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A Message From the Chancellor: A Fresh Future for Online Education at CU Denver

September 16, 2021

Dear Lynx Community,

It is with great optimism that I provide an important update on the future of CU’s digital education, systemwide and here at CU Denver, which focuses on bringing digital education strategy closer to the campuses. This will enable us to set and deploy a strategy that serves learner needs of the future.

For context, we have learned many valuable lessons about online learning during the past 18 months of the pandemic, including the most effective formats in which we offer classes. The future of education is not only inside a classroom, and it’s not just behind a screen. It’s both. The future is hybrid.

Paradigms of the past tended to have a clear distinction: You were either an on-campus student fully engrained in campus life, or you were taking classes online. We don’t see it that way anymore. Successfully serving all Coloradans will require expanding learner support models that cross all modalities, include campus-based instructional design and integrated student services. Whether dual-enrollment students still in high school, learners who need upskilling and retraining later in life, or college students balancing school, work and families, all will require integrated services, some virtual and some in-person, tailored to meet their unique needs.

With these trends and insights in mind, CU System President Todd Saliman has asked the chancellors to work with their campuses to develop campus-level visions and approaches with the hope of more closely aligning our digital strategy with resources. President Saliman has announced that the CU System will pause its search for an Office of Digital Education (ODE) leader so the campuses have time to assess their needs and ODE and the campuses can optimize organizational structures. In the meantime, Courtney Borton has been appointed to serve as acting associate vice president and head of ODE while maintaining her current role as assistant vice president of marketing and communication for the duration of the year. 

While this news may seem like a shift in direction—and it is—I am extremely supportive of the way that we are moving forward, and this presents a great opportunity for us.  I have asked Katie Linder, associate vice chancellor for digital strategy and learning, to work with our campus leadership, deans, faculty, staff, and me on an inclusive online approach for CU Denver that takes full advantage of our expertise, our market position, and the needs and preferences of our students. Faculty across our institution will be deeply engaged in this visioning process, and it will begin this month and will unfold over this academic year. We have an abiding commitment to support our faculty and provide them opportunities to articulate their needs for support during our process.

As you know, CU Denver has been a prolific leader in online education for the last two decades and has been a pioneer within the CU System—a leadership position that is reinforced with the arrival of Katie and other campus leaders with deep expertise in the online space. Additionally, we have an ambitious 2030 Strategic Plan that positions us to be a university for life that encourages a variety of modalities that meet students where they are throughout their careers and lifetimes.

This is an exciting time to reimagine the way we deliver education and meet the needs of Colorado’s learners and workforce. You have my commitment that this will be a collaborative and transparent process, and we will provide regular updates on our approach to CU Denver’s online education future. 

Michelle Marks