York recognized as a leader in distance education

The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) has honoured York University and course director and lecturer Diane Zorn with a silver Best Practices Award for Excellence in Distance Learning-Teaching. Zorn teaches in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies and the Schulich School of Business.

Zorn is known for a unique approach to online education that allows students to customize their learning environments and “learn on the go” (see the full story in the Sept. 22, 2006 issue of YFile). The award was announced on April 23 during the 2008 USDLA conference in St. Louis, Mo.

Left: Diane Zorn

"As a premier organization for the entire distance learning profession, we are honouring York University as a leader in the industry," said John Flores, CEO of USDLA. "York has raised the bar of excellence and we are truly honoured by the University’s contributions to the distance learning industry."

The USDLA Awards were created to acknowledge major accomplishments in distance learning and to highlight distance learning instructors, programs and professionals who have demonstrated extraordinary results through the use of online, video conferencing, satellite and blended learning delivery technologies. At York, Zorn designs, implements and teaches fully online, rich media courses using Mediasite technology and audio and video podcasting. She was the second university instructor in Canada to offer video podcasts of her lectures.

“Distance education appeals to a large portion of today’s students, who are balancing work, family life, volunteering, school and other responsibilities,” said Zorn. “York designs effective online learning environments that give students the ability to customize their learning and have unprecedented choice about how, where and when they study.”

York has a large and varied selection of distance education courses that allow students to learn from the convenience of their home or office, or from the other side of the world. Distance courses count towards a degree in the same way as traditional in-class courses. Students use the same textbooks and materials and cover identical course content. They can complete part of a certificate or a degree, or, in the case of the popular 90-credit bachelor of administrative studies, they can complete most of a degree at a distance.

“Leaders in distance education need to be ground-breakers and move away from traditional approaches to online teaching and learning,” said Zorn. “I am thrilled to accept this award and to teach at a university that values classroom innovation.”

Zorn was awarded the 2007 York University-Wide Teaching Award. She was also nominated for 2007 Atkinson’s Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Ontario Council of Universities Teaching with Technology Award in 2006. Currently, she is developing a theory of education and pedagogy called “Enactive Education”, which focuses on student-centred and radically interactive course designs.

A series of short videos on mature student success featuring Zorn is available here. For more on her teaching innovations, visit www.yorku.ca/zorn.

To learn more about York’s distance education courses, visit the Atkinson Distance Education Web site.