IDEAL Institute


Each August, the IDEAL Consortium hosts a multi-day institute for representatives from member states. Participants have an opportunity to share information and learn from one another, see presentations, and discuss innovative instructional strategies, important policy considerations, and administrative practices. The goal of Institute activities is to help members plan for the upcoming distance/blended education programming in their states.

2022 Institute

2021 Institute

2020 Institute

IDEAL Consortium Awards

The IDEAL Consortium has two awards that get presented at the annual Institute: the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Advancing Adult Digital Learning Award.

2023 award recipients:

Mary Gaston, Impact Award, 2023

Mary Gaston, Impact Award, 2023

Dr. Mary Gaston, Ed.D., has been an educator for over twenty years, serving as director of a local South Carolina Adult Ed program, director of a Regional Adult Education Technical Assistance Center, and coordinator of Family Literacy. Mary played an integral role in the development of the Digital Skills Library and Glossary, free and open resources that have been widely disseminated and relied upon to increase digital resilience in adult education. Her leadership of the OCTAE-funded EdTech Maker Space through which it was greatly expanded has made a tremendous impact. As an EdTech Maker Space facilitator, she has tirelessly supported educators, offering round-the-clock feedback, tech support, and guidance. In this work she relentlessly ensures that end products suit the needs of adult learners by going above and beyond in the preparation and “clean-up” before and after each project. Thank you, Mary!!

Tom Cytron-Hysom, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2023

Tom Cytron-Hysom, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2023

Tom Cytron-Hysom has provided the visionary leadership that took Northstar Digital Literacy from a grassroots community-based project in St. Paul, MN to the most widely-used digital literacy assessment and learning platform in adult education. In 2011, he was instrumental in securing the initial funding to create the first Northstar assessments, and has quietly shepherded the project through 12 years of rapid growth and evolution.Today, Northstar is used in all 50 US states and in multiple countries – an accomplishment that can be directly attributed to Tom’s steady and values-driven leadership. Tom’s leadership is also evident in the Minnesota statewide Distance Learning Support Team. Since 2010, Tom has contributed adult education policy expertise that has shaped Minnesota distance learning policy and significantly scaled distance learning throughout the state. His extensive knowledge of distance learning and digital literacy work has informed the development of reporting tools in the Minnesota Student Information Database (SID), the creation of a Minnesota ABE Distance Learning website, and the approval of over 50 distance learning platforms for statewide use. Tom was also a founding member of the COABE Technology Integration and Digital Literacy Conference Strand. Congratulations, Tom!

Past award recipients:

Silja Kallenbach, Impact Award, 2022
Penny Pearson, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2022
Heide Spruck Wrigley, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2019
Debra Hargrove, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2018
Steve Quann, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2017
Jere Johnston, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2016
David Rosen, Advancing Adult Digital Learning Award, 2016

2023 Institute Partners:




Barbara Bush Foundation logo