The University of Central Florida this week was recognized for Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Education by the Sloan Consortium, a higher-education association that promotes online learning.

The award for UCF’s Center for Distributed Learning is one of just a handful of various institutional and individual awards to be presented Oct. 11 at the consortium’s 18th annual conference at Walt Disney World.

“The award is gratifying because it validates that UCF is a leader in creating and delivering online learning,” said Thomas Cavanagh, assistant vice president in charge of distributed learning. “While the size of our online initiative is large, this award also confirms that it is of the highest quality.”

Distributed learning impacts curriculum across the university.

UCF currently offers 59 completely online programs: 5 undergraduate degrees, 25 graduate degrees, and 29 graduate certificates. These offerings cross six different colleges plus the general undergraduate interdisciplinary studies program.

About 58 percent of the university’s students are enrolled in at least one online course, and in the most recent academic year, more than 32 percent of all student credit hours involved courses with online components.

“The CDL office staff provides invaluable services that continue to differentiate our institution from others,” College of Nursing Dean Jean D’Meza Leuner wrote in a letter of support for the award. “The University of Central Florida has made technology a priority and CDL continues to promote excellence and demonstrate high quality in its responsiveness in order to impart a high quality educational experience to our students.”

Alisha Janowsky, assistant chair of the psychology department, also praised the helpful advice CDL staff presented in a course for faculty about how to develop online learning.

Janowsky wrote: “The take-home message was that we should shift our focus from ‘How can I move my face-to-face content online’ to ‘What can I do online that I could never do face-to-face.’”

Sloan-C said this year’s field of nominees represented an impressive variety of innovative approaches, creating a competitive selection process.

“The 2012 recipients have demonstrated exceptional leadership and real success in advancing online education,” said Burks Oakley II, vice president of Sloan-C.

Cavanagh said the CDL staff is pleased to be recognized with the award, especially because the evaluators are peers from around the country.

“UCF takes online learning seriously and supports it from the highest levels of university administration,” he said.