December 03, 2010

Walters honored for distance education efforts

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Sharon Walters, assistant director of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Office of Distance Education, is the recipient of the Student Services Award in recognition of her efforts in distance education and independent learning initiatives.

The Association for Distance Education and Independent Learning (ADEIL) presented the award to Walters during its annual conference at the University of Mississippi recently.

“I was very surprised and honored to receive the award,” Walters said. “My role is to ensure that each student is treated equally and receives the best education possible. Sometimes you can’t solve all of the problems in a 7.5-hour workday so it requires going beyond to help. I consider it an honor that this award signifies the students and my peers feel I do my job well,” Walters said.

Walters joined the Division of Continuing Education in 1994. She is currently assistant director after serving as acting assistant director from October 2007 to June 2009.

“Sharon always makes students her top priority. If something isn’t working for them, she goes the extra mile. She makes sure that we have the necessary services for students to be successful at a distance. Where she truly shines is in her interactions with students. Sharon interacts with students on a daily basis. She is available to help students whether it is during the regular hours or at other times. They contact her with their problems and she helps them regardless of the time of day,” said Susan Edgren, director of the Office of Distance Education within the Division of Continuing Education at SIUC.

Edgren said Walters’ commitment to her students and the University is strong and that she has instilled in her student service staff the same commitment to excellence.

“During peak times at the beginning and end of the semester, Sharon doesn’t expect more from the staff than she is willing to give. She and her staff work evenings and weekends to provide services for students,” Edgren said.

Walters also teaches online courses for the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies, something she’s been doing since 2005. Edgren noted that in addition to developing internal policies and procedures to streamline processes for students, Walters has designed handbooks giving students valuable information needed to successfully complete their courses and students can access the handbooks online at

“Sharon is very knowledgeable and skilled in various web-based/distance learning technology systems. She has extensive experience with many different teaching technologies, including Blackboard. This in-depth knowledge is valuable in knowing what works for students and what does not work,” Edgren said.

Walters said the SIUC Distance Education program enrollment was more than 1,300 for the fall 2010 semester, including some taking more than one course.

Edgren also commended Walters for her work with other units of campus on behalf of the distance education office and its students.

“Sharon continually makes recommendations to campus departments that make policies and procedures. She works on behalf of the Individualized Learning Program with departments on campus to make them aware of how policies affect distance students,” Edgren said.

Walters is a triple alumna of SIUC, earning her doctoral degree in workforce education and development in 2002, as well as her master’s degree in 1992 and her bachelor’s in 1991, both in vocational education studies. She also earned associate degrees from John A. Logan College in business data processing and from Olney Central College in childhood education.

She has a longstanding employment connection with the University, initially hired as a patient unit clerk in the student health program in 1980. After being gone from SIUC from 1986 to 1988, she returned to campus to work in the Office of Research Development and Administration.

ADEIL is a professional organization for those involved or interested in collegiate distance education, offering them educational and development opportunities, support and interaction. The Student Services Award recognized Walters as someone who not only regularly demonstrates problem-solving skills and provides outstanding customer service but who goes above and beyond to make changes to help eliminate potential problems for future students.