Published: April 30, 2021

Provost Russ Moore and Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke today announced CU Boulder’s Online Education Team, a collaboration of university experts that will “support faculty with exciting new opportunities to offer innovative, accessible and impactful online learning experiences,” according to Moore. 

“Our Online Education Team will empower our faculty to leverage their research, scholarship, and creative work for the benefit of our current students, as well as for learners in all phases of life and at all points of career, anywhere on the globe,” Moore said.

The campus’s approach to online learning is three years in the making. The original Academic Futures report in fall 2018 called for an implementation plan for online recommendations, culminating in the August 2019 report from the Academic Futures/Financial Futures Online Strategy Working Group, which advocated for a “one-stop shopping” approach to supporting online education on the Boulder campus. 

Moore said the vision for CU Boulder’s Online Education Team is built on three basic goals: that its courses derive from CU Boulder’s unique academic and programmatic strengths; that it be consistent with and enhance CU Boulder’s reputation and brand; and that it intentionally project the value of CU Boulder and support the online strategy of the four-campus University of Colorado system.  

Moore said the Online Education Team’s first priority will be the development of post-baccalaureate online degrees, including master’s degrees, credentials and credit-bearing courses in areas such as executive education, alongside noncredit executive and workforce offerings and experiences, such as microcredentials, badges and continuing professional education. 

“This priority positions us to emphasize our unique academic and programmatic strengths, and is consistent with a priority area of emphasis for the Boulder campus that was articulated by the Board of Regents in 2017,” Moore said. 

The second priority will be developing “pedagogically appropriate” online courses that would be available “to our resident Boulder campus undergraduate students within our base tuition rates,” and the third priority will be “promoting student success through the intentional development of courses that increase undergraduate persistence and degree completion,” Moore said. 

The fourth priority, he said, will be “the development of other courses in the undergraduate space beyond the boundaries of the Boulder campus—courses for non-CU Boulder students available on a global level.” 

Robert McDonald, senior vice provost for online education and dean of University Libraries, will lead the Online Education Team. He will also serve as the Boulder campus’s liaison to the CU system’s Office of Digital Education (ODE) in support of the four-campus CU System Online education platform, which will be enacted through a governing agreement that CU Boulder recently entered after McDonald collaborated with ODE to reach a final agreement.

“Standing up the next phase of our Online Education Team enables us to create online course offerings that leverage CU Boulder’s unique curricular strengths, and from which our academic departments can participate in the system online platform,” McDonald said.

McDonald said CU Boulder’s Online Education Team would soon begin the process of providing “direct, one-stop support and consultation for faculty via the single entry point of CU Boulder’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL).” 

“CTL will continue to be the vital resource it has been for faculty across all colleges, schools and departments who wish to work in the online space or explore innovation for new course or program modalities,” McDonald said. 

“The desire here is to fully support interested faculty to pursue development of online courses for the wide variety of students the provost enumerated, in the most accessible way possible,” McDonald said. 

That support will come from a “team of teams” model of experts and seasoned professionals from CTL, Continuing Education (CE), the Office for Academic and Learning Innovation (formerly OAI) and the Office of Information Technology (OIT), supported by Enrollment Management, the RegistrarFinancial and Business Strategies, and other administrative areas,” said O’Rourke. 

“The team of teams is a gathering of some of the best innovative minds on our campus, in service to the vision of our faculty, accountable to Dean McDonald, and focused on meeting the needs of the variety of our current and future students,” O’Rourke said.

CTL Director Kirk Ambrose and Senior Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Assessment Katherine Eggert will also be facilitating conversations with colleges, schools and academic units on creating new programs and modalities for the Boulder campus, McDonald said. 

“Our Online Education Team will support the faculty vision and innovation of new online programs by working collaboratively with the office of academic affairs, graduate school, enrollment management and others to provide direct consultancy to departments wishing to develop new online degree programs that fit campus and/or system priorities,” McDonald said. 

“The key to this consultancy is to provide support over the life cycle of the implementation of the program as needed by the faculty and department,” McDonald said.  

CU Boulder’s Online Education Team will be guided, McDonald said, by an executive committee consisting of Sara Thompson, vice provost and dean of Continuing Education; Kirk Ambrose, director, CTL; Scott Battle, assistant dean for online academic programs; Aisha Jackson, assistant vice chancellor/assistant vice provost for academic and learning technologies, and Quentin McAndrew, assistant vice provost for academic and learning innovation.

Moore said that he is “grateful and enthusiastic” to see progress on a project recommended by multiple academic communities on campus. 

Members of the campus community who have questions about the next phase in the campus online strategy can contact Eggert and McDonald.