Pearson Announces Online Learning Excellence Award Recipients

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Awards Honor Educators Who are Making Significant Contributions to Online Teaching and Administration

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April 30, 2015 -- Pearson is honored to announce its 2015 online learning excellence award recipients from Drexel University, Ryerson University, Mohawk College and Berklee College of Music. The awards were divided into two categories — Excellence in Online Administration and Excellence in Online Teaching — to honor educators who are making significant contributions to each area of online education. As part of Pearson’s efforts to inspire and support excellence in online higher education that drives student success, Pearson will donate $1,500 to the scholarship fund of each winner’s choice.

Recipients of the Excellence in Online Administration Award Include:

Dr. Kristen Betts, Clinical Professor, The School of Education, Drexel University

Dr. Kristen Betts is actively engaged in research and innovative initiatives with national associations focused on online education, student engagement, and retention. Roles previously held by Dr. Betts include Chief Academic Officer, Sr. Director for E-Learning and Director of Online & Blended Learning. She works collaboratively with practitioners and doctoral students in the areas of online student success, active learning, credit hour equivalency, eAdvising, eStudent Affairs, Online Human Touch, faculty development, and online program design.

Naza Djafarova, Director of Digital Education Strategies at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, Ryerson University

Naza Djafarova oversees the development of up to 60 new academic online and blended courses per year. She has been instrumental in establishing a cost-effective, online course development process that ensures consistency and high quality curricular offerings and has conceptualized and implemented robust administrative tools that track online course deliverables and provide analytics for evaluation, accountability, and decision making. Today, The Chang School offers 450 online courses, more than 300 of which are degree-credit with enrollment numbers growing steadily.

Recipients of the Excellence in Online Teaching Award Include:

Shaun Iles, Sociology Professor, Mohawk College

Shaun Iles has built fully gamified online environments that allow his students to move through content at their own pace. He has moved his course to a fully online environment where he engages students using tools like intelligent agents, simulators, blogs and virtual conferences. Shaun has pushed the limits of online learning by creating a simulator that allows students to put into practice the theoretical material they learn in class. Shaun’s course has been used to show educators how they can use custom grading formulations, module gating, bonuses, peer evaluation and gaming to increase retention rates and grades in their classes.

Neil Diercks, Adjunct Professor, Berklee College of Music

Neil Diercks teaches four courses online at Berklee College of Music on songwriting and lyric writing. His approach to online teaching involves embracing the latest technology and leveraging it to strengthen the sense of community amongst his students. He provides detailed video feedback on every student practice exercise and assignment, imparting invaluable advice and lessons learned from his career. He promotes learner-to-learner collaboration by requiring students to use the same technology to provide constructive feedback to each other.

Nominations were very impressive and more numerous than in previous years. Additional finalists from each category include:

Excellence in Online Administration:
Romana Hughes, Assistant Provost of Educational Technology and Faculty Development, Texas Christian University
Carin Nurenberg, Dean of Cont. and Online Education, Berklee College of Music
Kurt Linberg, Provost, American Sentinel University

Excellence in Online Teaching:
Daniele Brock, Warrior Path to Success Instructor, East Central Community College
Randy Jenne, Associate Teaching Professor, MacEwan University
Melanie Shaw, Vice President of Retention and Student Success, Clemson University

Award winners were recognized during a recent awards ceremony at Pearson’s annual online learning conference, Cite 2015. Cite brings together more than 500 online learning program executives, faculty and administrators, and professional training and development industry leaders. View conference highlights at #pearsoncite and follow our online learning conversation on Twitter @PearsonNorthAm.

About Pearson
Pearson is the world's leading learning company, with 40,000 employees in more than 80 countries working to help people of all ages to make measurable progress in their lives through learning. For more information about Pearson, visit

Media Contact:
Stacy Skelly, stacy(dot)skelly(at)pearson(dot)com, or 800-745-8489

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