U.S. News ranks college’s online ed program 1st in state, 18th in nation

The College of Education at the University of Florida is one of two UF colleges with online master’s degree programs rated first in the state and in the top 20 […]

The College of Education at the University of Florida is one of two UF colleges with online master’s degree programs rated first in the state and in the top 20 nationally in their respective specialties, according to rankings announced Jan. 15 by U.S. News & World Report.

The College of Education’s distance learning program ranked 18th in the magazine’s 2013 Best Online Graduate Education Programs reference guide, higher than any other Florida education college. Campuswide, only the Hough Graduate School of Business ranked higher, placing fourth in its specialty. Other top UF performers were the College of Engineering at 26th and UF’s online bachelor’s degree programs at 34th.

This is the second year that U.S. News has collected data on distance learning programs in higher education. U.S. News ranks education programs based on wide-ranging criteria that includes admissions selectivity, student services and engagement, technology, and faculty credentials.

“Our online education courses are designed by top-flight faculty using the latest knowledge about best practices in web-based learning environments. Our goal is to develop master educators who can lead transformations in practice,” said Tom Dana, COE associate dean for academic affairs.

He said “the feature that sets our online programs apart” is a cohort instructional approach with extensive student-to-student and student-to-teacher interaction.

Dana has steered the development of UF’s online education program since its inception in 2004, when 57 students enrolled in three graduate distance-learning courses. The program has grown exponentially.

In the 2011-12 academic year, nearly 1,200 individual students took online courses at the College of Education, including all advanced degree programs, generating more than 3,300 total enrollments and nearly 10,000 credit hours. The college offered 114 fully online courses and nearly 280 “blended” courses, mixing online and face-to-face instruction.

“The emphasis on student engagement makes this ranking particularly rewarding because we strive to integrate innovative instructional approaches that best take advantage of how adults learn in online environments,” said Kara Dawson, who coordinates the College’s education technology program.

The College’s distance learning program brings together diverse and far-ranging students from around the world. According to Dan McCoy, senior director of e-learning and technology at the college, online students last year ranged in age from 18 to 65 and hailed from six countries, 25 states and some 200 Florida cities and towns.

The College offers three online master’s degrees: teacher leadership for school improvement (TLSI), education technology and Teach Well (teaching students with disabilities). The job-embedded TLSI program won the national Association of Teacher Educators’ 2011 Distinguished Program in Teacher Education Award.

“We’ve been able to attract the best and brightest students to our online programs. We provide world-class faculty who have embraced online education as a way to be innovative in their teaching and increased access to students working in the field,” McCoy said. “Our online support staff work tirelessly to ensure that students can enjoy the best education our college can offer while helping them to feel at home as members of the College of Education academic family.”

U.S. News is not publishing a printed guidebook for the online rankings, but does plan to include highlights in the 2014 guidebooks for Best Graduate Schools and for Best Colleges.

You can view the complete online graduate education rankings and accompanying data on the U.S. News website at www.usnews.com/online-education.

   SOURCE: Tom Dana, associated dean for academic affairs, UF College of Education, tdana@coe.ufl.edu352-273-4134
   SOURCE: Dan McCoy, senior director for e-learning, technology and creative services, UF College of Education, dmccoy@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4134
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137