USDLA Webinars 2022: From “Ways to Flip Zoom to Engage Your Team” to “How Watching (Lots of) Television Helped Me in Instructional Design,” this year’s webinars were educational — and entertaining!

A Note from Pat Cassella, executive director, USDLA and Valary Oleinick, webinar director — With 2022 almost behind us, we want to thank the presenters who have shared their time and recourses during our USDLA Free Friday Webinar series.

We relaunched the series on September 13, and in the months since have had the opportunity to bring our members nearly a dozen educational webinars on topics ranging from “Flip Zoom and Engage your Team” presented by William J. Ryan, Ph.D. to “How Watching (Lots of) Television Helped Me in Instructional Design” presented by Maria Elena Hernandez.

Please scroll down to review the programs we have offered this year. We look forward to bringing you many more wonderful webinars in 2023.

Note: If you’d like to present a webinar for our audience of distance learning professionals, contact Valary for details:

Friday, Dec. 16, 2022: Understanding the Rural Utilities Service Distance Learning and Telemedicine (RUS-DLT) Grant

Presenter: Kristin DeProspero

About the webinar: The RUS DLT Grants are specifically designed to increase access to education training and healthcare resources for organizations in rural America. Awards range from $50,000 to $1 million and are due Jan. 30, 2023. In this workshop, you’ll learn more about the grant, the application, and more. Don’t miss it!

About Kristin DeProspero: Kristin is the VP of Grant and Adoption Services at Solutionz, Inc. She has been a proven leader in the unified communications field, dedicated to healthcare and education applications, for over 30 years. Using innovative thinking and her specialized knowledge of a range of grant opportunities, including, but not limited to, E-rate, USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant, BTOP, School-Based Health Center Capital Grant, and HRSA grants, Kristin has helped countless schools, institutions, and organization secure funding so they could bring the best tools and resources to their learners. She is also a member of the USDLA Board of Directors.

Click here to register for the webinar:

Click here to learn more about the grant:

Friday, Dec. 9: Quality Does Matter — HBCU Case Study Scaling Online Course Design

Presenters: Pia Anderson Duncan, Ed.D., Clinical Instructor, Distance Education Coordinator, and Carol Huynh, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice, North Carolina Central University

This presentation will describe the organization, policy development, strategic initiative implementation, and assessment associated with establishing a universal course design for a department and a common course template for a Criminal Justice Course at an urban, land-grant, historically black university. This presentation will highlight the leadership required to pioneer the initiative and gain faculty participation and engagement. Additionally, the presentation will discuss and review data on students’ grades before and after the course redesign and why the Quality of an online course design matters. Learning outcomes:

  • Explain the importance of collaboration and leadership across all aspects of distance learning
  • Discuss the process of implementing a common course design
  • Interpret grade distribution data of a course before and after course design implementation
  • Identify the success and challenges of implementing universal online standards.

Friday, Nov. 18: How Watching (Lots of) Television Helped Me in Instructional Design

Unlike many tools popping up for instructional design, video has been around for decades. Apps and smartphones have made video production more affordable. But new creators may need to be aware of long-established video best practices, which help effectively deliver a message to the audience. The webinar will review some of these elements, basic production tips, and free tools. And, hopefully, it’ll give you a good reason to binge-watch your favorite shows.

Presenter: Maria Elena Hernandez is an instructional designer at Celigo and first started working in the field at Texas State Technical College. She transitioned to instructional design after years in the communications industry. Her previous job titles included multimedia journalist, digital media director, social media manager, reporter, and instructional television director. In addition to local media outlets, she’s worked in a public school district and university. She earned master’s degrees in educational technology and digital marketing. But she credits most of her early work experience to her associate’s degree in radio/TV production.

Nov. 4, 2022: The Importance of #a11yship

Presenter: Alan Natachu, Learning Technology Partner at Exact Sciences

What’s the why behind making your content and delivery accessible? Do you have a why? Your content and delivery should reach as many learners as possible.

“If you’re not incorporating accessibility into your work, you are missing a great opportunity to be even more learner-focused,” insists Alan Natachu, a Learning Technology Partner with Exact Sciences.

“I will deliver 3 reasons why your work should be accessible and how you can easily start incorporating it into your daily work.”

October 21: Accommodating Neurodivergence: Designing Experiences for Autistic and ADHD Learners

Presenter: Judy Katz — Interest in accessibility, usability, and inclusivity has surged recently, but Section 508 and the WCAG guidelines don’t tell the story of how to accommodate autistic and ADHD learners. And chances are you have far more than you think due to low diagnosis rates in women and other marginalized groups. This session will help you see learning experiences from a neurodivergent perspective. We will discuss neurodivergent-friendly approaches, the impact of your design and technology choices, and even which content has historically put neurodivergents (particularly autistics) at a disadvantage… and how to correct it.

About Judy Katz (she/her): Judy Katz makes stuff that helps people learn. She is a learning experience strategist, designer, and developer, as well as a frequent speaker and writer. She uses her extensive professional experience, as well as her experience as a neurodivergent and parent, to help organizations understand, accommodate, and benefit from the tremendous talents of their neurodivergent employees. Judy has worked in the field of learning and development since 1997. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Texas, an MBA from Baker University, and an MEd in instructional design with a focus on workplace learning from UMass-Boston. Learn more:

October 14, 2022: Flip Zoom and engage your team!

Presenter: William J. Ryan, Ph.D. “As we transitioned to working remotely, we became very familiar with web conferencing platforms like Zoom,” says Bill. “We also discovered how much energy it takes to be on camera for hours daily between meetings, project teams, and training. The ability to utilize group time effectively and efficiently is vital and healthy.” Instead of having the contact with content be lectures via Zoom, this session suggests ways about how people are introduced to instruction. He has created a process that allows learners to interact with instructors and peers to practice, apply, and synthesize content in their mutual working experience. Bill drives strategy focused on providing a performance solutions map targeting people, processes, and platforms that impact the business culture to retain and engage people using learning strategically. He is also a member of the USDLA Advisory Board.

At the end of this highly interactive session, participants will be able to:

  • Define the flipped model of learning
  • Identify 3 learning modes that can be asynchronous
  • Identify 3 learning modes that can be synchronous
  • Examine 6 techniques to apply for effective peer learning

Friday, Oct. 7: Flexing with Purpose — As the learning experience shifts further toward online formats, we continue to experience a significant influx of instructors and students who are newer to this reality – or certainly to experiences that are more effective than not. Many will struggle with navigating, managing, and completing these experiences effectively – whether instructor or student. In addition, there is an increased number of modalities to negotiate across the online-blended-HyFlex-augmented delivery spectrum.

Combining these factors makes it critical to have a more effective framework for understanding how to create courses designed and delivered in a humanized, inclusive, and engaging way. This enables a learning community where the greatest number and diversity of students can succeed. This session will demonstrate ways the Purposeful Learning Framework enables more effective learner-centric courses while not lowering course outcomes or expectations. Participants will be engaged around research-based and proven examples and will have access to many of these, including the Purposeful Learning Framework, via a Creative Commons license.

Presenter: Dr. Brett Christie has worked in higher education for over 25 years, leading large-scale efforts related to teaching-learning effectiveness across all modalities, particularly in service of the greatest number and diversity of students succeeding.

Presenter: Carrie O’Donnell has been a change agent in the education industry, focusing on digital learning solutions for the workplace and higher education and using customer insight to build great learning experiences. She founded O’Donnell Learn 30 years ago as a virtual company. She has built the team to include hundreds of learning designers who partner with institutions and their faculty to improve virtual or blended learning.

Sponsor: The Arizona Telemedicine Program & Southwest Telehealth Resource Center is a multidisciplinary, university-based program that provides telemedicine services, distance learning, informatics training, and telemedicine technology assessment capabilities to communities throughout Arizona and the region. The programs have successfully created partnerships with various not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations and new interagency relationships within state government. Always exploring and supporting digital tools and technology, the Arizona Telemedicine Program continues to create new paradigms for healthcare delivery over the information superhighway. The program is recognized as one of the premier departments at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and has received many national awards for its research and innovations, including several from USDLA. For more information, please visit and

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

Presenter: Loretta Driskel, Senior Instructional Designer, OIT-Teaching & Learning Corner, Clarkson University, — 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. 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.

Presenter: 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.

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 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.

Presenter: 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.

Presenter: Eric Powers, Academic Chair and an Associate Professor of Finance: Eric 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. 16: Inclusive Student Mentoring — We will 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. We offer a model which proposes how inclusive mentoring practices may lead toward leveling socially constructed power configurations. Participants will receive a job aid to help them apply inclusive strategies in their own student mentoring practice.

Presenter: Sheryl Kristensen, Walden University — Dr. Kristensen has more than 30 years of higher education administration and teaching experience. Dr. Kristensen served as the U.S. Army’s intelligence analyst and German linguist. She is an accreditation peer reviewer for The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Research interests include institutional effectiveness, change management, transfer of learning, influence, sustainability, leadership, organizational behavior, and veterans’ issues. Dr. Kristensen participates in various positive social change activities, including environmental sustainment and veterans affairs.

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 as well as 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 unrivalled 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 when it comes to the other video collaboration peripherals available in the market today. Our cameras are designed to not only provide amazing video, but to be comfortable and easy to use.

September 13, 2022: 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