Chancellors stand united for furthering online education

Campus leaders stand before regents and commit to progress by first of the year

The CU Board of Regents at its May meeting rallied behind expanding online learning across the CU campuses, with a short timeline for instituting initiatives recommended by the CU Online Education Committee.

It didn’t happen.

At the board’s meeting Wednesday at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, CU’s four campus chancellors stood together before the regents – possibly a first – to revisit online education and report on definitive steps that would bring a collaborative online education program to fruition. They announced a Jan. 10 deadline to report substantial progress to regents at their winter retreat.

Regent Stephen Ludwig, D-Denver, a longtime proponent of advancing online education at CU, said he was skeptical. At its December 2013 meeting, the Board of Regents heard a task force recommendation on new technologies from a report by Goldstein and Associates, and an alternative proposal by Ludwig. He said neither of those recommendations were furthered, nor were recommendations by the Online Education Committee.

“This is a third restart. Why is this different?” Ludwig asked the chancellors. “I’ve been clear in my concerns, my concern was, ‘What do we do to create a culture that moves that forward?’ It’s been a cluster so far and I’d like to see something successful.”

CU Denver Interim Chancellor Jerry Wartgow stressed why the third time would be the charm. “This one is going to work because the four chancellors are standing before you committing to this, a timeline and the structure behind it.”

Said UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak, “We need to be aggressive and we need to show a way forward that is substantially increased over what we are currently doing.”

CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano said a marketing committee will design a unified website and portal for CU Online education and implement marketing solutions that drive enrollments to online courses, tracking and retaining students from first contact through matriculation.

Said CU Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Don Elliman, “Our goal, and it’s a ton of work, is to get meat on the bones for a presentation to you in the January retreat and anticipate an official launch of the program in the spring of 2015.”

Chancellors committed to:

  • The development of new online programs and the expansion of existing programs to meet the needs of diverse populations, including current CU students, adult students wishing to complete their undergraduate and/or graduate degrees, high school students in Colorado, 2+2 programs for community college students throughout Colorado and nationally, and new and continuing fully online students
  • Collaborative marketing efforts for online programs
  • Joint work to make concurrent enrollment processes simpler for students
  • The development of collaborative, effective, and efficient online learning technologies and services.

Regents voiced optimism.

Regent Glen Gallegos, R-Grand Junction, said he was encouraged by the collaborative, but cautioned that some models that work for one campus might not work for others.

“I don’t think collaboration happens at all costs, I think each one of you runs a different campus, and as you’re building your collaboration and your model, there are some things that may not work,” he said. “As a system these are the things we can collaborate on, and these are the things we can’t.”

“Preparing for the future is our job; it’s the most important thing we do,” said Regent Irene Griego, D-Denver.  “You are creating a virtual CU system learning culture. Virtually this is a different culture.”

Griego and Gallegos asked the chancellors to closely track and report on metrics that will measure the success and growth of online learning at CU.

President Bruce Benson also voiced confidence.

“I think you’re really on target getting this done,” Benson told the chancellors. “I think we had some false starts; I think this one is going to work.

The board’s meeting continues today; CU Connections will be updated with news from the meeting.