Early details of CU Online initiative presented to university leadership

Chancellors ask for more details on proposed plan
By Staff

CU Online

The co-chairs of the University of Colorado’s online education initiative last week presented to the president and campus chancellors some of the early recommendations from the Online Accelerator Committee that are related to supporting growth in fully online academic programs in the systemwide CU Online effort.

Committee co-chairs Sheana Bull, interim senior faculty fellow for online learning, and Scot Chadwick, interim associate vice president for online learning, asked the president and four chancellors for feedback and decision-making guidance on the proposed operating model. The presentation outlined the projected distribution of services that would fall to the system Office of Digital Education (ODE) vs. the campus level.

“This represents collaboration, with the campuses and with the programs, and so it does reflect shared responsibility, shared cooperation and where the ownership lives,” Chadwick said. “It’s always a collaboration with the campuses and the programs on every single item that’s there.”

Chancellors Michelle Marks, CU Denver, and Venkat Reddy, UCCS, asked for more detail about the proposal – which covered functions including student success, enrollment, instructional design and delivery, technology, support and enablement, and marketing.

“What does it really mean? What part are you taking on? What is the campus?” Reddy asked.

“I have to see what the deal that you're offering is,” Marks said. “All of this seems absolutely terrific. And I’m sure that you have the bigger picture and I just don't have it yet.”

Chadwick agreed the current model does not provide necessary details, which are still being determined, but said the outline is an overview of information and input the working committees have gleaned from campus constituents.

CU President Mark Kennedy said the proposal was built around faculty input, and stressed the importance of faculty playing a leading role in driving the academic structures and standards, and the overall implementation and advancement of CU Online.

“When we say yes to this, we say ‘Yes, there’s the straw proposal that will hit the campuses when the faculty comes back,’ and we’ll have a chance to get dialogue and input from them,” Kennedy said. “This is affirming that our working groups have looked at this, the Online Accelerator Committee has looked at this, we’ve looked at this, and the collective of that pool believes that this is a strong proposal that we’re advancing for the campuses for further input.”

CU established an Online Accelerator Committee (OAC) in the 2019-20 academic year that comprises faculty, staff and administrators from all campuses and system. Its structure – which includes working groups in academics, finance, online services, IT and marketing/communications – was recommended by vendor EY-Parthenon. The firm began working with CU last fall to assess the university’s offerings and compare them against market demand and opportunity. It found that while CU has pockets of excellence in its online offerings, it also lags market leaders and would benefit from sharing services such as IT, student service and marketing.

The resulting systemwide initiative, dubbed All Four: CU Online, will maintain and support campus autonomy and innovation while optimizing efficiencies and building on CU capabilities. The university’s goal is to more than double the number of online students served annually within five years.

The OAC is working toward recommending a structure to the president and chancellors for the systemwide effort. The recommendation is expected in October after engagement with faculty and other stakeholders.

Chadwick said the committee is scheduling time with the chancellors and their teams to dig into the specific questions and to conduct individual conversations.

“Give us the time to meet together, go into the details on this with you all individually, and then ensure that we're making the kind of progress and answering the questions that you all have,” Chadwick said.

The initiative is not to be confused with systemwide online offerings that will be in market in fall 2020. Those 12 programs, recommended by campus chancellors and supported with marketing funding from the president, are meant to help gauge market demand, test enrollment strategies and expand ODE’s role to serve all four campuses, rather than its previous work with just the Denver and Anschutz campuses.

 July 16 CU Online presentation

Coming up

Here is the timeline for team reviews by each working group in the OAC.

Program portfolio
The process by which programs will be identified for the CU Online portfolio for fall 2021 and determining a process for assessing and evolving potential program duplication, Aug. 6

Processes for programs to be identified for the CU Online portfolio beyond fall 2021, Sept. 3

Operating model
Determining services that might be available for programs outside the portfolio, Aug. 6

Marketing Communications
Academic Working Group supported to enable channels for authentic faculty engagement and feedback; and recognizing and incorporating that faculty input, Sept. 6

Mapping a comprehensive and cohesive brand and marketing to support and grow online learning at CU, Oct. 1

Financial model
Potential pricing adjustment opportunities to be considered and whether fully online programs will be housed within main campus or auxiliary, Aug. 6

The flow of funds between ODE and campuses for programs within the portfolio and the financial viability metrics for assessing program sustainability, Sept. 6

Technology roadmap
Technology solutions, platforms and capabilities required to support high-quality online program design and delivery; and data tracking and integrations are required to effectively track and support students throughout their CU experience, Oct. 1