed by multiple people it can be a challenge to keep juggling all the roles and responsibilities without dropping a few balls. That is why I believe best practices for managing multiple awards include appointing a center grant administrator.

This person would be responsible for the following:

  • Oversight of grant administration by all the individual grant managers or grant team leads
  • Coordination and review of the fiscal reporting for each grant
  • Monitoring the individual awards for discrepancies or misreporting of how federal funds have been spent and reported back to the federal agencies
  • Confirming that all required milestones (including cost-share requirements) spelled out in the individual grants are met and that reporting to the federal agency has happened on schedule

Tip #4: Set up a grants management master file.

Let’s face it, grant management includes a lot of paperwork and requirements. To keep track of all the various key elements, I recommend the use of a grants management master file, including a fully maintained file for each individual award as well.

The grants management master file should include the following:

  • Original RFP
  • Notice of award (NOA)
  • Final approved budget, scope, and work plan
  • Subsequent budget revisions and prior approvals
  • Monitoring reports
  • Meeting minutes as applicable
  • Financial and narrative reports required by the funding agency
  • Log of required communication and other critical interactions
  • Other documentation related to meeting project milestones and/or performance measurements
  • Any other forms required by the federal agency

Keeping the grants management master file current and complete enables the award recipient to efficiently and effectively manage each award in a way that reduces risk and increases responsiveness to any changes in compliance with the terms and conditions of the individual award.

Tip #5: Build habits of communicating and using tracking tools from the start.

It doesn’t matter if you are managing one grant or one hundred federal awards supporting strong communication and tracking tools (whether manual processes or software solutions) will improve your grant management.

I advise you to encourage regular communication with each funding source’s program officer. It’s better to be proactive and contact the program officer with questions rather than risk the negative consequences of non-compliance with the grant requirements.

Awarded Projects for October 2016

College of Education
Awarded Projects
October 2016
Principal Investigator: Kent Crippen (STL)
Co-PI: Chang-Yu Wu (Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment), Maria Korolev (Chemistry), Philip Brucat (Chemistry)
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation
Project Title: ChANgE Chem Lab: Cognitive Apprenticeship for Engineers in Chem Lab
Project Period: 9/1/2016 – 8/31/2019
Award Amount: $599,333
Principal Investigator: Daniel Connaughton (Department of Recreation, Tourism & Sport Management)
Co-PI: M. David Miller (SHDOSE)
Funding Agency: Florida Department of Transportation
Project Title: Florida Safe Routes to School Non-Infrastructure Program
Project Period: 8/10/2016 – 6/30/2017
Award Amount: $23,515.75
Principal Investigator: M. David Miller (SHDOSE)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Project Title: IPA for Christiana Akande
Project Period: 10/4/2016 – 3/31/2017
Award Amount: $10,861.52
Principal Investigator: Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Alachua County School Board
Project Title: Alachua Turnaround School Support
Project Period: 9/20/2016 – 6/30/2017
Award Amount: $90,200
Principal Investigator: Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Duval County School Board
Project Title: Duval County Faculty Literacy Professional Development
Project Period: 7/1/2016 – 6/30/2017
Award Amount: $74,415
Principal Investigator: Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Children’s Trust
Project Title: TCT Early Learning Coaching
Project Period: 10/1/2016 – 9/30/2017
Award Amount: $24,000

 

Submitted Projects for October 2016

College of Education
Submitted Projects
October 2016
Principal Investigator: Matthew Gurka (Institute for Child Health Policy)
Co-PI: Linda Behar-Horenstein (SHDOSE)
Funding Agency: National Institutes of Health
Proposal Title: OneFlorida Implementation Science in Cardiovascular Disease (OFIS-CVD) K12 Career Development Program
Requested Amount: $62,237
Principal Investigator: Herman Knopf (AZCEECS/SSESPECS)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: University of South Carolina (Subcontract – Administration for Children and Families Flow-Through)
Proposal Title: Child Care Accessibility Index: Leveraging SC Child Care Administrative Data to Inform State CCDBG Subsidy Policies
Requested Amount: $28,040
Principal Investigator: Ashley MacSuga-Gage (SSESPECS)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: University of South Florida (Subcontract – Florida Department of Education Flow-Through)
Proposal Title: Florida Positive Behavioral Support: Multi-Tiered System of Supports (FLPBIS-MTSS)
Requested Amount: $58,066
Principal Investigator: Janice Raup-Krieger (Advertising Department)
Co-PI: Anne Corinne Huggins-Manley (SHDOSE)
Funding Agency: National Institutes of Health
Proposal Title: Engaging Patients in Informed Decision-Making about Cancer Research Studies Using Electronic Health Records
Requested Amount: $95,939
Principal Investigator: M. David Miller (SHDOSE)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Proposal Title: IPA for Christiana Akande
Requested Amount: $10,861
Principal Investigator: Donald Pemberton (Lastinger Center for Learning)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Berkeley County School District
Proposal Title: Berkeley County Early Learning Courses and COP
Requested Amount: $94,688
Principal Investigator: Philip Poekert (Lastinger Center for Learning)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Duval County School Board
Proposal Title: Duval County Whole Faculty Literacy Professional Development
Requested Amount: $74,415
Principal Investigator: Patricia Snyder (AZCEECS/SSESPECS)
Co-PI: N/A
Funding Agency: Florida Department of Health
Proposal Title: Increasing Social-Emotional Outcomes for Florida’s Early Steps Infants/Toddlers: Institutions of Higher Education Supporting the Three Model Demonstration Sites to Implement the Demonstration Site Implementation Plan
Requested Amount: $656,151