Campus Life

UWF faculty members receive Academic Partnerships grant to research online learning

Two faculty members in the University of West Florida Department of Teacher Education and Educational Leadership were recently awarded a grant through Academic Partnerships to study the impact and effectiveness of online learning.  A total of nine grants were awarded to researchers from seven universities throughout the U.S.

Dr. Julie Gray, assistant professor, and Dr. Melanie DiLoreto, instructor, received $5,000 to develop a study that allows students in select online courses to complete a questionnaire that provides data in order for the researchers to explore relationships between course structure and organization, learner interaction, student engagement and instructor presence. They launched the pilot phase of their study, titled, “Student Satisfaction and Perceived Learning in Online Environments: The Mediating Effects of Student Engagement,” during the Fall 2014 semester, with an official start date of January 2015.

“Through this study, we’re hoping to get a better understanding of the relationships involved in student satisfaction and perceived learning to hopefully improve our online courses at UWF and, ultimately, to increase retention rates in our program,” DiLoreto said.

Gray said they were initially interested in the study because of the large number of online graduate students in the Teacher Education and Educational Leadership department.

“The majority of the students in the graduate programs through Teacher Education and Educational Leadership are online,” Gray said. “Because of that, I thought it was important for us to understand how to effectively engage them in learning and determine ways to develop and maintain relationships with them, which is difficult to do in a virtual setting.”

Gray and DiLoreto used a portion of the grant to purchase research and analysis software for the purpose of conducting their online survey. They said they will use the remaining portion to travel to at least one conference, where they plan to present their research.

Academic Partnerships helps its partner universities increase access to higher education through technology and give their brands a global presence. To learn more, visit