The Path to Seamless Distance Learning Opportunities

Distance learning, while already popular prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, has become even more attractive as our ability to gather en masse and meet for face-to-face educational offerings has halted. Organizations that have historically offered in-person or live programming have transitioned to virtual models involving distance learning in order to continue to provide credentialing and continuing education for professionals seeking to maintain their professional designations or accreditations.

Firms, IIDA chapters, and organizations that typically offer in-person educational programming may find that moving their courses online can offer many benefits aside from overhead cost. Distance learning allows organizations to expand their geographic reach, often accommodating a much larger student base than would be possible in a classroom setting, and offering accessibility to more people. It is also a more cost-effective option that allows for more timely feedback, and a more personalized and targeted training experience through data capture of students. Both the attendee and the organization benefit from coursework that is more accessible, flexible, convenient, and may be accessed at any time from any place. 

While historically distance learning involved snail mail correspondence courses, it has grown into a robust virtual experience taking advantage of the opportunity for interactive participation through webinars, virtual seminars, and other methodologies. Today, distance learning employs six primary methodologies for delivering virtual education. The two options most viable, and likely easiest for chapter rollout are video conferencing and synchronous and asynchronous distance education.

Synchronous and Asynchronous Distance Education

Synchronous indicates “at the same time” and similarly asynchronous indicates “not at the same time.” Synchronous distance education is usually less flexible as it facilitates live interaction between educators and participants and requires both to be available during the scheduled sessions. Asynchronous distance education provides participants with the freedom to work at their own pace by using pre-recorded materials that can be accessed at the convenience of each student. Participants can have more interaction with other students in this modality.

Video Conferencing 

Video conferencing, or webinars, for educating participants requires software like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams to provide an interactive setting which enhances the experience for both participants and educators. Video conferencing or webinars can enhance one-on-one interaction with educators and paves a way for these instructors to plan their courses. Participants can also attend missed classes via archived webinars making this modality either synchronous or asynchronous.

Open Schedule Online Courses

This is an asynchronous learning method where participants are given online textbooks for use in conjunction with email and a classroom message board or forum. Participants have the greatest amount of freedom with open schedule online courses, but online course creators carry a much heavier burden in their development. Participants are usually provided deadlines, but may complete their work within those parameters. These are ideal for participants who like to work independently.

Hybrid Distance Education 

Hybrid distance education is a combination of asynchronous and synchronous learning in which the participants adhere to a specific deadline to complete their work. Participants can be permitted to complete assignments at their own pace and submit those assignments via an online forum.

Computer Based Distance Education

This is a synchronous methodology where participants are required to meet in a classroom or computer lab at a specified time every week to complete their virtual lessons. Participants are not provided with an open schedule in this type of distance education, and must complete their sessions on-site.

Fixed Time Online Course 

This is a synchronous modality where participants need to log-in to their learning site at a designated time. These courses require mandatory live chats in some cases, and are currently the most common type of distance education.

So, you’ve made the decision to move forward with a distance learning program for your chapter, firm, or organization Now what? We know many of your educational offerings were also revenue generators—this shouldn’t change. You should however adjust your pricing model because many large overhead expenses, like venue and catering, no longer need to be built into your budget. You might also consider presenting specific member-only sessions to demonstrate the value of membership. These could also be sold to non-members for additional revenue. Your sponsors are also still seeking ways to connect and network with your community. Sponsorship opportunities should be made available with virtual offerings as well. Again, you will want to adjust your pricing model for these.

We at IIDA Headquarters also want to know what education offerings you’re presenting. As there are no geographic boundaries with virtual learning, you can open your education offerings to the entire IIDA membership base through our events calendar and newsletters. We are here to support your efforts and can help promote your distance education programs. Information on your offerings can be sent to

Leaders Breakfast 2019 in Review

This past December, IIDA’s Leaders Breakfast series wrapped another successful year, and an incredible decade of celebrating the history of IIDA, its design leadership, and our dynamic community of designers and industry members.

During our fall season, we presented five design professionals and one charitable organization with the prestigious IIDA Leadership Award of Excellence. Each honoree was presented with the iconic Eames stool, customized in Leaders Breakfast red, to commemorate their achievements. We were pleased to recognize and honor the career achievements of Collin Burry, FIIDA, Vicki VanStavern, Isabelle Talbot, Diane Schroeder, Mitchell Cohen, and Humble Design, for their contributions to and the advancement of the design industry as well as the philanthropic work they do within their own communities.

Collin Burry, FIIDA, and principal at Gensler was our 2019 San Francisco honoree and receiver of the Eames stool. IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO, Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, sat down with Heather McGhee, political contributor and Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos for an open, honest, and timely conversation on racial healing. This talk was prompted by an encounter Heather had with a white male caller on C-SPAN who admitted to being prejudiced and wanting to know how he could change. She spoke about their conversation that day, as well as the many that followed in the months and year after, until the racial divide was bridged, and they could call each other friend.

IIDA Leaders Breakfast San Francisco 2019-photographed by Sam Breach 2019974C7814 Large

Heather McGhee delivering her keynote speech at the San Francisco event. Photo by Sam Breach.

Urban revitalization strategist and public radio host Majora Carter returned to the IIDA Leaders Breakfast stage, this time in Los Angeles, to share her work in urban development, specifically working towards environmental equality to revitalize neighborhoods without pushing residents out, and encouraged others in our industry to join her in this work. Her mantra, “nobody should have to move out of their neighborhood to live in a better one,” is a personal quote, and appears on the wall of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

“Nobody should have to move out of their neighborhood to live in a better one.”
Majora Carter

She spoke about her work in her neighborhood in South Bronx where she pushed for eco-friendly and green-related economic and urban redevelopment and shared the positive economic and health results. The 2019 Los Angeles recipient of the IIDA Leadership Award of Excellence was Humble Design, honored for their work transforming homes for families emerging from homelessness through donated furniture and design work.

At the Dallas and Chicago events, IIDA favorite Terri Trespicio, an award-winning author, speaker, and brand advisor, spoke to attendees about why following our passion isn’t always the right course to chart when choosing and growing our career. She explained that “passion is a tricky topic” and that “passion is not a plan or a goal, it’s a feeling—a wonderful feeling.” She went on to recommend we find the passion in the job we’re currently doing instead of continuously seeking out a job based on what we perceive to be our passion. Once we find passion in what we’re doing, we’ll find more fulfillment in our lives.


Chicago Leaders Breakfast attendees listen raptly to Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA in conversation with Mitchell Cohen and Diane Schroeder. Image courtesy of IIDA headquarters.

The 2019 Dallas leadership honoree was Vicki VanStavern, owner and founder of VanStavern Design Group; Chicago honored the husband and wife team of Mitchell Cohen, principal at DESIGN Advisory and Diane Schroeder, owner at Diane Schroeder: Art & Design.

Toronto’s event honored Isabelle Talbot, principal at Ray Inc and featured speaker Drew Dudley, founder of Day One Leadership and best-selling author. Drew helped us discover the leader within each of us and instructed us to celebrate ourselves and our own achievements because, “if we only celebrate giants, we devalue what we do as leaders every day.” He encouraged us to learn why we desire certain behaviors because “if we don’t know what the behavior means, how can we live the value?” IIDA President-elect, Sacha Wagner, FIIDA, AIA, also addressed the audience and implored us to “keep designing for the human experience.”

“If we only celebrate giants, we devalue what we do as leaders every day.”
Drew Dudley

Over 2000 industry professionals gathered to celebrate and honor their design community during our Fall 2020 Leaders Breakfast series, each participant walking away with valuable insight applicable to both their personal and professional lives. We are looking forward to 2020another year filled with amazing networking opportunities, noteworthy educational experiences, and the celebration of design industry leaders. We can’t wait to see you at our Spring 2020 events in New York, Houston, and Atlanta.

A special thanks to our international benefactors Herman Miller and Interior Design.

Featured Image: Collin Burry, FIIDA is presented with the IIDA Leadership Award of Excellence. Photo by Sam Breach.