Published: March 7, 2018

Editor’s note: For the next several weeks in “Notes from a great conversation,” members of the Academic Futures subcommittees will be updating the campus on their early work to identify key themes and transformative ideas submitted by the campus community during the fall semester.

The first installment, today, features Orrie Gartner, director of operations and cloud infrastructure for the Office of Information Technology, writing on behalf of the Academic Futures Teaching and Technology, Distance and Online Education Subcommittee.

OIT Director of Operations Orrie Gartner

Director of Operations and Cloud Infrastructure for the Office of Information Technology Orrie Gartner

One of the common themes across many of the Academic Futures discussions is the role of technology in our education mission. In some cases, discussions focused on distance education to support non-residential students and programs at CU Boulder. In others, the focus was using technology to create innovative on-campus learning environments for our students that meet their needs and ours.  

As we reviewed the campus input, the white papers and reports from previous campus activities, it seems there is a general consensus the current state of the digital systems and platforms that deliver online/distance teaching and learning at CU Boulder is defined both by a lack of centralized infrastructure and support and the lack of a cohesive and well-understood campus strategy.

This seems largely rooted in our mixed goals for online and distance education, including enhancing current student learning experiences, reaching global and nontraditional audiences, creating innovative and flexible approaches to both lifelong learning and professional credentialing.

It is also a response to the changing needs of our students and faculty. We are trying to balance students’ desire for on-demand and easily accessible information with their need for training for deeper and more disciplined explorations. Effective use of technology can help students to finish degrees in reasonable time and allow flexibility to complete courses, particularly for non-traditional students.  

Faculty have also been clear in their desire for the freedom to use technology in the classroom to match their instructional philosophies and needs. They want a centralized support structure for learning how to use technology effectively and help to translate their traditional courses into a new educational paradigm.   

At the root of every discussion is a common theme: CU Boulder wants to be known for teaching excellence, regardless of modality.   

Our early thoughts about what success would look like within that vision would be establishing—quickly and effectively—a clear vision of technology in the classroom and a campuswide strategy that would deliver a base level of online technology to every department, one that supports learning in a seamless manner and is flexible, agile and provides the means for students and faculty to create and innovate.

Orrie Gartner,
Director of Operations and Cloud Infrastructure for the Office of Information Technology