CU Regents call for ‘moonshot’ for online education

University Affairs committee collaborating with administration, campuses
By Staff

Likening the effort to John F. Kennedy’s 1961 call to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, the University Affairs committee of the CU Board of Regents on Wednesday agreed in principle to further a revamped effort that would advance online education across the university.

Led by Regent Stephen Ludwig, D-Denver, the five regents on the committee unanimously agreed to work with the administration and campuses before bringing a resolution on the issue to the full board.

“When Kennedy said let’s go to the moon, people didn’t say, ‘We can’t do that.’ They said, ‘Let’s figure it out,’” Ludwig said.

Among the key facets of his plan is for CU to develop online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs that would have a total fixed cost to students of $15,000 each. He also suggested an investment of $20 million to jump-start the effort. Its intent is to help CU meet its statewide mission and help with affordability and access, particularly for first-generation students and those in rural Colorado.

Ludwig went through the recent history of CU’s efforts to bring together efforts across the system under one umbrella. While there were pockets of good work done, he said the overall effort, which was marketed under the moniker CU Connect, was a “failure.”

However, he lauded cross-campus efforts, still in progress, to develop a CU-wide, three-year online interdisciplinary degree. Ludwig said the initiative shows CU faculty and staff can address sometimes-thorny issues such as revenue sharing and concurrent enrollment. But CU’s culture, reward system and structure inhibit progress on a larger effort, he said.

The moonshot is necessary because of population growth, worries about a looming recession and increased competition, Ludwig said. CU also needs to focus on meeting its mission to serve the state and its residents rather than hoping the current business model will continue to be viable.

Regent Jack Kroll, D-Denver, agreed, saying CU needs to consider the ongoing disruption of the entire higher education enterprise, largely driven by technology.

“We have to look around corners,” Kroll said.

The administration has provided initial feedback on the idea, but regents and administrators agreed that much more discussion is in order. A draft resolution will serve as the basis for that discussion. The full board is expected to take up the issue at its Nov. 16-17 meeting at CU Boulder. Additionally, system Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Lightner said he is bringing the issue to Faculty Council today.

“We need structural changes to serve the state. Doubling down on today won’t meet the needs of tomorrow,” Ludwig said.

Click here to see the report presented at Wednesday’s committee meeting.