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The 2024 CEITR Research Labs Projects 

By Mansureh Kebritchi, Ph.D.

In 2024 CEITR Research Labs launched 15 research team projects with a total of 72 researchers from various UOPX colleges. The researchers work on vital cutting-edge projects related to UOPX institutional teaching, Artificial Intelligence and learning, and Diversity and Inclusion. The list of topics is provided below.  


UOPX Institutional Projects

Team Members:   M. Kebritchi (Chair), A. Beran, A. Raveling, Y. Richmond, R. Schultz, T. Taylor

Crafting robust research questions (RQs) is critical to formulating doctoral dissertation projects. Novice researchers and postgraduate students often need help with RQ formulation due to the complexity of the task. Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications offer potential solutions, particularly next-generation Large Language Models (LLMs). These LLMs allow students to query them interactively in natural language, aiding in identifying relevant literature and generating RQs. However, whether LLMs enhance RQ quality, creativity, or learning productivity remains to be determined. Some argue that advanced LLMs can boost creativity, while others express concerns. To address this gap, we investigate the impact of Google's Gemini LLM on RQ co-creation among doctoral students. Our study documents existing RQ generation strategies at the University of Phoenix, focusing on interactions between the committee Chair, the University Research Methodologist (URM), and the student. By evaluating the co-creation process, we aim to inform strategies for integrating LLMs effectively into RQ formulation. This research contributes to understanding the influence of AI on creativity and learning productivity in academic contexts.

Team Members: D. Duren, M. Guberman, R. King (co-lead), M. Magabo, J. Traylor (co-lead)

The use of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) as a tool for enhancing learning extends back to the 1970's, specifically as a tutoring and teaching tool in the 1980's (Adiapat et al, 2022). As A.I. has developed from its niche origination towards the mainstream, new, conceptual, practical and ethical questions arise within a review of recent peer reviewed journal articles. Specific to this study is the research problem of how adoption of A.I. might create an unfair advantage for some students as well as creating a relational division between teacher and student and separation from educational goals (Bu, 2022). Student perception to a potential disparity in A.I. use represents a gap in literature. Addressing this gap is the purpose of this qualitative case study. Student perception of potential disparity will be studied from the theoretical framework of equity through inclusiveness in design theory as based upon the World Economic Forum (2022). The research question to be explored is: What are the perspectives of online, higher

Team Members: J. Lang (co-lead), K. Johnson (co-lead), L. Hines, E. Lear

The problem in this quantitative correlational study is that the lack of engagement in the IEP process during high school years, a lack of self-advocacy for accommodations (Holzberg et al., 2019), and inadequate provision of appropriate accommodations granted in college may result in lower academic achievement among college students with academic disabilities (De Los Santos et al., 2019) in a two-year college in an Eastern region of the U.S.

Team Members: L. Underdahl (co-lead), R. Reed (co-lead), M. Magabo, P. Darbyshire, S. Haynes, M. Navarro, D. Foland

Research suggests employers recruit candidates with aptitude in communication, critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, and self-directed learning.  Higher education institutions can promote a successful transition from college to career by connecting curriculum to careers, reinforcing messages about intentional career decision-making, and directing students to career service resources.  Career fairs, internships, and interviews represent opportunities for students to demonstrate competencies, such as communication and critical thinking, to potential employers. This mixed-method study, with its potential to provide valuable insights from educators, current students, and career development professionals, holds promise for improving graduates' career readiness.  Enlisting faculty as career influencers can complement contributions by career development staff and enable higher education institutions to foster career readiness in students and graduates.

Team Members: R. Reed (co-lead), J. Carriere (co-lead), L. Pipoly, D. Foland, A. Bennett

This proposed qualitative exploratory case study aims to understand the connection between adjunct faculty, the university, and the perspectives and challenges faced. An exploratory case study approach is most appropriate because it is best used in exploring complex “real-life” phenomena, such as understanding the comprehensive dynamics between online adjunct faculty and university leadership. This will lead to conceptualization within the broader context of the university and identify potential areas of misalignment and opportunities to enhance communication and support (Acar et al., 2023). Faculty members at a private online university in the United States will participate in semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Additional performance data, such as classroom reviews and student end-of-course surveys, will be reviewed. The present study expands on the current literature using a holistic approach to encompass the perspectives of online adjunct faculty, university leaders, and students by synthesizing information. 

Team Members:  L. Underdahl (co-chair), D. Kish (co-chair), J. Cheng, J. Bradway, P. Darbyshire, N. Gulley

Research suggests complex factors contribute to first-year student retention and successful degree completion in online higher educational institutions. Availability of support may develop students’ self-confidence, strengthen self-efficacy, promote self-directed learning, and improve performance and retention. Using Tinto and Cullen’s conceptual framework, this qualitative, exploratory case study will explore how online higher education institutions may improve the retention of non-traditional online students. Since Tinto and Cullen’s model addressed the experiences of on-campus students, its applicability to the online environment is limited. Results have universality for the global community of online higher education institutions and may contribute to a comprehensive attrition model designed specifically for online learning.

Team Members: P. Darbyshire (co-lead), E. DeJaegher (co-lead), G. Velkova, C. Beitsayadeh


Evolving student demands and technological advancements have facilitated the rise of online learning in higher education, fostering greater access to educational opportunities. Online programs challenge students' self-directed and collaborative learning skills, leading to isolation and decreased academic achievement and resilience.

This quantitative correlational study examines the relationship between self-directed learning, collaborative learning, isolation, academic achievement, and academic resilience among students of online higher education. Self-determination theory (SDT) will serve as the framework for this study. SDT is a macro theory of human motivation and psychological needs. It involves the motivation behind people's choices in the absence of external influences and distractions.


Team Members: K. Myers (co-lead), B. Welcher (co-lead), M. Kroposki, C. Houser, M. Hagerty,. M. Zepeda

Using the Caritas Processes from Watson’s Caring Science as a conceptual framework, this qualitative, descriptive study will explore the perceptions of nursing faculty about their lived experiences of incivility from students in online classrooms. Data will be collected from a convenience sample of online faculty members who teach online nursing classes in one private university. The electronic questionnaire will consist of six items to collect information about the faculty members and two open-ended questions to answer the research questions, “What are the lived experiences of nursing faculty regarding incivility from nursing students?” and “What interventions have been successful in establishing a civil environment between faculty and students in the online classroom?”  Data will be analyzed using the coding processes suggested by Saldana. The results will provide a heightened awareness of the civility of the learning environment and may suggest ways for faculty to promote a civil online learning environment.



Team Members: S. Smith (co-lead), M. Kulick (co-lead), L. Maganares

AI is merging in the academic field rapidly and impacts student engagement. The aim of this study is to identify how Utility of Personalized LLM (PLLM) AI applications enhances students’ engagement in quantitative courses. The research problem is if quantitative courses students utilize AI to enhance their learning, supplement weak academic skills, or complete assignments in a quick and easy way. The purpose of the research is to explore the use of AI in quantitative courses and how impacts the learning objectives of the students. Specifically, if students use AI to maximize learning experience or substitute shortage of academic skills or shortage of study time. The methodology for this research is quantitative, cross-sectional, and correlational. The data analyzed with descriptive analysis, and cluster analysis.  The findings of this research can improve students understanding regarding appropriate use of AI; faculties and curriculum developers can understand how students use AI, and optimize assessments to assure students’ learning; university administrators can enhance existing policies to assure appropriate use of AI.


DEI and AI Projects 

Team Members: S. Smith (lead), C. Simon, W. Kerstetter, G. Franco, S. Haynes

Despite efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in various industries over the past decade, it remains unclear how effective these initiatives have been in addressing gender disparities in leadership positions. With the growing concerns about the potential dismantling of DEI programs, it is essential to understand the impact of these efforts and the consequences of their removal. The purpose of this Exploratory Sequential Mixed Method Design research is to look at the influence of (basic interpretive qualitative) and evaluate the effectiveness of (quantitative) DEI initiatives in addressing gender disparities in leadership roles across three multiple industries: education, healthcare and technology. Additionally, this study aims to assess the value of DEI as a tool to impact gender disparities and to determine the potential consequences of removing DEI programs.


Team Members: Dr. Stella Smith,  Dr. Ela-Joy Lehrman, Dr. Valerie Bradley-Holliday, Dr. Tiffany Lemmen, Dr. TaMika Fuller, and Dr. Martha Zepeda


There are many factors expressed in the literature on the role of women in leadership and what societal, cultural, and organizational viewpoints affect the role of women in leadership. This systematic review aims to examine the literature to explore these viewpoints.    The purpose of this research is to complete a comprehensive review of the current (2018 through 2023) published research literature to present an overview of the status of women across racial/ethnic groups in higher education leadership positions in the United States in the areas of Business and Technology, Education, and Health Care.   A systematic literature review is appropriate for this study as this research will include a synthesis of current published qualitative and quantitative studies. Current research studies tend to include a specific under-represented racial/ethnic group of women as participants; there is a need to bring those research findings together into a comprehensive overview of the status of all women in higher education. Studies will be limited to studies conducted within the 50 United States to avoid confounding factors found in foreign educational systems.

Team Members: J. Valk (co-chair), M. Hill (co-chair), L. Priest, J. Luttrell, J. Weidmann, D. Smith, A.  Cunningham

Students and instructors who are associated with Quantitative Research have experienced differing views on the success of quantitative studies resulting in fewer and fewer students attempting to use math and statistics.  This study is an attempt to view both sides to see what the reasoning behind the fear of quantitative or statistical analysis needed for research. This study will employ two designs.  Participants who are students and who have faced a quantitative class or feared a class will respond using a narrative inquiry format while experts in the field of quantitative instruction will join together in a Delphi design to obtain a consensus from their point of view on teaching quantitative design and responding as to what they perceive to be the reasons that students avoid or struggle in designing a quantitative study. 

Team Members: F. Lake (co-lead), T. Lemmen (co-lead), S. Fowler, G. Velkova, K. Ramsey, P. Trotter, and M. Stern

Technological challenges have been a constant in the development of healthcare technology and were brought to the forefront with the onset of SARS Covid-19. Pandemic.  The closure of many facilities and prohibition of personal contact created a situation where in-person visits to a healthcare provider was not a viable option. This led to a critical and rapid development and implementation of telehealth visits. One population of patients that encountered technological challenges to persons in their later years, specifically those Medicare-aged and older persons. The purpose of this mixed method study was to explore the correlation between patients’ comfort level using technology, satisfaction with telehealth technology used during telehealth visits and patients’ patient satisfaction with telehealth services.

Team Members: K. Johnson (co-chair), J. Terrell (co-chair), J. Henry, J. Doran, J. Overbey, A. Moody


In contemporary educational settings, there exists a growing need to explore and understand the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) by faculty to effectively support students. Despite advancements in technology, there remains a lack of comprehensive understanding regarding the optimal utilization of AI tools by educators. The proliferation of AI offers immense potential to revolutionize teaching methodologies and enhance student learning outcomes. However, a gap lies in the absence of empirical evidence and theoretical frameworks guiding faculty members in utilizing AI effectively within educational contexts. Consequently, there is a pressing need to investigate the current landscape, challenges, and opportunities associated with faculty AI utilization to bolster student support and foster academic success. By examining the utilization of AI by faculty members, this research can identify best practices, barriers, and opportunities for improvement. Insights garnered from this study can inform institutional decision-making processes, curriculum development, and faculty training programs aimed at leveraging AI effectively to support diverse student populations. Additionally, the findings can facilitate the creation of guidelines and frameworks to promote ethical AI usage and safeguard student privacy and data security. Specifically, the study aims to investigate the current practices, challenges, and effectiveness of faculty AI utilization, with a focus on enhancing student support mechanisms and improving academic outcomes.


Team Members: E. Kalemdaroglu-Wheeler (lead), H. Baynes

The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study is to discover the lived experiences of higher education students and instructors who used virtual reality to supplement online instruction. The qualitative methodology and phenomenological design are appropriate for the proposed study because they allow for a rich and specific exploration of how adult learners perceive and interact with VR environments to enhance online learning experiences. The sample for this study will include adult higher education students who have experienced VR technology in an online education model and instructors of courses who integrated VR technology into the teaching modalities in the United States.