Sherri Restauri, senior executive director of digital and online learning for the Coastal Office of Online Learning (COOL) at Coastal Carolina University, was recently awarded the Gomory-Mayadas Leadership Award in Online Education by the Online Learning Consortium. The award honors outstanding individuals who exemplify the leadership and ideals of Ralph Gomory and A. Frank Mayadas, pioneers in digital learning for higher education.
“Sherri’s leadership of the Coastal Office of Online Learning was a key factor in CCU’s ability to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dan Ennis, CCU’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Moving the entire academic operation online on short notice in Spring 2020 was a unique challenge. Since then, Sherri has been devoted to the development and integration of distance learning techniques and technologies as we continue to manage the pandemic and look toward a post-pandemic future.”
Restauri says she began her career in distance learning more than 20 years ago and has worked on several campuses, always with the goal of providing increased access to education for each campus community.
“This goal of increasing access to education is at the core of principles underpinning distance learning’s origin, and in its current application with digital and open learning,” Restauri said. “My goals during my career have consistently focused on universal design; open and affordable education; digital access and inclusion; and on implementation of instructional technology tools that improve the teaching and learning experience.
“To be recognized for transformative leadership through this work toward increasing access to education is a true honor at this stage in my career, and, if anything, a signal to continue pushing forward with helping our faculty, staff, and students find the best ways possible to teach and learn.”
The Gomory-Mayadas Leadership Award in Online Education is evaluated on three primary criteria: leadership in online education, transformative leadership, and unique leadership qualities.
According to Restauri, this award recognizes overall achievements but also specifically evaluates recommendations from colleagues focused on support of individual projects. Some of her accomplishments at CCU that were highlighted in the nominations for this award include:
• Development, administration, and support for the Faculty Course Mentor (FCM) program, with faculty leadership in digital and online learning pedagogy and technologies, including representation from all colleges at CCU.
• Campuswide support for emergency remote teaching and academic continuity during times of crisis, including hurricane evacuations and, most recently, support to pivot to fully online during the 2020-21 academic year.
• Implementation of a Digital Accessibility Initiative at CCU, to include faculty-, staff-, and student-driven services focused on enhanced access to learning environments, including campus services implemented such as: closed captioning for multimedia; Virtual Accessibility Expert (VAE) faculty support program for enhanced accessibility of all digital learning courses and professional development trainings at CCU; and implementation of the Ally accessibility tool with overall impact on the digital accessibility footprint for CCU courses.
• Significant review and improvements of the campus’ instructional technologies for faculty, staff, and students, including the Moodle LSM and other instructional technology tools.
• Implementation, promotion, support, and management of the campuswide Open and Inclusive Education initiative, including the administrative and professional development training and support for OER workshops, certifications, and the build out of hundreds of OER courses, removing students’ financial barriers to pursuit of educational experiences at CCU.
COOL advances the University’s ability to offer high-quality and high-value digital and online courses and programs through many of the high-level initiatives implemented above, targeting in-demand content areas aligned to the academic strengths of the University, with a focus on improving access for all students and faculty.
OLC is a collaborative community of higher education leaders and innovators, dedicated to advancing quality digital teaching and learning experiences designed to reach and engage the modern learner – anyone, anywhere, anytime.