October 3, 2023: Is your higher ed institution ready to be USDLA Certified?

Happy Tuesday, USDLA friends!

As all educators know, having a powerful certification tells the world you are on top of your game as a distance learning provider. At USDLA, our Higher Education Certification program is a proven methodology that certifies institutions and educational providers who meet its Quality Standards for distance learning. The approximately 91 standards highlight best practices at all levels of education and training and are adaptable to various needs and situations. “Distance learning providers use Quality Certification to verify that they operate according to the best industry practices,” says USDLA President Chuck Sengstock. “They also find that the Quality Standards program helps to set them well on a path of continuous improvement.” Scroll down to read our Q&A with Chuck. Click here to watch our USDLA News interview on USDLA.tv.

Research of the Week: As we edge closer to National Distance Learning Week, which will spotlight AI, we share a recent article in The Evolllution.com — “Teaching AI Competencies: Lessons from Academics Incorporating AI in the Classroom,” by Asim Ali | Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Innovation, Auburn University, Kaari Casey | Vice President of Academic Operations, Campus, Jessica Mitsch Homes | Co-Founder and CEO, Momentum. Scroll down to read all about it!

National Distance Learning Week is coming soon: Nov. 6-10. Please scroll down for details about our speakers, including 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. On Thursday, Nov 9, at 3pm ET/2pm CT, her presentation will highlight and showcase how artificial intelligence will impact various areas of higher education. Click here to register for USDLA 2023.

Free Friday Webinars, 1-2pm Eastern: Our webinar schedule is full, and we are excited to bring you important topics from our distance learning community, conference webinar presenters, and our sponsors. Scroll down for details; register at usdla.org/webinars.

We’ll be back in touch on Thursday with our USDLA Brief. Until then, here’s to being a lifelong distance learner! —  USDLA Communications Committee

SPOTLIGHT OF THE WEEK: How to Get USDLA Certified: A Q&A with USDLA President Chuck Sengstock

A note from Hope Katz Gibbs, USDLA communications director: Hello, friends! Today, we are excited to share our Q&A and video about the powerful certification program the US Distance Learning Association offers: usdla.org/higher-education-certification. Founded in 1987, USDLA was the first to realize the value of distance learning. I am here today with our 2023-2024 President, Chuck Sengstock, who heads up one of the most valuable aspects of the organization, the USDLA certification program.

Chuck: USDLA certification shows that the schools go through a continuous improvement process. Certification is for five years, and after the initial certification, schools must send us an updated report annually showing their improvement around the areas they were shown needed improvement. It allows them to offer better distance learning courses and be program providers. Most importantly, students are the beneficiaries because USDLA’s certification allows schools to use our tools and guidance to continue improving their distance learning program.

Hope: What does it take for higher education institutions to achieve USDLA accreditation status? 

Chuck: If they’ve been offering distance learning classes for two years, they fill out an application that gives us background information. We assess their programs and move on from there. Questions can be answered by myself: chuck.sengstock@drake.edu and Dr. Bill Ryan, who heads up our professional learning certification program at USDLA: bill@williamjryan.com.

Hope: Interested schools can learn more on our website, usdla.org/higher-education-certification. The page includes information on pricing and links to some of the many who have successfully achieved USDLA Certification, such as Baker College, Berkeley College, Stout — the University of Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, Central State University, and Fort Hays State University. Kayla Hickel, Fort Hays’ director of Online & Military-Connected Student Services, told us, “USDLA Quality Standards certification is more than just a certification. It’s evidence of the institution’s 25-year commitment to our online students and faculty. Not only does this rigorous endorsement help us fulfill the university’s mission to provide accessible quality education to Kansas, the nation, and the world, but it’s also a key component of our value proposition.” Chuck, talk a little bit about that endorsement.

Chuck: The value proposition when you go through the certification process is that a school is taking its program apart and investing in the benefits and problems of each piece. I like to talk to them about it from the standpoint of systems. For example, we look at the admissions process, the registrar’s office, training for faculty, student affairs, and other aspects. Schools walk away from the process, knowing how best to raise the school’s online learning standards.

Hope: Can you offer some insider advice before organizations begin the process? 

Chuck: It’s important in any organization to get buy-in from the stakeholders. Kayla expressed that leaders working in all administration areas must understand the benefits of being USDLA Certified. Cost is also a consideration. For organizations with up to 3,000 students, the certification fee is $10,000 once they pass. Keeping the certification active costs $2,500/year for three years. In that time, school leaders report their progress based on the 90+ standards we use. I must tell you that I have not talked to one school that has not been satisfied going through the process because it provides an internal quality check for them and helps them improve.

Hope: There is an added benefit of going through the USDLA certification process if a school is preparing for accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. 

Chuck: Absolutely! Accreditors look for the information that is required in our credentialing process. So, going through the USDLA program prepares schools and provides a good opportunity for schools to improve their services to distance learners

Hope: USDLA’s credentialing program is also available to corporations offering distance learning opportunities to their staff. The leader of this portion of the program is longtime USDLA member Dr. William Ryan, who is also a respected consultant in the distance learning industry. In our next interview for USDLA News, he’ll discuss how it works and how companies and professionals can get certified. Then, we will feature the topic in an upcoming Free Friday Webinar, where we’ll take questions from the audience. Thank you, Chuck, for your insights and all of this information.

Learn more: usdla.org/higher-education-certification

RESEARCH OF THE WEEK: Teaching AI Competencies: Lessons from Academics Incorporating AI in the Classroom

By Asim Ali | Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Innovation, Auburn University, Kaari Casey | Vice President of Academic Operations, Campus, Jessica Mitsch Homes | Co-Founder and CEO, Momentum

In the ever-evolving landscape of adult education, the ascent of artificial intelligence (AI) represents a seismic shift poised to reshape knowledge work. A recent McKinsey report aptly states, “Generative AI can substantially increase labor productivity across the economy, but that will require investments to support workers as they shift work activities or change jobs.” Education institutions play a critical role in preparing workers for these changes.

As part of the AI in Adult Education series, the team at Ribbon Education brought together voices from diverse education institutions—Asim Ali, Executive Director of the Center for Enhancement of Teaching & Learning at Auburn University; Kaari Casey, VP of Academic Operations at Campus; and Jessica Mitsch Homes, Co-Founder, and CEO at Momentum Learn—to discuss the topic of “Teaching AI Competencies.” They share their takeaways and examples of how they infuse AI into teaching and learning.

“We [education providers] play a role in helping learners understand how AI is going to impact their work.”

Click here to read their Q&A in evolllution.com

NATIONAL DISTANCE LEARNING WEEK: Nov. 6-10 — Register here: usdla.org/2023-ndlw

AI: The Impact on Higher Education

Thursday, Nov. 9: 3pm Eastern/2pm Central

Presenter: Dr. Robbie Melton

About the NDLW Presentation — 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 the fact that responsible, people-centered development is key to ensuring AI transforms in higher education for the betterment of students and society.

About Dr. Robbie Melton: 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.

Register for NDLW: usdla.org/2023-ndlw

USDLA FREE FRIDAY WEBINARS — Register today: usdla.org/webinars

Achievement Motivation: A Framework for Success – Yours and Theirs! 

October 6: 1-2pm

Presenters: Linda Lee and Daphne Figueroa 

About the Webinar: Motivation matters! It is the driving force behind all we do, and when it comes to academic achievement in education, it is the ultimate predictor of success. But, fewer students come with intrinsic motivation than ever before. You undoubtedly have recognized the need and tried to motivate them. Likely, some of your tactics work with some, sometimes. How frustrating! What is needed is a framework that works with more of them more often.

What you’ll learn: This webinar provides just that. In it, you will discover a quick and easy way to understand achievement motivation and gain effective tactics for increasing student engagement. And those tactics are all about how to enhance – not revise – your current courses. So, instead of just plucking the low-hanging fruit of motivation strategies, this webinar will inspire you to harvest the whole achievement motivation tree!

Dr. Linda Lee is an educational innovator. Her award-winning dissertation brought to light the relationships between affect and cognition, and she has fine-tuned her pedagogy based on more than four decades of successful college teaching and curriculum development, as well as professional seminars, community courses, individual tutoring, and personal coaching. Linda has been involved with distance learning since its inception and has been a proponent of making the online learning experience engaging, enriching, and motivating for students. She is the founder of a unique online learning center that, using her tried and true methods, has benefitted students of all ages worldwide.

Dr. Daphne Figueroa is a science educator with four decades of experience in science and math education. A decade of that, she included fully online and hybrid courses and directed the campus learning assistance center and the online tutoring program. Daphne is a proponent of real-world learning experiences for students. She strives to bring those experiences into the distance learning environment through simulations, virtual field trips, and hands-on approaches that students can perform during online sessions using readily available materials found at home. Daphne’s passion for math and science is infectious. It has been a hallmark of her presentation style in both physical and virtual classrooms for over 40 years.

Register for the Oct. 6 webinar: usdla.org/webinars

What’s the buzz with Perlego? How can it address affordability and access for students? 

October 20: 1-2pm

Presenters: Dr. Gerry Hanley and Ginny Schenk 

About the Webinar: We know that a big barrier to affordability in education is access to high-quality content at price points students can afford. Perlego is on a mission to help faculty teach without limits and unlock learning for students.

What you’ll learn: Join our upcoming webinar as we explore the exciting possibilities Perlego offers to enhance the learning experience for all. Together, we’ll unlock the potential of this incredible resource and discover how it can revolutionize education. Learn and gain access to over 1M titles for free. Your students can access all the content they need for $10/month. Think of Perlego as the “Spotify of Textbooks.”

Gerry Hanley, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching, www.merlot.org) and SkillsCommons (www.skillscommons.org), which are free and open digital libraries of academic and workforce development educational resources administered at California State University Long Beach. At CSULB, Gerry is also the Director of the Center for Usability in Design and Accessibility and Professor Emeritus of Psychology. A current priority is the Innovation Marketplace as the Chief Academic Officer for Partner in Publishing. Gerry’s previous positions included Assistant Vice Chancellor and Senior Director for Academic Technology Services at the CSU Office of the Chancellor, Director of the CSULB Faculty Development Center, and Center for Strategic Planning. He received his BA, MA, and PhD from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in Experimental/Cognitive Psychology.

Ginny Schenk has spent the last 17 years in education, first as an educator and then as a consultant for big brands such as National Geographic Learning, Houghton Mifflin & Pearson. Today, she works as a Senior Project Manager for Partner in Publishing (PIP), a market research and development firm where she partners with Gerry Hanley as a PIP’s Chief Academic Officer, to gather insights from key stakeholders at progressive institutions focused on student persistence and success.

Register for the Oct. 20 webinar: usdla.org/webinars

Reducing and Responding to Microaggressions in Distance Education

October 27: 1-2pm

Presenter: Tish Gallon

About the Webinar: Remote learning has undoubtedly positively impacted educational equality and inclusion. As our classrooms have become more diverse, discrimination may not be as blatant (or even intentional) as it once was. In the 21st century, conscious and unconscious biases are commonly displayed as microaggressions.

What you’ll learn: Microaggressions are covert derogatory offenses directed at a marginalized group member. Over time, being on the receiving end of microaggressions can negatively impact students and/or faculty’s mental health. This interactive workshop will provide a safe space to discuss the various types of microaggressions in distance education. Practical strategies and interventions aimed at decreasing such occurrences will be shared.

Dr. Tish Wade-Gallon has over 20 years of experience in distance learning and curriculum development. Her industry experience includes higher education, human services, and executive coaching. Dr. Tish is known to collaborate with people and programs to align their strengths with larger goals and initiatives. Her work focuses on supporting the professional development of facilitators, educators, and health-focused leaders. These experiences benefit Dr. Tish in her current roles at TLC Life Plans and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she leads efforts such as the Health Communicators Early Career Initiative, Formal Mentorship Program, and Pathway Achievement Series. Her passion for empowering others has led her to facilitate workshops nationwide. She has been an honored recipient of the Excellence in Education Award and the Rouche Award by The League of Innovation for these efforts. Her long-standing involvement with the University of Michigan’s Atlanta Alumni Association and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated will not surpass these accolades. Dr. Tish holds degrees in Psychology, Organizational Management, and Education. She continued her commitment to learning by recently becoming a DiSC-certified facilitator and completing a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Certificate from the Muma College of Business.

Register for the Oct. 27 webinar: https://usdla.org/webinars/