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 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

   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,, 352-273-4134
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4137

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UF education researchers recognized at state research conference

Several University of Florida education researchers were honored at this year’s Florida Educational Research Association annual meeting, hosted last month by the College of Education at UF’s Hilton Conference Center Hotel.

Walter Leite, an associate professor of research and evaluation methodology (REM), and his research assistant Francisco Jimenez, a Ph.D. student, received the conference’s Distinguished Paper Award. They were recognized for their paper evaluating the effects of the Teacher Leadership for School Improvement (TLSI) degree program offered for prekindergarten through 12th-grade teachers. The graduate program is a joint project of the college’s School of Teaching and Learning and the UF Lastinger Center for Learning.

Leite and Jimenez developed statistical models following 10 years of performance by 78 third- through fifth-grade teachers’ who are currently enrolled or graduated from the program. They compared the teachers’ effects on students they had taught prior to their TLSI coursework to their effects after joining the program.

The study revealed that the students exposed to these teachers had improved their FCAT math and reading scores, and reduced their school absences.

“The most important finding of our study is that the TLSI program, which is unique to the College of Education and the Lastinger Center, is positively affecting schools,” Leite said. “It also shows that the work done by the college and Lastinger Center matters.”


Also recognized at the conference was professor Mirka Koro-Ljungberg, who received the Educational Researcher of the Year award for her contributions to educational research. Koro-Ljungberg is a professor in REM. In the past two years, she has authored or co-authored 11 peer-reviewed papers.

For Koro-Ljungberg, a qualitative researcher, the award came as a surprise because quantitative research is often seen as dominant, she said. Qualitative research is the practice of analyzing personal and narrative accounts, such as interviews, focus groups, observations, artifacts and oral histories. On the other hand, quantitative research often involves larger samples and relies on numbers and statistics.

“I hope this will motivate people to do more and present more qualitative research in the future,” she said.

Others honored at the meeting were UF doctoral students Kristi Cheyney (in special education), Nicole Jean-Paul (school psychology) and Jean Theurer (REM), who received awards for the best overall project posters.

For more information about the Florida Educational Research Association, visit

SOURCE: Walter Leite, 352-273-4302,
SOURCE: Mirka Koro-Ljungberg, 352-273-4304,
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, 352-273-4449,
MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, 352-273-4137,

PDK recognizes UF professor as ‘International Emerging Leader’

Crystal Timmons, UF clinical assistant professor in education, was named one of 22 “International Emerging Leaders” by Phi Delta Kappa International. Every year, Phi Delta Kappa International, an association for professional educators, recognizes leading educators under the age of 40.

Timmons is a professor in residence for the Teacher Leadership for School Improvement degree program in Duval County, a project of the college’s Lastinger Center for Learning.