July 1, 2024: Passing the Baton


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Looking Forward

Founded in 1987, the United States Distance Learning Association was the first nonprofit distance learning association in the United States to support distance learning research, development and praxis across the complete arena of education, training and communications: USDLA.org.

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Monday Morning Magic from Inkandescent® PR + Publishing Co. It is a great honor and pleasure to be the communications director of the US Distance Learning Association, usdla.org. Each July, we welcome a new president to lead us for the year and today the baton is passed from our 2023-2024 president Chuck Sengstock to incoming president Valary Oleinik.

Chuck says: As the outgoing president of the United Distance Learning Association, I am very proud of our accomplishments this past year. We have made great strides in reinvigorating our public policy initiatives and have seen definitive growth in membership. Our Board of Directors is engaged and excited for the next year under the leadership of Valary Oleinik. As you’ll learn about below, Valary’s initiatives specific to technology, leadership, and connections/collaboration are very exciting. Her leadership will take our organization to the next level. Hang on for an exciting year. Mark your calendars! Our next conference will be July 23-26. I hope to see you!

Watch our interview with Chuck and Val on the Distance Learning Roundtable show on USDLA.tv. Scroll down to learn more about Valary’s plans for the year ahead.

About the year ahead at USDLA, Valary shares: It is an honor to serve as this year’s President of USDLA. Following President Sengstock’s footsteps is comforting and inspiring, as he and our predecessors have significantly advanced our mission. Each year, before the national conference, we hold a board meeting and an open meeting for all members. This year was no exception. The members on the call were diverse in terms of location, constituency, and experience.

I watched as different people welcomed new members and offered help and suggestions for those sharing their challenges. This diversity of voices is one of the things that makes USDLA special. We unite people and ideas from the preK-20 educational, workforce, governmental, telehealth, and non-profit sectors, fostering mutual learning and support. I often explain our association by saying, “If you support learners at a distance, we support you.”

Looking ahead to the coming year, I am filled with optimism while acknowledging the ongoing challenges our community faces as we adapt to new personal and professional realities. USDLA has always embraced a spirit of community and a people-first focus. Over the past year, I have considered how I can contribute as President, jotting down ideas and writing “TLC” in my journal one day. Challenging times often present great opportunities if we have the proper support.

“TLC” represents the key areas we will focus on this year.

  • “T” stands for technology, which underpins distance learning efforts, but also techniques to ensure the technology is used to best effect. At USDLA, we will introduce new technologies to enhance member engagement, including an app for connecting with us and accessing valuable resources.
  • “L” stands for leadership, emphasizing our role in advocating for all learners and modeling innovative learning practices. We have planned events featuring those leading the charge and pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
  • Finally, “C” stands for connections and collaborations. We will continue to develop and nurture these internally and help our members create them. This includes strengthening and growing our association chapters to provide localized service and forming strategic partnerships to better serve everyone.

It is going to be an exciting and impactful year, not because of me, but because of the light I get to shine on all of you and the amazing work you do.

Learn more at USDLA.org.

Until next Monday: May you live up to your potential and embrace the art of helping others do the same. — Hope Katz Gibbs, founder and president, Inkandescent® Inc. Inkandescent.us

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About Chuck: Chuck Sengstock is a recognized distance learning leader with 31 years of experience developing and leading undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education distance learning programs with up to 12,000 registrations annually. He has expertise in online course design, educational technology, faculty development, staff training, and program marketing and management.

Chuck is the past President of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) and the winner of local, national, and international awards for excellence in distance learning programming. Chuck also researched and implemented a standardized LMS student user interface (2005) before other standardization quality advocates.

He is the creator of the Drake University award-winning Implicit Bias training initiative with the Des Moines Police Department and the Des Moines Regional Police Academy. Over 500 officers have participated in this face-to-face and online training. Chuck also received a Gold American Advertising Federation (ADDY) Award as Executive Producer of Fareway Meat and Grocery’s Active Shooter training video.

About Valary: Valary Oleinik is 50% artist and 50% geek, and 100% committed to helping people develop and deliver more engaging experiences. She is a sought-after keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, and strategist who focuses on using gamification, deliberate creativity, and technology — Valary helps learners wherever they are physically and in their learning journey. She has been called the ‘maven of new thinking’ and ‘MacGyver of training’ because of her quirky and innovative approaches that help translate and distill complex information into simple, digestible nuggets. She is a recurring speaker at annual conferences such as TechLearn, GamiCon, and Serious Play and has appeared in publications including ATD Magazine and Reworked.

Throughout her decades in the learning and development space, she has been an in-person and online facilitator, instructional designer, presentation coach, and consultant on learning experiences in the workplace and higher education settings. Many of those years were spent at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, a top-tier international law firm, where she is a project manager in the attorney support department.

Valary is also the Owner and Chief Disruptor at DandeLearn LLC, a consultancy where she advocates for gamification and creativity to create meaningful and effective learner-centric experiences that keep people engaged and leave them wanting to learn more. She has worked with clients worldwide in education, health and wellness, sustainability, and various business sectors to develop strategies and deliver impactful events. One of the most unique options she offers is The BOX Experience, a facilitated exploration of in and out-of-the-box thinking and how it can be used across various topics and challenges.

Valary has a BS in Management from the University of New Orleans and studied Instructional Systems Design at UMBC with a focus on Distance Education and using emerging technologies to create innovative learning solutions. As a way of giving back to the learning community, Valary serves on the board of the USDLA (United States Distance Learning Association), where she is currently President. Throughout her endeavors, she is assisted by her cat and bunny, who are lousy typists but great at shredding papers.