Education technology professor to head UF's new Online Learning Institute
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida College of Education has hired a leading authority on technology-based learning as a professor of education technology who will also head UF’s new Online Learning Institute, one of UF’s major preeminence initiatives.
UF Education Dean Glenn Good today announced the appointment of Carole R. Beal as a faculty professor in the college’s School of Teaching and Learning. Beal currently is a professor of science, technology and the arts at the University of Arizona’s School of Information. Her UF appointment begins Aug. 16.
Beal’s research focuses on the development and use of advanced online learning techniques —particularly in math and science — that improve access to education for all learners including minorities and students with disabilities. Good said Beal’s expertise “not only strengthens the college’s education technology program, but also aligns with the mission of UF’s Online Learning Institute.”
“We will aggressively pursue cutting-edge research and future-focused technological approaches to e-learning tailored to each individual student,” Good said.
The interdisciplinary, four-college OLI is charged with finding ways to improve student learning by merging the teaching sciences and what is known about the brain with the technology that delivers education at a distance. Collaborating researchers will come from the colleges of Education, Engineering, Journalism and Communications, and Fine Arts. UF’s Digital Worlds Institute and UF Online, one of the nation’s first totally online undergraduate degree programs, also are involved.
Beal, who becomes the OLI’s founding director, has a doctorate in psychology from Stanford University, but she also has held professorships in psychology and computer science at Arizona and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and in engineering at the University of Southern California. She also was a psychology professor at Dartmouth College.
She worked on one of the early online tutoring systems in mathematics in the 1990s and has garnered continual research funding for the past 15 years from major funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the federal Institute of Education Sciences and the U.S. Defense Department.
One of Beal’s projects, called Animal Watch Vi, involves developing a virtual tutoring system in math with accompanying books of braille to make online learning accessible for students with visual impairments. The three-year project is supported by an IES grant worth $1.4 million.
Andrew McCollough, UF associate provost for teaching and technology, said Beal has forged a place “on the cutting edge of research in the learning sciences and the field of personalized e-learning.”
“It is fortuitous that the College of Education attracted a leading scholar like Dr. Beal who also expressed a desire to work with the Online Learning Institute,” McCollough said. “The institute involves four colleges and they all agreed that Carole Beal was the right match for directing the institute.”
The OLI is a key component of UF’s campaign to establish itself as one of the nation‘s top 10 public research universities. Multidisciplinary research of personalized e-learning techniques has been targeted by UF administrators for investment of “preeminence funds” allocated last year by the Florida Legislature to support UF’s top-10 effort.
“I was drawn to the University of Florida by the opportunity to join a group of scholars who will collaborate on research and funding pursuits on a large scale. My experience in integrating the learning and computer sciences seemed a good complement to the existing expertise of my new colleagues at UF,” Beal said.
Much of Beal’s latest research merges education with neuroscience, which dovetails well with the OLI’s plans to collaborate with the university’s McKnight Brain Institute and other UF health science disciplines. She has been working to improve “intelligent” tutoring technology and exploring how technology can make online learning accessible to students with special needs.
“In my investigations, I have found that students who appear disengaged in the traditional classroom are often among the most active learners in the online learning setting,” Beal said.
“The coming decade will be an incredible opportunity to merge education with neuroscience,” she added. “Academic programs that take advantage of this connection will rise in national and international stature and lead the way in making online learning accessible to all students.”