Sept. 13, 2022: New Friday Webinar Series from the US Distance Learning Association

A note from Valary Oleinik, USDLA Board Member, Advisory Chair, Conference and Events Chair, Speaker, and Gamification Coach

I am thrilled to relaunch our weekly webinar series, which brings our members insights into trends and innovations that spark ideas about the distance learning industry. Scroll down for the September webinar calendar, which begins this Friday from 1-2 pm Eastern. Questions? Feel free to contact me at I’ll see you on Friday!

About Valary: I am one part artist, one part geek, and 100% committed to finding ways to help people develop and deliver more engaging and effective learning experiences. Little did I know growing up that one of my superpowers was hidden in plain sight, right in my name. Once I realized that I was Valary with a WHY at the end rather than just Valary with a Y at the end, it all became clear. I found that curiosity can be contagious and that I can use my passion for learning and ability to translate complex ideas to grow others’ curiosity and get them to say WHY NOT try things a new way. I am a sought-after keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, and strategist who focuses on using gameful experiences, deliberate creativity, and technology to help learners wherever they are physically and in their learning journey. I have been called the maven of new thinking and MacGyver of training because of my quirky and innovative approaches that help translate and distill complex information into simple, digestible nuggets. Throughout all of these endeavors, I am assisted by my cat and bunny, who are lousy typists but great at shredding papers. I invite you to check out my work outside USDLA at

USDLA Free Weekly Webinar Series: Every Friday from 1 pm to 2 pm Eastern

Friday, Sept. 16: Inclusive Student Mentoring

Please join Sheryl Kristensen and Thomas Butkiewicz from Walden University as they discuss an inclusive student mentoring model applying inclusive teaching and learning strategies to influence student engagement and persistence in the learning process and the virtual mentoring relationship.

“Awareness of implicit bias, cultural humility, and cultural intelligence promises to improve mentoring relationships by valuing the strengths and diverse perspectives that students bring to these relationships,” Sheryl explains.

“We offer a model which proposes how inclusive mentoring practices may lead toward leveling socially constructed power configurations,” shares Tom, noting that participants will receive a job aid to help them apply inclusive strategies in their own student mentoring practice.

Click here to register for this session!

Sponsored by VDO360: What sets VDO360 apart from the competition? Our innovation, passion, and quality. Innovation is key, and we have consistently led the way in visual collaboration. Our passion shows in how we approach our customers and the greater market. We have extensive experience in all aspects of modern camera design and a long-standing interest in pushing the boundaries to create a comfortable environment for everyone using video applications. The video experience provided by VDO360 products is unrivaled in quality. While many may think that “good enough” is fine, we feel that an attitude such as that is why many users are unfulfilled regarding the other video collaboration peripherals available in the market today. Our cameras are designed not only to provide amazing video but to be comfortable and easy to use.

Friday, Sept. 23:  How to Drive Online Student Engagement for Deeper Learning

In this fireside chat-style webinar with the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business faculty members Elizabeth Churchya and Eric Powers will share their experiences effectively, empowering students to engage in online courses. Given their vastly different subject matters, each will be able to speak to the various techniques they used to drive meaningful conversations and engagement around their course topics. They will also highlight how they used their Yellowdig Communities to create a connected learning experience for their students. Don’t hesitate to bring your questions to Eric and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Churchya, Piano Faculty Member, Pianist Elizabeth Churchya is a charismatic and sensitive performer who has concertized extensively throughout the United States and England. She is a prize winner in many competitions, including the Charleston International Competition. Recently, Elizabeth appeared as a “Rising Star” soloist with the UofSC Orchestra in the Ravel Piano Concerto performance in G major. She had the privilege of performing in masterclasses for renowned pianists, including Nelita True, Edmund Battersby, Dmitri Rachmanov, and many others. Her primary teachers include Joseph Rackers, Phillip Bush, Jeffrey Brown, and Lelia Sadlier. Elizabeth is a current doctoral candidate at UofSC in Music Performance (ABD). She teaches Film Music at the University of South Carolina, a course she designed and quickly became the university’s most popular music elective.

Eric Powers, Academic Chair and an Associate Professor of Finance, has taught introductory financial management at the undergraduate and masters levels, undergraduate fixed income security valuation, and the Ph.D. seminar in corporate finance.

Sponsored by Yellowdig: In 2014, Yellowdig’s CEO and founder Shaunak Roy knew he wanted to start a company that mattered. As Facebook and other social media technologies took over the social connectivity scene, he saw an opportunity to leverage this idea of social sharing through technology, specifically in sharing academic ideas and knowledge. As Shaunak looked back on his academic days (he went to undergrad at IIT Bombay and postgrad at MIT), he realized he learned as much from his peers as he did from his brilliant professors. Some of the bonds he created with his peers lasted well beyond those formative years and morphed into lifelong friendships. Click here to learn why online learning communities drive deeper learning, energize faculty and increase retention:

Friday, Sept. 30: Open Educational Resources in Action: Have a Sip of MERLOT!

Loretta Driskel, Senior Instructional Designer, OIT-Teaching & Learning Corner, Clarkson University,

Welcome to Have a Sip of Merlot! I’m Loretta, a senior instructional designer at Clarkson University. We are partners with Merlot, intending to help faculty members everywhere create engaging, diverse teaching and learning experiences for students and faculty. My mission is to help faculty to balance student success with efficient class management.

Loretta Driskel

I will say right up front that we will not be drinking wine for this session. However, I think you will find your time here worthwhile. We’ll be exploring MERLOT, an acronym for Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching; this is a website you can visit to look for open educational resources (commonly known as OER) for your teaching, training, and learning.

MERLOT has been around a long time (since 1997), well before OER (Open Educational Resources) became a buzzword. Now 25 years later, you will find that many institutions are part of a network for sharing. Many can be found by using the SmartSearch tool to search at least 12 library learning materials beyond the nearly 100,000 added to MERLOT. What is unique about using the MERLOT materials is that not only do they have years of experience curating resources, but the materials have been peer-reviewed by members of the discipline, which assures high quality.

Join us for a tour of the MERLOT website, browse the collection and think about how MERLOT will benefit your teaching and learning practices. I’ll see you on Sept. 30. Here’s to the power of

Click here to sign up for the USDLA Webinar Series!