USDLA 2001 Awards Presented for Excellence in Distance Learning

April 20, 2001

WASHINGTON — The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) today presented its 2001 Distance Learning Awards at a ceremony held in conjunction with the 2001 e-Learning Conference & Expo, the premier conference and exposition for the distance-learning industry. 13 awards werepresented to distance learning professionals, organizations and companies for excellence in teaching, excellence in programming and outstanding individual achievements.

The USDLA awards program was created to acknowledge major accomplishments in distance learning and to highlight those instructors, programs, and distance learning professionals who have achieved excellence in the field. Categories include Higher Education, K-12 Education, Government, Corporate/Business and Healthcare & Telemedicine. This year’s winners cover a broad spectrum of educational expertise, from new approaches to collaborative learning to the world’s first online program for surgical training; from NASA to the IRS.

2001 USDLA Distance Learning Awards were presented to the following:

Excellence in Distance Learning Teaching – Higher Education: to Dr. Paul Resta from the The University of Texas at Austin College of Education. Resta teaches in the Master of Education program served via the University of Texas UT TeleCampus. He has created online courses that engage students with current research, innovative instructional design, strategic real world partnerships, and cutting edge practices and developments within the field of educational technology.

Excellence in Distance Learning Teaching – Government: to Melodee Mercer, Lead Instructor for the Department of Veterans Affairs, for the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Reader Focus Writing Tools Satellite Course. Since 1996 she has trained 6500 students nationwide. Since being on the team that developed the original course, she has added many of her own innovations – sometimes spontaneously on-the-air.

Excellence in Distance Learning Teaching – K-12 Education: to Mary S. Ellsworth of the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, Gallaudet University. She developed SOAR-High Earth System Science with a different twist on distance learning. Teachers from three schools for the Deaf share online curriculum and their students collaborate on learning activities. The students in Washington, D.C., Indiana, and California learn science by creating web pages, using collaboration software and videoconferencing.

Excellence in Distance Learning Programming – Higher Education: to MBA Online, UT TeleCampus. The University of Texas System offers a collaborative MBA Online degree from eight of its academic campuses via the UT TeleCampus. The UT TeleCampus is a central service and support unit for online education within The UT System. Students apply to their choice from participating campuses, and this campus becomes the “home” campus from which the degree is conferred. All eight partner universities provide courses toward a common degree plan.

Excellence in Distance Learning Programming – Government: to The Defense Acquisition University, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, which coordinates the education of over 145,000 acquisition personnel worldwide. Nearly 18,000 students have completed distance learning classes since 1998. The re-engineering of program management courses alone resulted in a two-thirds reduction of annual student training weeks for an annual savings of 300 work years or $16,500,000.

Excellence in Distance Learning Programming – K-12: to NASA Connect, produced by the Office of Education, NASA Langley Research Center. NASA Connect is a series of 30 minute, standards-based, instructional distance learning programs for students in grades 5 – 8. Each program is accompanied by an educator’s guide describing a hands-on classroom activity, and a web-based component that reinforces the instructional objectives, and extends the lesson into a technology rich environment.

Excellence in Distance Learning Programming – Healthcare and Telemedicine: to BeST (Basic electronic Surgical Training), the world’s first online surgical training program. Developed by IntuMed (a joint venture between Intuition, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Harvard Medical Internationl), BeST breaks the physical boundaries of education to enable trainee surgeons wherever they are, to benefit from the top quality educational content. BeST provides students with a complete interactive and fully integrated educational program in basic surgery. BeST employs the latest e-learning technology to deliver a user-focused, flexible learning experience, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Trainees benefit from fully moderated content, visual and interactive learning, realistic case studies, challenging simulations, tests and personalized feedback.

Excellence in Distance Learning Programming – Corporate / Business: to Pensare, a leading e-Learning company, for using the Internet to create corporate learning communities where content from renowned business and academic thought-leaders, practical tools and internal best-practices can be shared to solve immediate, critical business problems.

Excellence in Distance Learning Programming – Corporate / Business: to Aurum Technology, which provides banking software solutions to financial institutions throughout the United States. Aurum’s customers want live, interactive product training without associated travel. Aurum Technology’s Education Team developed an interactive, multimedia videoconference training program, outsourcing with Kinko’s locations nationwide.

Most Outstanding Achievement by an Individual in Higher Education: to J. Stephen Lytle, one of almost 200 University of Central Florida faculty members who participated in UCF’s award winning faculty development program to prepare faculty to teach online courses. He has been creative in the development of teaching and class management strategies for large-scale online courses. He has also made numerous presentations designed to share his work with other faculty at the University of Central Florida and around the country. Stephen uses innovative approaches, especially simulation, that he has integrated into his courses and he is exceptionally responsive to his distant students.

Most Outstanding Achievement by an Individual in Government: to Steve Larkin of the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS has over 100,000 full-time and 60,000 part-time employees. They operate one of the largest satellite downlink broadcast systems in the world, with two fully functional studios in New Carrollton, Maryland and over 200 downlink sites throughout the United States. Steve Larkin has been a driving factor in this effort for many years.

Most Outstanding Achievement by an Individual in Healthcare and Telemedicine: to Dr. Julius Edlavitch, who created International Pediatric Chat in 1996 as an IRC pediatric chat room. Upon realizing the power of using Chat as a distance learning tool, Dr. Edlavitch proceeded to bring pediatricians and lactation specialists together from all over the world using distance live education. He spent the last 4.5 years expanding his distance learning program to include cutting edge software tools and multiple elite education partners. He has produced over 200 Live Internet pediatric education conferences with attendance from every continent except Antarctica.

Most Outstanding Achievement by an Individual – Corporate / Business: to Bryan Polivka for his leadership in weaving emerging technology with pedagogical tools which has raised the bar for corporate e-Learning. As a watchdog of technological shifts whose effects can be applied to training, Bryan consistently remains at the forefront of the evolution of eLearning models in the business world.

The 2001 Awards were presented by the USDLA Awards Committee members, Dr. Deborah Harrison, VTEL Corporation; Dr. Darcy Hardy, UT TeleCampus, University of Texas System; and Marshall Allen, Oklahoma State University.

15 recognized leaders in the field of distance learning judged the 89 nominations submitted to USDLA. Judges worked in teams of three to review and evaluate submissions in each of the 5 categories: Higher Education, K-12 Education, Government, Corporate/Business and Telemedicine/Healthcare. The judges for 2001 were:

  • Mr. Grinell Smith, Instructor, University of Alabama

  • Dr. Denzil Edge, Professor and Chairperson, Department of Special Education, and Director, Distance Education Program, University of Louisville

  • Mr. Donald S. Lake, Senior Project Director, Los Angeles County Office of Education

  • Dr. Jolly T. Holden, Training and Development, StarBand Communications, Inc.

  • Dr. Robert A. Wisher, Senior Research Psychologist, U.S. Army Research Institute

  • Dr. Connie Wardell, Education Advisor, U.S. Army Armor School

  • Ms. Arlene Krebs, President, New Orbit Communications

  • Dr. Lawrence Jones, Director of Telemedicine, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center

  • Ms. Toni Pickle, Director of Education, Pioneer Telephone Cooperative, Inc.

  • Mr. Stephen Kohn, Director of Strategic Alliance and Education Initiatives, Verizon

  • Dr. Janet McMahill, Assistant Dean and Director of Continuing Education, Drake University School of Education

  • Ms. Janet Major, Technical Coordinator, Arizona Telemedicine Program

  • Dr. Inabeth Miller, President, JASON Foundation for Education

  • Dr. Pamela S. Pease, President, Jones International University

  • Mr. Kirk Bosworth, Instructor, Distance Learning Network, University of Vermont


United States Distance Learning Association is a non-profit organization founded in 1987 to promote the development and application of distance learning for education and training. USDLA represents 2000 members from pre-K-through-12 and higher education, continuing education, corporate, military and government training and telemedicine. USDLA is now the leading source of information and distance learning policy recommendations for Congress, government agencies and industry. In 1993 USDLA began the process of establishing chapters in all fifty states. For more information about USDLA visit the organization’s website at

Contact Information:


Kathy Clemens, 617-686-2843

University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Paul Resta, 512-471-4014

UT TeleCampus

Jennifer Rees, 512-499-4409

VAROIC Philadelphia

Melodee Mercer, 215-842-2000 x 4267

University of Central Florida

J. Stephen Lytle, 407-823-5668


Intuition Publishing LTD

Aine McDonagh, 353-1-605-4300

Julius Edlavitch, M.D., 952-926-9784


Jennifer Pulley, 757-864-8048

Defense Acquisition University

Mr. Richard Reed, 703-805-2155

Internal Revenue Service

Steve Larkin, 202-283-9101

Gallaudet University

Mary Ellsworth, 202-651-5883


Kathryn Hanson, 408-542-8806

USDLA also …

George Collins, 864-370-0955

Bill Wagner, (301) 774-8214