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UF online graduate education rated best in nation

Online Grad Ed rankings (2016, top 5)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The distance education program at the University of Florida College of Education, already recognized for having some of the nation’s best e-learning students, now can stake a claim as America’s best online graduate education degree program overall, according to the latest national rankings announced Jan. 12 by U.S. News and World Report magazine.

UF was tied for first with the University of Houston in the new 2016 rankings of America’s Best Online Graduate Education Programs, improving by 12 spots over last year. For the second year in a row, UF also received the survey’s highest score for “admissions selectivity”—considered an indicator of the high quality of its students.

UF now is the top-ranked education college in Florida and among public education schools in the Southeast in both online and on-campus graduate degree programs. The College of Education also was UF’s highest-rated online program in the survey.

This is the fifth year that U.S. News has numerically ranked online learning programs in higher education. Education is one of seven disciplines at the master’s degree level that were rated. Programs were ranked based on five weighted factors: student engagement (35%), student services and technology (20%), admissions selectivity (15%), faculty credentials and training (15%), and peer reputation (15%).

“Our distance ed courses are designed by top-flight faculty using the latest knowledge about best practices in web-based learning environments,” UF education Associate Dean Tom Dana said. “Our goal is to develop master educators who can lead transformations in practice.”

COE online instructors work with the college’s instructional design creative teams to produce high-quality videos, both for on-screen lessons and “virtual field trips” (Photo courtesty of Matt Stamey/Gainesville Sun)

COE online instructors work with the college’s instructional design creative teams to produce high-quality videos, both for on-screen lessons and “virtual field trips” (Photo courtesy of Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun)

Dana said a key distinction of the UF online program is its cohort instructional approach, meaning the students start and complete the degree coursework together, which Dana said creates more opportunities for students to interact with each other and with their instructors.

“The cohort model has been shown to increase student retention and the graduation rate,” he said.

Dana has steered the development of the college’s e-learning program since its inception in 2004, when 57 students enrolled in three online graduate courses. In 2015, more than 1,750 students were enrolled in 160 online courses.

The College of Education offers eight Web-based degree programs, geared mainly to working teachers and school administrators seeking additional certifications, career advancement or professional development. 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.

“Many of our online instructors are full-time college faculty members and nationally recognized as experts in their field,” Dana said. “All online instructors receive training in the technology and best practices of online learning.”

Many instructors have worked with the college’s instructional design team and digital creative staff to produce high-quality videos, both for on-screen lessons and for “virtual field trips” that allow students to see and hear some of Florida’s most inspiring teachers and school administrators in action and discussing best practices and professional insights.

best-online-programs-grad-education-2016“The videos link to a specific assignment or learning activity,” said Bruce Mousa, coordinator of UF’s educational leadership online degree program. Mousa also has been known to upload videos from his personal computer to provide feedback to individual students.

Education Professor Sevan Terzian even incorporates some Ken Burns-like production techniques to deliver engaging content in his Education and American Culture online course, such as inserting historical images accompanied by captions and his voice-over narration.

“I wouldn’t be the first to say there is a small element of performance in everything we do,” Terzian said with a smile.

For more information, visit the college’s distance learning website at

The full rankings and rankings data for Best Online Programs in Graduate Education are publicly posted on the U.S. News website at

SOURCE: Tom Dana, associate dean, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4134
SOURCE: Jason Arnold, associate direct of e-learning, technology and creative services, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4442
WRITER / MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4137


Donor-funded iPads helping COE students learn to teach digital curriculum

Today’s schools are under pressure to increase technology access, education and use for their students. UF’s College of Education is helping schools meet these 21st-century goals through a new initiative that prepares pre-service teachers with the resources and skills necessary to teach students how to effectively use and learn from technology. 

(From left to right) Students Kevin Autie, Katie Savitske and Meixian Shan explore elementary school-appropriate iPad applications in instructor Krista Ruggles' (far right in background) course, Integrating Technology in the Elementary Curriculum.

(From left to right) Students Kevin Autie, Katie Savitske and Meixian Shan explore elementary school-appropriate iPad applications in instructor Krista Ruggles’ (far right in background) course, Integrating Technology in the Elementary Curriculum.

All they need is one tool: an iPad. 

The College’s educational technology program recently purchased 20 iPads to be used in their technology integration courses. The mobile tablets were purchased through the Gilbart-Olsen Educational Technology Endowment, which was formed in 2008 with a $100,000 donation to the program from College of Education alumni Donald (BAE ’52, MEd ’63) and Helen Gilbart (BAE ’65, MEd ’67) and Norma Olsen (BAE ’76, MEd ’80). 

“Many pre-service teachers have not had the opportunity to use iPads or own them, which would be a challenge to implementing this technology in their classrooms,” said Helen Gilbart. “The college is keeping up with global trends by using this valuable tool to capture and hold student attention for learning.” 

With the iPad’s built-in features like a photo and video camera, Internet browser, audio recorder, accessibility features and, of course, applications, the Apple-made tablet offers numerous educational opportunities for students, according to professor Kara Dawson. 

Elementary education students in the technology integration courses were able to witness this first-hand during a recent visit to Kids Count, a local nonprofit afterschool program for kindergarten through third-grade students. The elementary ed students observed as Kids Count youngsters utilized a variety of iPad apps, from “Adding Apples” to “Rocket Speller” to “Marvel Math.” The overall reaction from the young students was positive. 

But for COE doctoral student Krista Ruggles, who teaches “Integrating Technology into the Elementary Curriculum,” the iPad offers far more than apps. 

“I hope they will see the value in using iPads as an instructional tool in the classroom for more than just drill and practice,” Ruggles said. “That’s the purpose of this class: to teach pre-service teachers how to help students become producers of technology, not consumers.”

SOURCE: Kara Dawson, educational technology,
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449
MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137

NPR StateImpact: Albert Ritzhaupt

State Impact by NPR
Albert Ritzhaupt

An NPR StateImpact radio and online report quoted Albert Ritzhaupt, a professor of educational technology, about the digital divide present among Florida’s public school students. The article cites Ritzhaupt’s research on how Florida public schools in low socioeconomic areas use technology.


Independent Florida Alligator

Suzanne Colvin (School of Teaching and Learning)

A story in the Independent Florida Alligator reported the College of Education’s launch of a new cutting-edge classroom in hopes of bringing education into the 21st century.

Education Week: Wendy Drexler & Cathy Cavanaugh (education technology)

Wendy Drexler and Cathy Cavanaugh are quoted in research article weighing the pros and cons of technology-driven personalized learning. Article appeared in Education Week’s annual Technology Counts report for 2011.

Gainesville Sun: Christopher Sessums (education technology)

Christopher Sessum, a postdoctoral associate in educational technology, was quoted in a March 1 Gainesville Sun story about proposed Alachua County School Board policies that would discourage teachers from engaging students on social media networks without administrative approval.