ION | Illinois Online Network


Thomas Tobin

Work Phone: (773) 442-4497
Work Email:
Office Location: 5500 N St Louis Avenue, Library 312, Chicago, IL 60625-4699


Thomas J. Tobin is the Conference Programming Chair at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he identifies trends and themes in the field of distance education; shapes the scope and focus of each year’s conference in collaboration with its advisory board and staff; finds the keynote, spotlight, and featured speakers for the conference; and hosts the conference as the emcee.

Before joining UWM, Tobin spent seven years in the Learning and Development arm of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, and then served for five years as the Coordinator of Learning Technologies in the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.

Tom is also an independent faculty developer and professional consultant in State College, Pennsylvania. He is an internationally-recognized speaker and author on topics related to quality in distance education, especially copyright, evaluation of teaching practice, academic integrity, and accessibility/universal design for learning.

Since the advent of online courses in higher education in the late 1990s, Tom’s work has focused on using technology to extend the reach of higher education beyond its traditional audience. He advocates for the educational rights of people with disabilities and people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In the field of online-course and -program quality, he is best known for his work on administrative-evaluation techniques; his article on “Best Practices for Administrative Evaluation of Online Faculty” (2004) is considered a seminal work in the field, and has been cited in more than 150 publications.

Tom serves on the editorial boards of eLearn Magazine, InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching, the Journal of Interactive Online Learning, and the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration.

His most recent book is Evaluating Online Teaching: Implementing Best Practices (Wiley, 2015) with Jean Mandernach and Ann H. Taylor. His comic book (yes, comic book) The Copyright Ninja: Rise of the Ninja (St. Aubin Comics, 2017) teaches college and university faculty members, support staff, and campus leaders about copyright, fair use, licensing, and permissions. Plus, it has ninjas.

Re-Framing Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education (with Kirsten Behling) is forthcoming from West Virginia University Press in Fall 2018, and Tom is currently writing Going Alt-Ac: A Guide to Alternative Academic Careers with Katie Linder and Kevin Kelly, expected in early 2019 from Stylus Press.

Tom is also proud to represent the United States on a Spring 2018 Fulbright Scholar core grant, under which he will help Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary to develop its first faculty-development program.