2020 OLC Awards Gala

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Brief Abstract

A virtual gala celebrating the 2020 OLC Fellows and the winners of the 2020 OLC Awards, focusing on the impactful and innovative work occurring across the field of online, blended and digital learning.

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, 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!

Sponsored By


Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D serves as the Chief Executive Officer at the Online Learning Consortium. In this role, she provides the strategic direction for the organization and supports the development of key projects and programs to support OLC members. Dr. Mathes has 25 years of experience in both public and private education where she has continuously supported digital learning initiatives. In addition, Dr. Mathes is the author of the ICDE Report Global Quality in Online, Open, Flexible and Technology Enhanced Education: An Analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (2019) and co-editor of the OLC Quality Scorecard Handbook: Criteria for Excellence in Blended Learning Programs (2017). She continues to write and present on key topics in online, blended and digital learning.
Angela Gunder is the Chief Academic Officer and VP of Learning for the Online Learning Consortium. In this role, she is responsible for gathering, curating, and leveraging the intellectual capital created by and disseminated through OLC. Prior to her position at the OLC, Angela served as the Director of Instructional Design & Curriculum Development for the Office of Digital Learning, managing and mentoring the team that builds the fully-online programs for The University of Arizona. Her over fifteen-year career as a designer for higher education informs her instructional design practice, where she leverages her expertise in web design, usability, visual communication, programming, and standards-based online learning. She is an Associate Editor for the Teacher Education Board of MERLOT, and the recipient of the 2018 MERLOT Distinguished Service Award, the organization’s highest honor. She is also the recipient of two Online Learning Consortium Effective Practice Awards for the creation of a framework for personal learning networks, and for the creation of exploratory installations of education technology, respectively. In 2019, Dr. Gunder was named an OLC Fellow for her dedication to service, innovation, and scholarship in support of student success in online learning. Her research interests include open educational practices, digital literacies, narrative in online course design, and emerging technology for second language acquisition. She holds a B.S. in Computer Science and Fine Art from Fordham University, a M.Ed. in Education Technology from Arizona State University. Angela completed her Ph.D. in Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies at The University of Arizona, where in 2020 she was named an Erasmus Scholar by the College of Education for her commitment to the college, the university and to the community. Pronouns: she/her/hers

Extended Abstract

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. 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.

6:45-6:55pm ET: Welcome Remarks and Honoring the 2020 OLC Awards Recipients

Speaker: Jennifer Mathes

6:55-7:55pm 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.

Moderator: TBD

7:55-8:00pm Closing Remarks

Speaker: Jennifer Mathes


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: