Skip to content. Skip to main navigation.

UT Arlington assistant professor of Chinese honored with international distance learning award

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Media Contact: Bridget Lewis

News Topics: awards, faculty, global, Internet, liberal arts, students

See All News Topics

The United States Distance Learning Association last night honored a University of Texas at Arlington educator for his effort to promote the development and application of international distance education.

Liang was honored during the USDLA Awards ceremony April 27 in St. Louis, Mo.

The honor marked a record seven times that a university has received an award from the USDLA, the world’s most prestigious distance learning honors presented for excellence in distance learning.

Szu-Yen Neal Liang, assistant professor of Chinese in the Department of Modern Languages, earned the organization’s Bronze level – Best Practices Award for Excellence in Distance Learning Teaching in the field of Online Technology.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized among such a prestigious group of distance learning leaders and professionals committed to excellence in this important field,” Liang said. “Through proven higher education methods and online technology, my colleagues and I at UT Arlington and abroad are demonstrating that the world is our campus. Let’s go teach and learn together.”

Liang joined UT Arlington in 2007. His research focuses on the Virtual Language Exchange Program, which he conceived in 2011 and now leads. The program provides an opportunity for UT Arlington students of Chinese and pre-service teachers at National Taiwan Normal University to partner in language teaching and learning in sessions facilitated via Adobe Connect. UT Arlington students are able to work directly with native Chinese speakers to practice language concepts learned in courses and improve language proficiency, while NTNU tutors are able to hone teaching skills and engage in curriculum design by working directly with students who are not immersed in Chinese language and culture.

By the Numbers

The Virtual Language Exchange Program has yielded great success and steady growth since its inception. It boasts the following quantitative measures:

  • Faculty administrators: 1 at UTA, 2 at NTNU
  • Tutors: 23 (2013), 26 (2014)
  • Students: 68 (2013), 72 (2014)
  • Hours of instruction: 450+ (each in 2013 and 2014)
  • Session length: 10 weeks (each in 2013 and 2014)

Source: UT Arlington Department of Modern Languages

Dr. Liang hopes to expand the online program to include a consortium of institutions, both domestic and abroad, increasing student access to free and flexible language learning.

Samuel H. “Pete” Smith, vice provost for digital teaching and learning at UT Arlington, said the award highlights the global impact that UT Arlington faculty and staff are making in the lives of the University’s nearly 49,000 students.

“This award not only recognizes teaching excellence as exemplified by Dr. Liang, but places the advancements being made in global education and impact at UT Arlington in context,” Smith said. “The Virtual Language Exchange Program is UT Arlington at its best – an education that is technology-based, global, and multilingual and multicultural. All characteristics that are very much in line with UT Arlington’s Strategic Plan 2020.”

John G. Flores, executive director of USDLA and program professor at Nova Southeastern University, said: "As a premier organization for the entire distance learning profession, we are honoring Dr. Liang as a leader in the industry. The University of Texas at Arlington has raised the bar of excellence, and we are truly honored by UT Arlington’s contributions within all distance learning constituencies.”

U.S. News and World Report recognized online degree programs developed by UT Arlington’s Center for Distance Education as “Best in Nation” in 2002 and 2003.

The USDLA previously recognized UT Arlington six times with honors for the quality of its distance education efforts, and in 2013 the University received platinum, the organization’s highest honor, for its leadership in distance learning. 

About United States Distance Learning Association

The United States Distance Learning Association is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit association formed in 1987 and is located in Boston, Mass. The association reaches 20,000 people globally with sponsors and members operating in and influencing 46 percent of the $913 billion U.S. education and training market. USDLA promotes the development and application of distance learning community by providing advocacy, information, networking and opportunity. Visit for more information.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of nearly 49,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. Visit to learn more, and find UT Arlington rankings and recognition at


The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.