November 7, 2023: USDLA NEWS — Learn all about AI with our experts through Fri., Nov. 10 at USDLA’s National Distance Learning Week

National Distance Learning Week is underway, friends!

Today from 1-2pm ET we are featuring Scott Provence, MA, MFA, who will discuss: Using AI and Hard Data to Teach Soft Skills

From 3-4 pm EST, Dr. George Veletsianos, Canada Research Chair in Innovation Learning & Technology, Royal Roads University, and Dr. Cristi Ford, VP of Academic Affairs, D2L will be presenting Uncovering the Potential, Realities, and Future of Generative AI through Research.

Please scroll down to learn more about these presentations and the six others you can join for the rest of the week. Click here to register for NDLW 2023.

Special bonus: If you aren’t already a USDLA member and attend NDLW, you will receive a code for 50% off a first-time individual membership. All attendees also receive a certificate celebrating your participation in the NDLW event. Be sure to take advantage of this amazing offer!

As we shared last week, our European friends at EDEN are hosting European Open and Digital Learning Week. Scroll down for more details about today’s presentation. And click here to learn about what EDEN has in store for the rest of the week:

That’s not all:

Thank you all for being part of this amazing celebration of content and collaboration! —  Valary Oleinik, chairwoman of the USDLA Events Committee and NDLW 2023

EDEN is proudly hosting its 8th Annual European Open and Digital Learning Week (EODLW). 

This year’s theme: Education in the Digital Age: What can we do better?

The event is organized in partnership with the Coimbra Group Education Innovation and Doctoral Studies Working Groups, the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), Flexible Learning Association of New Zealand (FLANZ) and Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia (ODLAA), which joined efforts to offer the Asia-Pacific Online and Distance Education Week (APODE).

During EODLW: Attendees have access to daily online webinars and panel sessions of expert scholars and practitioners who will present best practices and expertise in online and distance education. Presenters will also discuss the challenges in shaping the future of education and how we can more fully harness the potential of new models of online and distance learning. Start your week off with EDEN for these first two sessions:

Tuesday, November 7, 2023, 13:00 (CET)

Transparent Assessment of Online Learning Leading to Micro-credentials

Moderator: Elena Trepulé

Speakers: Airina Volungevičiené, Rimanté Cepauskiene, Estela Dauksiene and Giedré Tamoliūné

About the session: Increasing online learning possibilities is also a challenge for teachers in HE in terms of transparent assessment. The introduction of micro-credentials is also closely related to certain assessment procedures that need to be implemented for transparent implementation. New open and free training courses are available to support HE teachers and institutions in designing and implementing transparent assessments for online learning and recognition of learning outcomes by proposing methodology, guidelines, practical tools, and training material to develop their digital competencies. The guidelines for HE institutions to implement transparent assessment of learning outcomes for online and blended learning, leading to digital and micro-credentials, will be presented. Click here to register.

Find the entire week’s schedule here:

Questions? Send an email to:


Tuesday, November 7, 1-2 pm EST

Using AI and Hard Data to Teach Soft Skills

Presenter: Scott Provence, MA, MFA

About the session: Ask ten people to express empathy, and you will get ten different answers. How can we expect Artificial Intelligence to teach us about something we can’t even agree on ourselves? Perhaps you’ve struggled in the past to justify the ROI of a soft-skill training program. Or perhaps you’ve had groups push back on virtual role-plays. In this session, you’ll journey from the evidence-based shores of clinical psychology to the new frontier of Large Language Models as we uncover new AI-powered conversation tools. You’ll see real-world examples of how machine learning can help us standardize how we use communication skills for talking to customers and to each other.

About the presenter: Scott Provence, MA, MFA, is a health-tech leader and content developer whose print and web-based curricula serve millions annually. Scott has worked in the public and private sectors, creating federal education programs and leading L&D teams from small startups to Google. He founded Versant Metrics, whose award-winning algorithm empirically measures how well caring gets communicated in a conversation.

Tuesday, November 7, 3-4 pm EST

Uncovering the Potential, Realities, and Future of Generative AI through Research

Presenters: Dr. George Veletsianos, Canada Research Chair in Innovation Learning & Technology, Royal Roads University, and Dr. Cristi Ford, VP of Academic Affairs, D2L

About the session: While much has been said and written about Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education, systematic investigations about its use are slow to emerge. The Canadian Digital Learning Research Association recently surveyed 438 administrators and faculty across 126 Canadian institutions to gauge their perspectives on generative AI. This webinar will present findings and provide a space for an expansive discussion. Findings reveal that AI policy development in Canadian higher education is nascent. AI use appears inconsistent and primarily experimental, driven by individual faculty yet supported by some institutional initiatives. While respondents believe that AI offers potential and may become a staple in higher education, they note that its value hinges on multiple factors and are concerned about its biases and limitations.

About the presenters:

Dr. George Veletsianos (Γιώργος Βελετσιάνος) is a professor in the School of Education and Technology at Royal Roads University, where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology. His research agenda focuses on designing, developing, and evaluating online and blended learning environments, studying learning experiences and participation in emerging online environments, and learning futures. Learn more:

Dr. Cristi Ford is a Vice President of Academic Affairs at D2L. She has over 20 years of experience in higher education, secondary education, project management, program evaluation, training, and student services. She is a tireless advocate for quality online education and has helped institutions build capacity to launch and expand online programming through effective faculty development, instructional design, and pedagogical practices.

Wednesday, Nov. 8, 12-1 pm EST

Navigating the AI Education Space: Incorporating AI Into the Learning Environment

Presenters: Amrit Ahluwalia, Editor-in-Chief of The EvoLLLution; Asim Ali, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Innovation at Auburn University;and Frederick T. Wehrle, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of California Berkeley

About the session: In this panel discussion, leaders in the digital and innovative learning space will share their insights into how generative AI tools are blended into the educational environment. Panelists will reflect on how educators can navigate the tools available to them, how to assess the value of these tools, and how to teach learners to use them effectively.

About the presenters:

Asim Ali (pictured top left) is the Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Innovation at Auburn University. He advances the center’s mission of providing professional development programs, services, and resources to enhance instructional innovation and support scholarly and creative activities. Ali oversees a team of more than 90 professionals, graduate students, and staff members across the center’s various units, which include Auburn Online, Biggio Teaching, Biggio Technology, Biggio Testing, and Engaged and Active Student Learning, or EASL, classrooms, and classroom buildings. Ali co-leads Auburn’s augmented and virtual reality initiative, AUX, in collaboration with the Office of Information Technology. Ali also co-leads work on artificial intelligence for the Office of the Provost to build faculty capacity for understanding and implementing AI in teaching and learning. Ali holds a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, a master’s degree in information systems management, and a Ph.D. in adult education from Auburn University.

Frederick T. Wehrle (pictured top right) is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of California Berkeley and has been at U of C Berkeley since 2018. Some of his other roles there included Assistant Dean for Academic Design and Innovation and Director of International Initiatives. Prior to that, he was Director of Accreditation and International Relations at the Center for Global Engagement at EDC Paris Business School. Wehrle holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Management Science from the University of Paris and a Master of Science in Behavioural ecology, neurobiology, bioinformatics, and anthropology from the University of Freiburg.

Amrit Ahluwalia (pictured at bottom) is the Editor-in-Chief of The EvoLLLution, an online newspaper focused on non-traditional higher education and the transforming postsecondary marketplace. He also serves as Director of Strategic Insights for Modern Campus. Ahluwalia was part of the team that conceived and launched The EvoLution in 2011 and served as its managing editor from 2011-2021. Ahluwalia works personally with every contributor at The EvoLLLution to produce content that has supported the site’s rise to becoming the top resource for non-traditional higher education.

Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2-3 pm EST

Explore a real-world implementation of AI in education

Presenter: Al Pisano

About the session: Join us for this engaging presentation to explore the real-world implementation of AI in education. This presentation provides educators with practical knowledge about AI education and its potential transformative impact. Learn about AI fundamentals, using AI as an instructional tool for personalized learning, reimagining assessment with AI, ethical considerations for student use of AI, and administrative uses of AI for streamlining tasks and decision-making processes.

About the presenter: Al Pisano is a versatile professional with extensive experience in the education and corporate sectors. He is a presenter, thought leader, author, innovator, entrepreneur, administrator, curriculum developer, and consultant. With a background in K-12 and higher education, Al has created and taught numerous programs and courses in educational leadership, technology, business, and more. He has also established successful businesses focused on leadership development and program design. Al has collaborated with influential stakeholders at companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon and is a published author of The Collective Mindset: A Roadmap for Continuous Innovation and Mindful Change. His breadth of experience allows him to provide valuable perspective and insight in various domains.

Thursday, November 9, 1-2pm EST

Data Justice, Data Rights and AI Ethics

Presenters: Farah Bennani, Ph.D., and Kae Novak, Assistant Director, Learning Design at Front Range Community College

About the session: Data Justice is an emergent area of digital rights and activism that has its roots in technology is not neutral. We need to question learners’ and workers’ rights in the age of big data, surveillance capitalism, algorithmic bias, and ubiquitous AI.

About the presenters:

Farah Bennani, Ph.D., (pictured left) has more than two decades of combined leadership, instructional experience, and innovation in the STEM field. She served as vice president of the Colorado Distance Learning Association and, in 2018, won the eLearning Advocate of the Year Award from the eLearning Consortium of Colorado. championed and served as the Allied Health Curriculum Expert at the North American Network of Science Labs Online (NANSLO), developing remote-web-based science labs (RWSLB), where she designed virtual online labs curricula that allowed students to control lab activities remotely. Her leadership in STEM and online learning has resulted in her teams being the recipients of multiple grants that focus on student engagement, multiculturalism, and immersive learning in the STEM field. She presents and publishes nationally and internationally on emerging technology, augmented and virtual realities, adaptive learning, and game-based learning.

Kae Novak (pictured right) has 15 years of experience in online learning and is the Assistant Director of Learning Design at Front Range Community College. She teaches multimedia, computer information systems, and marketing courses in the Colorado Community College Systems. She is the Co-Chair of the eLearning Consortium of Colorado and has led the organization in its annual virtual and hybrid conferences for the past three years. She is currently doing research on online learning, immersive learning experiences, and social justice. Her most recent publication is co-authoring a chapter titled Constructivism for Active, Authentic Learning.

Thursday, November 9, 3-4 pm EST

AI: The Impact on Higher Education

Presenter: Dr. Robbie Melton, Interim Provost/VP of Academic Affairs and VP of Technology Innovations for the SMART Global Technology Innovation Center and tenured professor at Tennessee State University

About the session: Dr. Robbie Melton will highlight and showcase how artificial intelligence will impact various areas of higher education. She will:

  • Demonstrate AI’s power to advance research through modeling and data analytics while discussing chatbots and their benefits for student support.
  • Share innovations in AI music and the arts that are transforming creative fields.
  • Emphasize the need to develop these technologies with diversity and cultural perspectives in mind while outlining AI’s vast potential.
  • Stress that to realize AI’s benefits its applications must be inclusive and accommodate varied cultural learning needs and styles.
  • Address the importance of promoting diversity among AI researchers and developers to help guard against unconscious bias.
  • Describe the transformations AI may bring, from improving teaching to pioneering new research frontiers.
  • Highlight that responsible, people-centered development is key to ensuring AI transforms in higher education for the betterment of students and society.

About the presenter: As Interim Provost/VP of Academic Affairs and VP of Technology Innovations for the SMART Global Technology Innovation Center and tenured professor at Tennessee State University, Dr. Melton serves as a global researcher and international consultant for Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Education and Emerging IOE (“The Internet of Everything”) Smart Mobile Technology of mobile devices, smart phone-tablets, wearables, smart gadgets and tools, and mixed reality of VR and AR. She formerly served as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Emerging Technologies for the Tennessee Board of Regents and the primary developer and chief administrator for the system-wide Regents Online Degree Programs. Her tributes include The 2023 Top 50 Women Leaders in Education, the 2019 USDLA Hall of Fame, the 2018 Distinguished Women of Legend, the 2017 OLC Leadership, the 2016 WCET Lifetime Achievement, the 2014 Top 30 Technologists, the 2013 Apple Distinguished Educator, 2012 Top Fifty Technology Innovator; and 2012 WOW EdTechnology Awards.

Friday, November 10, 1-2 pm EST

GenAI Holds Great Promise for Distance Learning, But There Are Concerns

Presenter: John Agnew, Ph.D. Program Coordinator for the Ph.D. Psychology Program at Walden University

About the session: Generative AI has emerged rapidly into public awareness in the past year, and much has been written about the cataclysmic threats and vast possibilities of this new technology. Working in distance learning, we know that our students have many needs (editors and statistics tutors are just two examples) that GenAI could meet. But we also have fears that our students may use this technology to avoid the hard work of critical thinking rather than using it to allow more time for such deeper learning. In this presentation, Dr. Agnew will share his observations about the assignments that are easier or harder for GenAI to complete, talk about the concerns with AI detectors and why they will likely never be successful, and discuss some of the ethical concerns of using GenAI and Large Language Models with student information that is protected by FERPA and research-participant data that is covered by human subjects protection guidelines.

About the presenter: John Agnew has been teaching in higher education for the past 20 years, both in-person and online. In 2019, he became the Program Coordinator at Walden University and has been teaching exclusively online since then. His background is in cognitive neuroscience, and over the past year, he has been exploring the possibilities of generative AI in the classroom. At Walden University, he serves on the AI Innovation Taskforce and has studied the effectiveness of AI detection tools. He has also been involved in developing policies and best practices for the use of AI by faculty and students.

Friday, November 10, 3-4 pm EST

AI: The Impact on Higher Education

Presenters: USDLA President Chuck Sengstock and longtime USDLA Board Member Dr. William Ryan

About the session: How can you demonstrate that your distance learning programs meet the highest standards of excellence in the industry? How can you benefit from a rigorous and systematic process of self-evaluation and peer review? How can you join a network of distinguished institutions that have achieved Quality Certification from USDLA? In this webinar, Dr. Bill Ryan and Dr. Chuck Sengstock will share their insights and experiences on how USDLA’s Quality Certification can help you enhance your reputation, performance, and outcomes in distance learning.

About the presenters:

USDLA President Chuck Sengstock is well respected throughout the state of Iowa for his expertise in distance learning. Distance learning programs Chuck has helped develop and manage have received state and international awards for excellence. Currently, Chuck is the Director of Continuing Education and Professional Development within the School of Education at Drake University. In this position, he oversees the development and marketing of all online and video correspondence graduate courses. He also develops departmental policies, procedures, and initiatives. During his 25-year career, Chuck has worked at four different colleges and universities in Iowa. He has developed training and support initiatives for both online and video conferencing instructors as well as managed a multimedia production facility where he worked with instructors to create digital objects for their online, blended, and face-to-face courses. Chuck is also skilled at live event production and has organized and managed events for various colleges and universities as well as corporations such as Warner Brothers Records and Ingram Entertainment. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Iowa Wesleyan College, a Master’s Degree from the University of Northern Iowa, and a Specialist in Education from Drake.

USDLA Board Member Dr. William Ryan consults with organizations on learning and performance needs. His expertise is in distance learning and competency-based programs. He was the Executive Director of the Learn on Demand online competency program at the Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS), a VP of Education for a regional home health company and has held positions as National Leader for Curriculum and Technology Solutions with Humana Inc., serving a global learning community focused on performance improvement. He has been a VP for Technology/CIO at Lakeland Community College and worked for Westinghouse and IBM in learning technology roles. Learn more: