Dec. 20, 2022: The USDLA Member Spotlight is on Arifa Garman, Senior Instructional Designer and eLearning Developer

A Note from Pat Cassella, executive director, US Distance Learning Association — It’s a pleasure today to introduce you to Arifa Garman, Senior Instructional Designer, and eLearning Developer, and a member of the USDLA Advisory Board. 

Arifa has an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instructions, specializing in Distance Education, and works at the University of West Florida. She earned her degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Study at Florida State University, and her degrees in Administration of Multicultural Education and a BA(Ho) in International Development Study at the University of Calgary, Canada.

Born in the Middle East, Arifa now calls Missouri home. “I have been in learning and development and faculty training for over two decades, specializing in creating online and hybrid courses incorporating multiple theories and practices such as the flipped classroom, experiential learning, and utilizing technology to engage with students,” Arifa shares. “I have reviewed more than 100 courses using multiple tools, facilitated with the Online Learning Consortium, and helped train faculty and division chairs on online methodologies, technologies, and best practices.”

Arifa also joined the University of Maryland as an Instructional Designer, bringing her experience as an Executive Director of eLearning and Testing to help her focus on creating online courses with UMD.

On the creative side, Arifa is an artist and a fashion designer who always works on creations that mix colors and textures. She specializes in Islamic Art on porcelain.

“Transitioning from porcelain painting to Islamic Art on Porcelain was a way to connect with my roots,” explains Arifa, who has been painting for more than 25 years with a focus on Islamic Art and has been included in many local art shows as well as Glenbow Museum in Calgary. “A tree without roots is destined to die. Art is a great medium to connect with others and bridge a cultural gap, and discussing art seems to be a subject many are willing to participate in.”

Arifa has three adult children who excel in their professional fields. Contact her email,

And please scroll down to read out Q&A!Pat,

The USDLA Spotlight is on Dr. Arifa Garman

USDLA: Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do. 

Arifa: I am a Senior Instructional Designer and eLearning Developer with the University of Maryland. I have 20+ year in the higher ed and a previous experience in the corporate world when I lived in Canada. I am originally from Syria and immigrated to Canada and then United States. I hold now triple citizenship. I also have a consulting company working with faculty and teachers.

USDLA: You have had an impressive career. What are you most proud of? 

Arifa: Finishing my doctorate two months after my son finished his PhD. I immigrated to Canada with exactly 5 English words in my repertoire. I learned to prioritize me as well as my children.

USDLA: What has been your biggest challenge? 

Arifa: My biggest challenge has been the bubble some people want to put me in because I am a practicing Muslim Female- wearing a hijab.

USDLA: Regarding the distance learning industry, what are you most excited about in the future?

Arifa: I completed my last two degrees online. I know without the opportunities of distance learning; I would not have been able to realize my dream of finishing my doctorate. I see distant learning opening the doors for those, like me, who have families, jobs, careers to nourish and other responsibilities that they can not drop and devote their time to attending school in person. Extending those opportunities to everyone is paramount in my view. I wish to see distance learning bringing more real-world experiences to those learners so that they finish their degrees and seamlessly join the expanding world of distance learning as professionals.

USDLA: What do you think are the biggest challenges for distance learning?

Arifa: Availability of resources to everyone and getting practical experience to compliment the degrees gained.

USDLA: As a member of USDLA, how has the organization helped you professionally?

Arifa: The availability of resources and research is very valuable.

USDLA: Why do you think it’s a great idea to join USDLA?

Arifa: Joining like-minded professional help lift me and enrich my life as a professional.

USDLA: What’s next for you professionally, and personally?

Arifa: I look forward to focusing more time on my consulting company. I am also looking to travel more and explore other countries as well.