Office of Digital Education expects growth in hybrid learning

Faculty Council hears update from leadership
By Staff

Office of Digital Education expects growth in hybrid learning

CU’s Office of Digital Education (ODE) continues to provide service to the campuses while undergoing a reframing that best considers ongoing changes to the world of online education.

Faculty Council heard that update during its Sept. 23 meeting, held virtually.

“I think this is a really positive move,” said Faculty Council Chair Mary Coussons-Read.

Courtney Borton, acting associate vice president and head of ODE, joined in a discussion with council members after being introduced by Michael Lightner, vice president for academic affairs.

President Todd Saliman earlier this month announced Borton’s appointment to the new role, which she holds while maintaining her position as assistant vice president of marketing and communication for ODE.

“We are fortunate to have Courtney at the helm,” Saliman wrote in a communication. “She has more than 10 years of experience dedicated to online higher education at five major universities. More importantly, she has embraced the challenge of evolving digital education to meet the service requirements of a hybrid future. She will maintain the current operations of ODE to support the existing CU Online programs. She will also work to ensure internal ODE operations aligns with the needs identified by the campus planning processes.”

Saliman said after consulting with the chancellors he decided to pause the search for a permanent head of ODE. Appointing an acting leader allows time to determine a path for the future.

“It is an understatement to say that opinions of online and hybrid learning have evolved during the last 18 months,” said Saliman, referencing the pandemic. “Colleges and universities have relied heavily on digital education to continue our mission of graduating students during this extraordinary moment in history. Now, higher education leaders are reevaluating the role that online learning will play in the future, where students are expecting flexibility and options in the online and hybrid campus experiences.

“It makes sense for us to take some time and think about what this means for the University of Colorado’s campuses. Our success in serving Colorado, our community and students depends on our campuses creating and realizing a vision for online and hybrid learning.”

Increasingly, Lightner said, on-campus students are asking that online education be part of their experience. “We call this, ‘The future is hybrid.’”

Borton noted that students who are learning exclusively online often decide to add some on-campus courses, but don’t want to sacrifice the support and coaching they receive online.

Borton said she is optimistic and excited for the coming evolution of education.

“COVID has changed a lot of things not only for us but for our students,” Borton said. “I call this a refreshing reset, because it’s so needed. We need to ask, how can we best support students?”

In other business at last week’s Faculty Council meeting, Lightner reminded council members of the state’s continuing work spurred by this year’s passage of the Higher Education Student Success legislation (House Bill 21-1330). A Student Success and Workforce Revitalization Task Force and its working groups began meeting earlier this month and have meetings scheduled through November. Click here for meeting details and more information.