UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A Penn State World Campus instructional designer known as a national leader in her field has received an outstanding service award from one of the country’s leading distance education organizations.

Penny Ralston-Berg is the first recipient of the Outstanding Service in Postsecondary Instructional Design Award from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA). She received the award at a conference on February 5, 2020, in New Orleans.

Ralston-Berg is a senior instructional designer for Penn State World Campus and manages Penn State’s work with Quality Matters, a nationally recognized process designed to achieve high-quality course design for online and blended courses. She has worked as an instructional designer for 23 years, including the past 11 years at Penn State.

UPCEA created the award to recognize someone who contributes to the betterment of the field through research, best practices, innovation, or mentorship.

In nomination letters, Ralston-Berg’s peers at universities across the country described her as a pioneer and trailblazer who is dedicated to her profession. They recognized her as a major contributor to the field as a researcher, published author, popular speaker at conferences, and guest lecturer.

“Distance learning in higher education has moved beyond simply replicating the face-to-face classroom through conferencing or lecture capture. Quality is a top priority,” Ralston-Berg said. “It’s such an honor to receive this award from my peers in the field, and I’m proud to be part of a profession that helps people improve their lives.

“The student perspective has always been my most important consideration throughout my career in course design.”

As an instructional designer with World Campus, Ralston-Berg works with faculty members to design courses in Canvas, the University’s learning management system. She has helped design more than 70 courses in criminal justice, sociology, political science, philosophy, labor and employment relations, and animal science.

Since 2019, Ralston-Berg has managed the University’s work to expand its use of Quality Matters, whose rubric is nationally recognized as setting the best practices in course design.

Outside of Penn State, Ralston-Berg has been an active member of UPCEA and the Online Learning Consortium. She is the chair of the 1,000-member Quality Matters Instructional Designers Association, and she has advocated for instructional designers in articles published in national media outlets such as The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.

Mel Edwards, who chairs UPCEA’s eDesign Collaborative Network, said Ralston-Berg was the perfect fit for the award’s first recipient.

“We wanted to uphold the exceptional individuals who have dedicated their careers to instructional and multimedia design and commend their positive influence sharing and implementing new ideas on the community as a whole,” said Edwards, a lead instructional designer at Purdue University. “As our inaugural award recipient, Penny certainly exemplifies these traits, and many designers recognize her name and work.”

Chris Millet, the director of learning design for World Campus, praised Ralston-Berg.

“Penny has been a leader in the field of instructional design, and we’re fortunate to have her as part of the World Campus team,” Millet said. “Our students and faculty directly benefit from her commitment to quality in online education, and her outreach efforts have enriched our professional community.”

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