Update on CU Denver's Online Education Efforts

Sent: Jan. 22, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

As you may be aware, the University of Colorado system embarked on an initiative in fall 2019 to grow our combined online offerings and presence. As part of this, last spring the CU Denver | Anschutz Office of Digital Education (ODE) was moved to the CU system to provide support for all four campuses. This past October, CU President Mark Kennedy and the four campus chancellors made the decision to shift from a system-driven initiative to one that is driven by each campus. 

I see this as a positive step for CU Denver as it will allow us to create and execute a campus-specific strategy for online, digital, and hybrid education tailored to take advantage of CU Denver’s strengths, while partnering with ODE where it makes sense for us to do so. 

Since October, I’ve been working with the CU System and with members of the CU Denver community on determining the best structure for achieving our mutual aims for online education. This ongoing work will continue throughout the spring semester and will be represented in the campuswide strategic planning process.

Below are some questions and answers about what we know so far.

ODE was relocated to the CU System office with a lot of online programmatic work in progress on our campus. How are we addressing this urgent need for continued support?

Yes, the online situation at CU Denver is complicated by the large number of programs and the support that we were receiving from ODE being housed initially at CU Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus. ODE’s departure left a temporary vacuum. To address this, we have reached an agreement with the now-systemwide ODE to extend their support services with us for an additional fiscal year, through June 2022. This interim agreement provides essential support for programs and will allow for a runway while we work to determine our long-term online strategy.

What services will the CU systemwide Office of Digital Education provide CU Denver?  

As part of the agreement with ODE to extend services through June 2022, ODE will provide access to the systemwide CU Online website, marketing, project management, support of online enrollment and student retention, faculty professional development, instructional design support, operations, and related technologies to assist all of our online programs and students.

In parallel, we are working to identify online programs for longer-term comprehensive partnerships with ODE. Some programs that have the potential to scale up significantly will choose to partner with ODE to receive a comprehensive suite of support services, including program-specific marketing. In these cases, it will be a mutual decision between ODE, our campus, and the program to enter into any partnership.  

Which specific CU Denver programs will be the first to receive comprehensive support from ODE as part of the systemwide CU Online portal? 

A set of Business School graduate programs are in negotiations with ODE to be part of a Fall 2021 launch. We anticipate additional CU Denver programs will follow in subsequent semesters. Negotiations are continuing with ODE and the other CU campuses, and program-selection decisions will be made based on market/workplace needs, program readiness, and the balance of programs from all four campuses.

Now that ODE has moved to the CU system, who will lead CU Denver’s online education efforts? 

Since October 2020, Tobin Bliss, Associate Vice Chancellor of Fiscal Planning, and Diana White, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, have been serving as the administrative and faculty liaisons, respectively, from our campus to ODE. They are continuing in these interim leadership roles through the spring semester. Tobin leads a group of staff (the Online Operations Committee) and Diana leads a faculty group with representation from each school/college (the Online Education Committee). Each group meets every 1-2 weeks to discuss our progress and plans for online education.  

In addition, we’re bringing in temporary assistance to meet the immediate need for program management support to help coordinate many operational processes that need to work seamlessly between our campus and ODE.

Longer term, we will establish a senior-level digital education position, reporting to the Provost. Over the next month, I will be working with the Online Education Committee and others to craft a job description for a national search to attract an experienced and innovative leader. I intend to launch this search in February. 

How can I stay informed about the latest developments in CU Denver’s online education initiative and offerings?

For now, our interim online leadership team will provide campus-level updates approximately monthly. They are also available to meet with and provide updates to key constituent groups. We’ll also host online forums this spring to provide updates and to answer your questions directly. 

CU Denver has long been a leader in digital and online education, and we intend to remain at the forefront in this regard. Much will be determined in the next few months, so stay tuned. 


Michelle Marks Signature

Michelle Marks

Chancellor’s Office

CU Denver

Lawrence Street Center

1380 Lawrence Street

Suite 1400

Denver, CO 80204


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