Anyone can watch Live on YouTube or OLC Accelerate attendees can add the session to your schedule to participate in the Q&A.

The OLC Awards Gala marks a night of virtual splendor and ceremony as we celebrate the achievements, elevate the innovations, and honor the commitments of this year’s OLC Fellows and award recipients. With over 20 distinct awards to distribute, we are privileged to have these leaders join us on the virtual stage as we thank them for their dedication to quality online, digital, and blended learning, and engage them in dialogue on their perspectives on what’s to come.  In line with the celebratory nature of the session, we invite you to select your most festive Zoom background (our favorites here), prepare a celebratory beverage or snacks, and join us for an enlightening evening filled with accolades and provocations featuring some of the amazing individuals in our field!



The OLC Awards Gala will be held on Monday, November 9 from 6:45-8:00pm ET. Note that this gala is open to the entire community to attend, regardless of whether you are attending OLC Accelerate.

Those who are registered can add this to their session schedule. Those who are not registered can watch live on YouTube.

Feel free to invite your colleagues to join in on this event in celebration of our award winners. Additionally, if you are inspired by the OLC Awards Gala, and would like to register to attend the rest of the conference, you can do so here.

November 9, 6:45pm – 6:55pm US ET – Welcome Remarks and Honoring the 2020 OLC Awards Recipients


  • Mary Niemiec, President of the OLC Board of Directors

November 9, 6:55pm – 7:55pm US ET – 2021 Predictions in Online Learning: A Fireside Chat with the 2020 OLC Award Recipients

No one could have predicted education would be forced to shift to a remote format for learners globally in 2020, but some were more prepared than others. Educators are now working to transition hastily created programs into quality online, blended, and digital learning opportunities for all – ones even better than those that existed prior to the pandemic. So what will success look like in 2021?

Our moderator will ask the 2020 OLC award winners and OLC Fellows for their best predictions and insights on how to reach and engage the modern learner – anyone, anywhere, anytime.


  • OLC Fellows and Award Recipients (see list below)

November 9, 7:55pm – 8:00pm US ET –Closing Remarks


  • Jennifer Mathes, Online Learning Consortium


Sponsored by



2020 OLC Fellows and Award Recipients

OLC 2020 Fellows

Jason Ruckert, Ph.D., FRAeS, FRSA, Vice President of Enrollment Management at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Ruckert is accountable for the development, delivery, and quality control of all online courses, utilized by 24,000 students. In his 15 years at Embry-Riddle he has made a significant impact on the University and is now recognized as a global leader in online and technology-enhanced education.

Kelvin Thompson, Ed.D., Executive Director, Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida. Thompson has over 22 years experience in online and blended learning as an instructional designer, administrator, and consultant in higher education. He was a pioneer at UCF as one of the University’s first instructional designers to support the new “online learning” modality in 1998 and has become a national leader with a focus on inclusivity and collaboration in online and blended learning.

OLC 2020 Award Winners

The Bruce N. Chaloux Scholarship for Early Career Excellence recognizes Marleigh Perez, Ed.D., Director of Student Success, Oregon State University Ecampus, for achieving extraordinary accomplishments in the field of online education. Dr. Perez sets high team expectations to serve a growing population of more than 10,000 adult online learners and improve student success initiatives.

The Excellence in Faculty Development for Online Teaching Award recognizes Jason Drysdale, Ed.D., Director of Instructional Design & Program Development, University of Colorado, for the development and delivery of Online Skills Mastery (OSM) – a comprehensive program for faculty professional development in online teaching. OSM, pronounced “awesome,” began as a course to help faculty move online during an LMS transition in 2014 and has since evolved far beyond its roots. OSM will soon be extended to the entire University of Colorado system.

The Excellence and Innovation in Online Teaching Award recognizes Sean Nufer, Ph.D., Director of Teaching and Learning, TCS Education System, for outstanding and creative use of appropriate educational technologies to teach an online course in higher education. Rather than trying to replicate components of a traditional learning environment, Dr. Nufer uses Canva, screencasts, asynchronous collaborative assignments, and other digital tools to successfully break down silos and elevate student performance in an online environment.

The Gomory-Mayadas Leadership Award in Online Education honors Julie Golden Botti, Ed.D., Executive Director for Online and Continuing Education, Florida Atlantic University, for exemplifying the transformative leadership and ideals of Ralph Gomory and A. Frank Mayadas. Dr. Golden Botti created and implemented online initiatives aimed at student and faculty success, including scaling the Center for Online and Continuing Education, constructing a successful and active Continuing Education subdivision, overseeing FAU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, and more.

The John R. Bourne Outstanding Online Program Award recognizes Lesley Casarez, Ph.D., Program Coordinator/Associate Professor, Angelo State University, for an outstanding continuing education program with a proven record of excellence, as demonstrated by its success in providing expanded access, learning effectiveness, and high levels of student and faculty satisfaction in a cost-effective manner. To address the increasing shortage of school counselors and mental health professionals, ASU shifted its masters’ programs in educational counseling fully online and is now offering almost all course content at no charge to students.

The Leadership in Equity and Inclusion in Online Learning Award honors Ellen Beattie, Ph.D., Chief, Adult Instructional Services, Maryland LABOR, for leading Maryland adult education programs in developing and creating online learning programming to promote student equity and inclusion. Dr. Beattie has also incorporated research and evidence-based practices to ensure the effectiveness of these programs and related practices. 

The OLC Effective Practice Awards recognizes Angela Francis, Ph.D., Assistant Dean of General Education & First Year Experience, CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS); and Kathleen Melago, Doctor of Musical Arts, Associate Professor of Music Education, Slippery Rock University, for effective techniques, strategies and practices to advance quality and access to online programs. Dr. Francis and CUNY SPS use a three-pronged approach to prepare students for enrollment in online courses by determining if online learning is right for them and if so, providing tools to help them succeed. Dr. Melago’s virtual teaching partnership enhances music education majors’ distance-learning skills for future teaching positions by pairing them with 7th-12th grade music students who benefit from the one-to-one instruction.

The OLC Equity & Inclusion Scholarship recognizes Fabiola Torres, Ethnic Studies Department Chair, Glendale Community College, for significant contributions to the field focused on equity and inclusion. Torres is an equity minded practitioner who has built an academic career with street smarts, activism and ganas (passion in Spanish). Torres uses Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning strategies while incorporating humanized communication strategies to foster success.

The Online Learning Journal Outstanding Research Achievement in Online Education Award recognizes Florence Martin, Ph.D., Professor in Learning, Design and Technology, Program Director of the Post-Master’s Certificate of University and College Teaching and Program Coordinator of the Ed.D., in Educational Leadership, Learning, Design and Technology concentration at University of North Carolina Charlotte, for extraordinary achievements and research in the field of online education that excel in rigor, prestige and impact. This highly selective award is an honor that an individual cannot seek. Rather, the individual is selected by the OLJ Editorial Board.

For more information about all of our winners, please visit the following two press releases: