Usdla collaboration, momentum, and pragmatism

Usdla Collaboration, Momentum, and Pragmatism

This week I attended the USDLA (United States Distance Learning Association) conference. I was apprehensive before attending: as a representative of a performance-driven firm, I wasn’t sure if I would get enough value out of the conference to justify the time and money that we were going to spend on the trip.

The break-out sessions and the plenary panel did address topics that I found to be of value, such as:

1. Strategic Academic Planning for New Distance Education Programs that was presented by Richard Hezel and Dawn Anderson

2. On-Line vs. On-Campus Adult Students: Impact of Academics on Family and Work, presented by Ken Hartman

From an educational standpoint, I found the conference to be quite valuable; innumerable pedagogical topics were discussed that ranged from how to keep online students engaged, to how to avoid cheating in distance learning classes.

Generating New Business

The tone of the USDLA conference was difficult to gauge at first—it was clear that a number of people were there to collaborate and find solutions to common distance learning problems, but I wasn’t sure that the conference was the appropriate forum for generating new business.

By the second day of the conference however, I found that most members and attendees view the organization and the conference as a viable means for business networking, in addition to the opportunities for learning collaboration.

Pedagogy and Profitability

In this blog we’ve seen how popular the current trend to promote accountability and transparency in education is. Adapting business-type performance markers to education has been a common theme in the United States for some time now: from NCLB to the battle between the Randi Weingarten and the Klien/Bloomberg administration. One interesting conversation I had at the conference was based on a few simple ideas along these lines: How can we change the educational system in order to create a more competitive workforce? Why is it that education fights the use of technology, rather than embracing it? Why is it so difficult for teachers to engage students in the classroom? Why can’t we create incentives that award teachers for performance?

All of these questions hover around a much larger issue: are we going to demand concrete results from our educational system or not? If we are, what are these results going to be geared towards?

For the most part it is agreed that the function of education is to prepare students for the work place. To that end: shouldn’t courses be developed where marketing studies indicate there is a demand?

I was happy to see that many of the attendees of the USDLA conference hold a similar pragmatic view of the way education should be delivered, and the way results should be measured.

Mission-Driven Results

The mission of the USDLA is as follows:

• To provide national leadership in the field of distance learning

• To advocate and promote the use of distance learning

• To provide current information on distance learning

• To represent the distance learning community before government policy and regulatory bodies

• To serve and support the state, consortium and individual organizations that belong to USDLA

• To provide annual recognition and awards of outstanding achievements in distance learning

• To serve as a catalyst for the formation of partnerships among education, business, healthcare, and government

• To achieve a global leadership role through liaisons with international organizations

• To promote equity and access to lifelong learning through distance learning

• To promote diversity in our organization and its programs

If I had to provide a brief summary of the mission of the USDLA simply from what I saw at the conference, I would say that the purpose of the organization is to improve the quality and reach of distance learning . This can be done by creating a forum for dialogue among individuals that interact with distance learning in their careers or lives.

It makes sense that the organization thrives off of the growth of the industry, and the industry will grow as a result of effective collaboration; in this way it is in the best interest of USDLA to encourage this dialogue, and promote its constituent members.

At Innovation Ads, we’ve been looking at the different ways our business addresses best practices in the enrollment management and enrollment marketing industries. In our industries—as in most other industries—best practices follow sustainable and profitable business; not the reverse. It was reassuring to see that most if not all of the attendees view distance learning and education in general in a pragmatic and holistic light: by improving the process of education, we will improve the best practices of education—we can make schools more efficient, more productive, and more competitive on an international scale.


I like the approach that the USDLA takes to education; by combining the knowledge and skill set of professionals from varying areas, we can collaborate and find creative solutions to the difficult problems that educators are tasked with solving.

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