Episode 1: Distance Learning Roundtable — Meet the Hosts

Listen to the podcast on Inkandescent Radio Meet the Hosts

October 2022: On this month's episode of the Distance Learning Roundtable, you'll meet hosts Pat Cassella, executive director of the United States Distance Learning Association, and Dean Hoke, managing director of Edu Alliance.

October 2022: A Note from Hope Katz Gibbs, producer, Inkandescent Radio — Hello and welcome to the first episode of the Distance Learning Roundtable show on the Inkandescent Radio Network. As the show’s producer, I am thrilled to introduce you to the hosts of our newest program — Distance Learning Roundtable, the podcast and video show where experts gather to discuss the future of online education.

Today you will meet the show’s hosts: Pat Cassella, the executive director of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), and Dean Hoke, managing partner of the international organization Edu Alliance.

You’ll learn about: 

  • USDLA and its mission, Pat’s work, and how he became the executive director of this important organization
  • Dean and the goals of Edu Alliance
  • Their exciting show we are launching this month, October 2022, and what inspired them to create it
  • Their upcoming guests
  • USDLA’s upcoming event, National Distance Learning Week, which will be held Nov. 7-11
  • Parting thoughts about the future of online learning and how this show will help podcast listeners and video viewers better understand the immense power of distance learning.

Click here to listen!

Scroll down for our Q&A with Pat and Dean.


Read all about it: Distance Learning Roundtable

Hope: Hello and welcome to the first episode of the Distance Learning Roundtable show on the Inkandescent Radio Network. I’m Hope Katz Gibbs, producer of the show, thrilled to be here to introduce you to the hosts of our newest program — Distance Learning Roundtable, the podcast and video show where experts gather to discuss the future of online education. Today I am here with the show’s hosts, Pat Cassella — the executive director of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), and Dean Hoke, managing partner of the international organization Edu Alliance. Welcome, gentlemen!

As is our tradition at Inkandescent Radio, this first show will be a Q&A with the hosts, who will share information about the show’s goals, its mission, and some of the guests who will be appearing. So, let’s get started!

Pat let’s start with you. First, tell us about USDLA and its mission, as well as a bit about yourself and how you became the executive director of this important organization.

Pat: USDLA has long been a trusted resource for everything distance learning starting way back in 1987 when it was very difficult to conduct a distance learning meeting. Our mission has always been to help the masses to better understand DL from the technology to the actual in-use practice for educators, students, equipment and service providers, etc. If you were involved with DL, then USDLA was your go-to resource. My background is within technology, and I became involved with the association while Vice President of Educational Product Development at VBrick Systems some 15+ years ago. first as an advisory board member and then as President in 2018. I’ve held multiple chair spots within the association, including Membership, Conferences/Events, and most recently, platforms/services, before being asked to take on the Executive Director role for the association.

Hope: Now it’s your turn, Dean. Tell us about the goals of Edu Alliance and your impressive background.

Dean: Edu Alliance is an international higher education consulting firm I co-founded in 2014 in Abu Dhabi, and now with an office in the US. We work with universities on various projects, including international partnerships, market evaluation, strategic planning, and distance learning. Earlier in my career, in the 80s and ’90s, I was a public broadcasting executive. I began understanding the power of distance education, first broadcasting classes to public K-12 schools and later satellite broadcasting of university courses to the remote US.  In the late 90s, I co-founded a distance learning company called Connected Learning Network, and that’s when I first became a member of the USDLA

Hope: Now let’s talk about this exciting show we are launching this month, October 2022. What inspired you to create it?

Dean: I have, for many years, had an interest in the field of distance education. I also created a podcast series titled Higher Ed Without Borders, which allowed me to talk to educational leaders worldwide. During the interviews, the conversation of distance learning and its importance would come up. I wanted to explore that concept further and contacted Pat whom I’ve known for years as a fellow board member at USDLA.

Pat: The timing was perfect as USDLA had been in discussions about producing our own podcast when Dean reached out to me with the idea of a podcast program he wanted to produce around “learning without boundaries”. As we chatted about the concept it quickly became apparent that we had excellent synergy, and … here we are!

Hope: Tell us about a few of your upcoming guests.

Dean: I can announce our first guest, and that is Elliott Masie. Elliott is considered the guru and acknowledged leader in the field. He is also the first analyst to use the term eLearning.  We are in the process of inviting other leaders in the distance learning field from all sectors. Pat and I are excited about talking with these leaders.

Hope: Pat, talk about USDLA’s upcoming event, National Distance Learning Week, which will be held Nov. 7-11.

Pat: NDLW is a free event sponsored by USDLA and its partners. It will be a week of webinars and while the theme is leadership in online learning, the topics (and hosts) will be unique for each session.

Hope: To finish up today, I’d love to hear some parting thoughts about the future of online learning and how this show will help podcast listeners and video viewers better understand the immense power of distance learning.

Dean:  The past pandemic made the world better understand how effective online learning can be to the educational community and trainers in corporations and government. We learned what works and where improvements in delivering content are still to be made. A friend of mine with UNESCO said, “while the pandemic was a worldwide crisis, it also, in its two years, advanced the field and acceptance of online learning by 10 years. That’s how important distance learning is.

Pat: While it certainly isn’t as hard to establish a distance learning class or session with today’s cloud-based meeting systems as it was 10, 20, or 30 years ago, instructors still struggle with methodologies (ie: pure virtual, synchronous, asynchronous, hybrid, etc.) As the times change so will USDLA as we focus more on the Pedagogy side of distance/digital learning – helping instructors and educators embrace the future of online instruction.

Hope: Thank you both for your time today! I know our audience has learned a lot about you, your organizations, and the impact that this monthly interview show will make.

Click here to listen to all of the episodes!


About the Hosts

About Pat Cassella: As a leader in the high-tech industry for more than 30 years, Pat has had roles in Sales, Marketing, Product Development, and Engineering. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Bridgeport and a Master of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of New Haven. He has spent the past 20 years within the IP video market as an architect of products, designing marketing campaigns and leading sales teams within the Government, Education, Corporate and Medical markets.

Pat is the founder of ETC Video (a video consulting company) and Vice President of Marketing and Development for IDSolutions. He is actively engaged in providing sales/marketing services, new product development, and grant application writing for end users, product manufacturers and resellers across the US. His recent focus has been on distance learning initiatives within the K-12, Higher Education, and Healthcare industry and training and telepresence within the corporate enterprise market. He is a strong educational proponent and frequent speaker in promoting the use of digital video in today’s classrooms and businesses.

He began his career at the Norden Systems division of United Technologies, designing and testing radar subsystems for F4 airborne applications. He has held senior positions at Entrata Communications and in the broadband division at General DataComm developing their first and second-generation ATM edge switches. During the Telecom boom, he was Director of Technology and Planning at Entrata Communications, where he developed technical requirements for next-generation communications equipment. Prior, he was a chief signaling architect and department manager at General DataComm, where he initiated a signaling development department and brought several voice-over ATM products to market. He has extensive signaling protocol experience and holds several patents on AAL2 and narrowband to broadband signaling inter-working.

Before starting ETC Video, he was the Vice President of Educational Markets at VBrick Systems. He was the chief architect, ran product management for their IP video products, developed their E-Rate program, and defined the market strategy for K-12 and higher education verticals.

Pat resides in the coastal community of Ormond By The Sea, FL, with his wife Sandy and rescued Greyhounds. He has served on past several community boards and is an active volunteer. His hobbies include motorcycle instruction and riding, educational technology development, civic event volunteering, sports, fishing, home networking technology, and animal rescue.

About Dean: Based in Bloomington, Indiana, and the United Arab Emirates, Dean is the Managing Partner of Edu Alliance Group, Dean has decades of progressively responsible and visionary leadership roles in higher education, communications & online learning. He has led numerous initiatives that have created innovation & positive change in the higher education & non-profit sector.

Dean began his career in 1975 with Bellarmine University working in various roles, including admissions and external relations. In 1983 he entered the broadcasting field, serving as a senior executive for Public Broadcasting System stations and a cable network. In 1998 he co-founded The Connected Learning Network, a full-service online learning company. In 2009 accepted an invitation to move to the United Arab Emirates serving in senior positions at Higher Colleges of Technology & Khalifa University before co-founding Edu Alliance in 2014.

He participates in numerous advisory & consulting projects in the fields of international education, branding, business intelligence, and online learning. He is an active speaker and writer in global higher education and distance learning. Dean has written on leadership, higher education, and distance learning worldwide.

Dean is currently Chairperson Elect of the American Association of University Administrators, an Advisory Board member of the Franklin University School of Education, and a member of the United States Distance Learning Association, in which he previously served as President-Elect and Chaired the International Partnership Committee.

Mr. Hoke has a B.A. from Urbana University, an M.S. from the University of Louisville, and a Certificate in Executive Management from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School.