CU Denver campus 2019

Katie Linder, Associate Vice Chancellor for Digital Strategy and Learning, on Joining the CU Denver Community and Developing a Robust Digital Learning Strategy

October 14, 2021

Roughly two months into her new role as associate vice chancellor for digital strategy and learning, Katie Linder, PhD, brings a wealth of experience to CU Denver’s digital learning space. Reporting to Provost Constancio Nakuma and working in close partnership with the chancellor, deans, faculty, and staff, Linder is charged with developing a holistic and inclusive digital learning strategy and stewarding the expansion of online offerings and credentials to respond to changing workforce needs and learner preferences, prioritizing accessibility, flexibility, and lifelong learning.

CU Denver News sat down with Linder to get to know one of CU Denver’s newest leaders and learn about the university’s exciting future in online learning and where it fits into the 2030 Strategic Plan.

Tell us about yourself. How has your professional experience set you up for this opportunity?

I’ve been engaged in the field of online learning for about 10 years. After completing my MA and PhD in women and gender studies, I started my career supporting faculty at a Center for Teaching and Learning at Suffolk University in Boston, which included helping faculty transition courses to hybrid modalities. That’s when I really became interested in online teaching and learning. I also wrote a book on hybrid and blended course design.

Those experiences led me to a research position at Oregon State University, where I directed a research unit that explored questions about online teaching and learning. We conducted research on topics like how closed captions help students learn, what devices students use to engage in online learning, and the experiences of long-term online instructors. It was a really fun job that allowed me to be creative and curious about online teaching and learning.

After that, I transitioned to a role at Kansas State University more on the operations side of online program development and student support. That leadership position gave me an opportunity to apply a lot of what I had been researching about high-quality online courses and programs to what we were developing together at KSU. 

What attracted you to CU Denver and what has your experience been like in the community thus far?

I’m so excited to create a shared vision for digital strategy with this campus community, especially as we’ve learned so much from this pandemic period. The CU Denver community’s commitment to inclusivity and how the university is evolving to meet the needs of learners is what really drew me to this role.

As I’ve met with many different stakeholders on campus, a few things really stand out to me. One is the resiliency of this community in the midst of all the challenges of the pandemic. The faculty are incredibly nimble in their approaches to online teaching and I can see how much creativity has been leveraged to help students continue to meet their goals.

Second, I see the willingness of this community to change and grow as the industry of higher education continues to evolve. The new Strategic Plan is a great example of that. I love how many members of the CU Denver community were involved in the process of envisioning the plan and now executing it. Goal 2, the concept of designing a “university for life,” is one of the areas of the Strategic Plan that will be most tied to my work. I’m looking forward to seeing how that unfolds.

Lastly, as I meet members of the CU Denver community, I have experienced such a kind and welcoming introduction to campus. I can see how members of this community care for one another, and care for our students, and I’m proud to be a part of such a positive campus environment.

The pandemic taught us a lot about the need for flexible learning modalities. How do you see online education playing into this and what practices do you think we should we carry into the future?

I think the pandemic has taught us a lot, but I would also say that it’s still teaching us lessons that will be important into the future. For example, we have clear evidence that flexible modalities help us serve more students in the ways that they prefer as they juggle all kinds of responsibilities as they pursue degrees and other credentials. 

However, we have also seen indications that not all learners have access to Wi-Fi and hardware that will help them learn effectively. We are still learning a lot about access during this period and how best we can serve our learners, including those who are here on campus and those who learn with us from a distance.

Chancellor Marks recently shared that we are developing a campus-level vision and approach that will more closely align our digital strategy with our resources. Where do we stand in this process and what are next steps? 

We are at a really exciting place in this process. We are sending out invitations for members to join a Digital Strategy Task Force that will launch this month and work through March 2022. This group will engage with the campus community, internal and external data sources, and relevant scholarly and market research to develop a set of recommendations for next steps that address areas of both opportunity and priority.

We’ll be tackling a number of key questions including:

  • What are the most pressing curricular and co-curricular needs of our future learners?
  • Who are the unique audiences we should serve and what learning environments will best support their learning?
  • How does being an equity-serving institution influence our digital education models?
  • How can CU Denver differentiate its digital offerings in an already-crowded market?

Outside of work, what do you like to do for fun?

Well, I’m a certified yoga teacher, but now I mostly practice yoga on my own for fun and exercise. I also really enjoy reading, so I love to talk with people about what books they are loving— and I always accept recommendations! You can usually find me with a mystery novel or memoir, but lately I’ve also been branching out into reading some science fiction.