Blake Wood
Publish Date

The University of Illinois Springfield’s ION Professional eLearning Programs have been honored with the 2021 University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) Outstanding Program Award. ION will be recognized at the 2021 UPCEA Regions Week Conference later this month.

ION supports the practice and innovation of online learning for faculty, staff and administrators in K-12 and higher education. More than 300 schools, colleges and universities across the country and world have utilized ION to stay current on emerging best practices in online learning.

The UPCEA award, in part, honors ION’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as overall enrollment in ION courses increased 260% between 2019 and 2020 as more schools embracing online and hybrid programs. The number of K-12 educations participating in ION programs increased 190% from 2018 to 2020.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, K-12 and colleges educators across the country were looking for effective, fast solutions to help instructors move courses rapidly into online and hybrid formats,” said Melissa Andrews, UIS associate director of continuing and professional education, ION programs. “COVID-19 forced us to be creative in offering different delivery options for instructors and colleges. Because of demand, 26 new sections of just the Overview of Online Instruction course were offered in the summer of 2020.”

ION adapted to offer courses during the first wave of the pandemic in condensed 4-week sections for individual colleges and universities, so instructors could explore specific issues affecting their institutions. ION program content was also updated in 2020 to provide K-12 specific information to meet the different needs and concerns for this group of educators and students.

ION currently provides efficient, low-cost, and effective certifications for educators in three critical areas: 1) Master Online Teacher; 2) Master Online Leader and Administrator; and 3) Digital Accessibility.

“ION certificates are based on the idea that in order to be a quality online instructor, it is important to know the fundamental elements of instruction, assessment and instructional design,” Andrews said. “It is also important to have practical experience teaching others through discussion boards, interactive activities and experience designing course elements.”

Initially funded by the Illinois General Assembly to provide faculty development, ION has grown to become a nationally recognized program recognized by the Sloan Consortium (funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation) with the award for Excellence in Asynchronous Learning Networks.

Since 1999, 32,000 educators have enrolled in ION courses and 1,286 certificates have been awarded. ION programs are offered to all 48 Illinois Community colleges and the three University of Illinois campuses at a very minimal cost. Over the years, ION has grown to serve colleges and universities across the United States and 89 countries around the world.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic and more and more schools embracing online and hybrid programs as viable learning options for students, the need for quality teaching and instruction is critical and even more important today than 20 years ago,” Andrews said. “We’re honored to be recognized by UPCEA for our role in helping educators quickly learn effective online learning methods during the pandemic.”

The next ION session begins Oct. 17 and registration is open now. For more information on ION programs, visit or contact Melissa Andrews at 217-206-8645 or