Earn your USDLA Professional Learning Credential with Dr. William Ryan

Hello friends! We are so excited to talk with you today about the powerful certification program for professionals offered by the US Distance Learning Association (www.USDLA.org).

I’m Hope Katz Gibbs, communications director for the organization founded in 1987. It was the organization to realize the value of distance learning. In the decades since, we have grown into an international network of educators at colleges and universities, PreK-12 school districts, and professionals in the corporate world who know how valuable it is to provide courses at a distance.

I am thrilled to be here with educator and long-time USDLA member Dr. William Ryan, who also heads up one of the most valuable aspects of the organization: Professional Learning Certification / Quality Standards/Professional (QS/P). Bill, tell us about this important and impactful program.

Bill: USDLA offers one of the only distance learning certification programs focusing on programs serving an online learning community. The QS/P recognizes non-profit organizations, corporations, and other business groups serving online learning communities. Certification is a time-defined, renewable credential awarded by a nationally recognized authoritative body to a team that demonstrates, to defined criteria, the ability to deliver a robust program that meets the diverse needs of the learning community the organization supports.

Hope: Why is this certification important?

Bill: There are several reasons.

  1. It provides evidence that the training and instructional content is appropriate and offered through a sustainable learning and development process, ensuring a commitment to accuracy, effectiveness, and trust in the learning community being supported.
  2. Certification provides a process for regularly examining specific training programs, processes, and data around organizational goals and individual learning through analysis, reflection, inquiry, and dialogue.
  3. It fosters the continuous improvement of the individual courses of training and development offered through the overall programs and operations supporting the diverse needs of the learning community.
  4. Plus, certification provides valuable insights from practicing professionals who review materials, meet user community members, and visit the organization.

Hope: Tell us more about the USDLA QS/P Certification.

Bill: The USDLA QS/P symbol certifies that the organization adheres to recognized standards of quality and performance, is responsive to its constituencies, and is committed to excellence in all aspects of its online distance learning program.

Hope: What is the goal of obtaining USDLA Quality Standards/Professional (QS/P)?

Bill: The goal of the USDLA Quality Standards/Professional (QS/P) is three-fold.

  1. First, the QS/P allows the organization to review and reflect on its method to support its learning community which may be a mix of employees and external clientele.
  2. Second, the QS/P offers the tools and a framework for continuous improvement an organization can use to improve the development of its content offerings.
  3. Third, effective self-regulation fosters a climate conducive to leadership support, learner success, and continued growth.

Hope: Tell us about the benefits of obtaining the USDLA QS/P.

Bill: The purpose of the QS/P is to provide the organization with a framework to improve the quality of courses and programs being delivered and to identify potential areas for improvement by offering a regularly scheduled opportunity for each program to review, reflect, and self-assess.

Specifically, this self-study process is designed to facilitate the following three objectives:

  • First, a framework. The QS/P provides a self-assessment framework to promote continuous improvement of the overall program supporting higher level review and analysis.
  • Second, Opportunity. This process allows the organization to reflect and recognize the program’s overall performance and gain an understanding of areas of opportunity creating improvement plans in the future.
  • Third, Reflect to recommend. Going through the QS/P process identifies areas when the program(s) have positively impacted the organization and employee success while, through analysis and self-reflection, identifying areas where members of the learning community could be supported more effectively. This will lead to recommendations focused on techniques to improve performance outcomes as measured by participant achievement and organizational metrics.

Hope: Tell us about USDLA’s Code of Conduct.

Bill: All USLDA QS/P certification process participants agree to operate consistently with our discussed principles. They practice high ethical principles and comply with their jurisdiction’s legal and regulatory requirements. They also confirm the generally accepted United States Distance Learning Association norms for its organizational training, instructional, and professional development programs. And they honor their promises and commitments.

Hope: How can a professional organization access examples of program components?

Bill: It is highly advised that the submitting organization and team use the USDLA Quality Standards/Professional application form during the self-study process, as it contains the key rubrics and examples used to conduct the review. These materials are then reviewed by an assigned team composed of experienced USDLA evaluators who set up schedules to visit (virtually and in person when and where appropriate) the organization and key stakeholders of the learning, operational, and administrative teams, along with a sample group of learning community members.

Hope: Tell us about the final report and recommendation.

Bill: After the review and visit have occurred and any additional follow-up questions have been resolved, the review team writes up a final report with recommendations that are submitted for approval to the Executive Committee of the USDLA. The purpose of the review and the one- or two-day visit by members of the USDLA certification review team is to gain a deeper understanding of the organization’s purpose, the team offering and supporting the program(s) being reviewed, and the overall operational processes used to deliver the program(s) to the learning community being supported. This includes the participation of key stakeholders beginning in the self-study process and through the site visit. The visiting committee recommendations are based on the USDLA QS/P criteria and standards, the provided self-study materials, and findings from the visit.

  • The QS/P reviewing process comprises the following sections with the form available for review: Leadership and management, Learning and strategy Design, Instruction/Facilitation and Learning Activities, Infrastructure, and Case Studies.
  • In addition, a course-level self-analysis tool is available to the organization to be used as another resource to develop effective and robust courses that are used in the program(s) being provided to meet the diverse needs of the learning community.
  • Certification is based on the USDLA Standards of Practice, the Code of Conduct, and evidence of a well-implemented continuous improvement process. The term of the QS/P certification is for a three (3) year period, subject to performance and annual renewal.

Hope: Tell us more about the USDLA QS Standards of Practice.

Bill: The USDLA/QS program incorporates 87 Standards of Practice. Rarely do all of these apply to every institution or organization; thus, the review team grants exemptions without penalty. The USDLA crafted these Standards initially for educational institutions; however, they provide a high level of guidance that every organization can use as they see fit.

In addition:

  • All USDLA QS/P certification process participants agree to operate consistently with the core principles summarized below.
  • Participants align program efforts to organizational requirements.
  • Participants adhere to accepted administration, leadership, and management practices, working with integrity across their organization and developing and supporting the entire learning community with quality courses and programs.
  • Participants will follow and use robust and effective instructional strategies to develop courses, curricula, and enterprise-wide programs. They will use a robust assessment methodology that measures the individual’s effectiveness and the program’s impact on the organization.
  • Participants will demonstrate their advocacy for the learning community they serve and support regarding infrastructure, professional staff development, and creating experiences that engage the remote learner effectively and efficiently.

How much does the certification process cost?

Bill: The QS/P Standards initial review process costs $3,500, with an annual renewal fee of $1,500 and a non-refundable application fee of $750.

Hope: How does a professional apply?

Bill: Applying to the USDLA for QS/P certification begins with a reflective overview of the program(s) being submitted for review. In this submission report, key factors should be included, such as:

  • Analysis of program data, including assessment results, performance, and organizational metrics.
  • Review of courses and curriculum.
  • Organizational vision, goals, and alignment of program direction.
  • Resource and staffing models, including professional development. Learning infrastructure, hardware and software platforms/tools.
  • Click here to apply!

Hope: Thank you so much for this information, Bill! Thank you to our audience for your interest in this important certification program. For more information, please visit www.USDLA.org and click on the Certification tab: https://usdla.org/professional-learning.