GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The distance education program at the University of Florida College of Education is America’s best online graduate education degree program for the second consecutive year, according to the annual rankings released today by U.S. News and World Report magazine.
UF placed No. 1 in the magazine’s 2017 rankings of America’s Best Online Graduate Education Programs based on data evaluated from 262 U.S. education schools with online graduate programs. Last year UF tied with the University of Houston for the top spot.
U.S. News said the ratings of higher education online learning programs are based on five weighted factors: student engagement (35 percent), student services and technology (20 percent), admissions selectivity (15 percent), faculty credentials and training (15 percent), and peer reputation (15 percent).
“Our distance ed program stands apart because of the work of our outstanding faculty, many of whom are nationally recognized experts in their field. They closely collaborate with the college’s instructional design team to create engaging online learning experiences using the latest technology,” UF education Associate Dean Tom Dana said.
Eight online degree programs
The college offers eight web-based degree programs, geared mainly to working teachers and school administrators seeking additional certifications, career advancement or professional development.
In 2016, enrollments in all the college’s online programs topped 1,750 and the college offered 160 online courses. The five online graduate education programs considered in the U.S. News rankings were: curriculum and instruction; educational leadership; educational technology; reading, language and literacy; and special education.
Another key distinction of the UF online program is its cohort instructional approach, meaning the students start and complete the degree coursework together, which creates more opportunities for students to interact with each other and with their instructors.
“The power of our online program is it’s carefully designed for the busy schedules of full-time teachers who want to improve their practice while teaching,” said Alyson Adams, clinical associate professor and coordinator of the college’s Teacher Leadership for School Improvement program. “We expect our online learners to use their new tools, reflect on the results and adapt their practice based on feedback from practitioners and other students.”
Compelling, interactive courses
The college’s instructional design team partners with professors to customize an online course-management system to incorporate audio, video, and interactive tools. The goal is to better establish instructor presence, deliver compelling lessons and promote relationships – not only between instructors and students but also among students, said Bruce Mousa, who coordinates the online master’s in Educational Leadership program from Naples, Florida.
“If you have quality programs, word of mouth is going to spread that this program is good. And that’s what I’m hearing in exit interviews with graduating students,” Mousa said. “They talk about the great relationships we build in our online courses.”
Here’s what three recent graduates said about the college’s online programs:
- Kathy Christensen earned a doctorate of education in Curriculum Teaching and Teacher Education through the online program. Today she is a literary coach for the Collier County School District. “I appreciate how thoughtfully designed the program was in helping us grow in theoretical, pedagogical and research knowledge while fostering inquiry-learning connected to our daily work. The faculty was exemplary in their teaching, mentoring and support.”
- Lauren Sahmel, a vice principal at Newberry Elementary School and a graduate of the Educational Leadership online master’s program, said, “Everything was set up beautifully. I knew what was expected of me and that helped me balance my life. I’m very family-driven but also career-driven, so I needed something that could blend and work with both. The program allowed me to do that.”
- Teia Anderson received a master’s in Teacher Leadership for School Improvement and works as an elementary school math coach in Duval County Public Schools. She said, “The TLSI program has afforded me the opportunity to further my education while implementing learned practices. Additional benefits are the coursework relevance, face-to-face meetings, access to professors, and professional peers. In this distance-learning program I truly feel I am part of a learning community.”
The College of Education’s online program was the highest-rated University of Florida online field of study in the survey.
The education college’s top rating for online programs comes after U.S. News in March ranked the College of Education 20th nationally among public education schools in on-campus graduate degree programs. UF continues to rank as the top education college in Florida and among public education schools in the Southeast in both online and on-campus graduate degree programs.
For more information on the college’s distance learning programs visit https://education.ufl.edu/distance-learning/.
For more information on the Best Online Programs in Graduate Education go to the U.S. News website at http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/education.