A Note from USDLA president Eric Jones — The US Distance Learning Association is honored to work with Dr. Beverly Knox-Pipes, the organization’s Membership Chair. A recognized Distance Learning expert with decades of experience in online learning in K-12 education.
Beverly launched the first collaborative-owned regional fiber telecommunications system in rural Michigan in 1996. Her pioneering leadership expanded the online learning initiative in Michigan in the early 2000s that successfully assisted over 500 Michigan school districts in transforming learning by utilizing video conferencing and online/blended learning. These initiatives launched the inaugural discussions in Michigan around Policy, legislation, design, and transformation of teaching and learning using distance education throughout Michigan’s 587 school districts. Today, this pioneer and thought leader is a popular speaker, consultant, and advocate for kids through the continuous improvement of instructional systems in support of leadership, growth, design, and staff professional development, mainly focused on Distance Education and Instructional Technology.
Please scroll down for our Q&A with Dr. Beverly Knox-Pipes.
Meet Dr. Beverly Knox-Pipes: Passionate Distance Education/eLearning Thought Leader & Visionary/Pioneer, Speaker, Trend-Setter
USDLA: You have decades of experience designing, improving, and implementing instructional systems supporting leadership curriculum teaching and learning and professional development, mainly focused on Distance Education and Instructional Technology. What are you most proud of?
Beverly: Making a difference! I have been blessed with unique opportunities throughout my career to influence and guide leaders and students at all levels of education, government, and community, in change initiatives that expanded opportunities when it seemed impossible. My success in “moving mountains” is due to the trust, confidence, and support of many who believed “together we are better” and offered me the chance to transform their vision into reality. Together, we broke down old paradigms to serve the needs of the underserved to bring expanded learning opportunities using Distance Education technologies to those who would never have had those opportunities. I still remember the joy and excitement of students when they met new classmates of diverse backgrounds from different communities across the TV for the first time and became not only classmates but friends! This was the power of connections — and it made a difference.
USDLA: What has been your biggest challenge?
Beverly: Breaking through the glass ceiling. I entered the technology arena by accident and quickly found myself in a predominantly male world. I had not aspired to be in this field. However, the opportunity presented itself to create learning opportunities for students using fiber optic cable connections in a rural, regional community in Michigan, and I took the challenge. From there, it was an exciting journey toward gaining the respect, confidence, and trust of experts in the educational technology field. As a former elementary teacher, I could “paint the picture” of what leaders wanted for their communities, which led to teams who worked toward putting the puzzle together to design and launch two telecommunications systems in mid-Michigan. I will be forever grateful to those pioneering educational leaders who believed in me and opened the doors for future success.
You are a USDLA Board Member and Membership Chair. How has this organization helped you professionally?
Beverly: I have been a member of USDLA for almost 30 years, having been involved in the Michigan State Chapter Leadership. As a robust organization, I had the great privilege of being the President and serving at the Executive level for many years. It was my first entry into distance education and collaborating with like-minded professionals. We often gathered within Michigan, sharing our experiences, lobbying the state legislature for policy changes for distance education, visiting Washington DC with the USDLA Policy forums and meeting with our Government officials, and most importantly, spreading the word about how Distance education can transform not only learning but expand opportunities throughout Michigan. We were like sponges and used whatever information we could gather from USDLA to help us grow. I cherished a couple of extraordinary moments as a member when my work in the field was recognized with Outstanding Program and Leadership awards by USDLA. These are cherished memories that helped to keep me focused on continuing my work to this day in the field of distance education.
USDLA: Why do you think it’s a great idea to join USDLA?
Beverly: The most extraordinary professional growth opportunity you can have is to network with those you can learn from. Participating in the Annual Conference (just concluded in Nashville) and NDLW ( National Distance Learning Week) coming up in November are beautiful ways to get engaged and meet new colleagues. This is how I became a member of USDLA many years ago and why I remain a member. I keep a growth mindset and seek meaningful connections fostered by coming together, which is easier now than ever through telecommunication opportunities. I can stay current, probe, learn, and share my experiences to help others. This is how we stay strong as professionals and keep the field alive. If Covid did not teach us anything, it should have taught us all the value of staying connected and finding ways to overcome challenges for the good of all. Join, learn, and share. USDLA needs the brightest minds in all fields to get on board.
USDLA: What’s next for you professionally?
Beverly: Professionally, I will continue to give back and hope that, in some small way, my experiences will help to keep the conversation going, spark new ideas, and make a difference. I will continue to learn by listening, observing, and, when appropriate, offering my thoughts. I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for new opportunities pique my interest. I’m here to give back in whatever capacity I can, to help grow the field and help others adapt, and be inspired to take it to a new level. There is plenty for all of us to do. It will take each of us to keep the momentum moving positively. I challenge us to support each other, respect the innovators who have paved the way, be creative and innovative, and remain passionate about what we do for all the right reasons. But, I am taking a bit more time to smell the roses.
What do you think is the future of distance learning?
Beverly: The future is about developing and maintaining meaningful connections with all populations worldwide. Distance learning is key to strengthening these bonds. The refinement of the technologies, the research into brain-based learning, understanding the human connection, and working collaboratively toward the common good are critical to expanding opportunities for all. The world continues to change and distance learning, when used and implemented with fidelity, is key to making connections meaningful and impactful. Following Covid, We will never go back to what was, nor do we want to. With sound visionary leadership in the field, all facets of communication and learning will rebound with a more substantial base grounded in solid research and best practices in distance technologies. Listen to the experts who understand how to implement distance learning with fidelity. It can be done. The world is small, and we must find ways to strengthen our connections across the globe, within our neighborhoods, and beyond our state boundaries. We must help people communicate and stay connected. Technology is here and is being refined by the day. We must shed old paradigms and create safe, secure, engaging opportunities for all to learn how to live in this crazy world in a safe and exciting new order.