Four Takeaways from Community Conversations: Digital Strategy

As the university continues to re-examine its digital strategy, infrastructure, and operations, Katie Linder, PhD, associate vice chancellor for digital strategy and learning, hosted an interactive “Community Conversations: Digital Strategy” webinar to provide an overview of the campus’ Digital Strategy Task Force work and the status of the Office of Digital Education.

Roughly 130 faculty and staff tuned into the conversation, which featured the support of Mitch Morecraft, director of strategic plan implementation. Linder kicked off the webinar with a detailed presentation, followed by a live Q&A. Below are four key takeaways. Faculty and staff are encouraged to watch the full recording to learn more.

Digital Strategy Task Force Findings—One Size Fits One: An Equity-Serving Digital Education Strategy

Last fall, CU Denver formed a Digital Strategy Task Force of 18 community members from across campus, representing faculty, staff, students, and every school and college, to create a vision for its campus-level digital strategy that supports CU Denver’s strategic plan goals of becoming an equity-serving institution and “university for life.” The report, titled “One Size Fits One: An Equity-Serving Digital Education Strategy,” includes core commitments of flexibility, hybridity, and inclusivity, which will be achieved by focusing on affordability, innovation, and relevance. As a north star for their work, Linder presented four key themes and recommendations. CU Denver will:

1. Shore up the foundations that allow for digital education, innovation and flexibility.

2. Develop a hybrid campus model to ensure a more consistent student experience that prioritizes equitable, personalized support.

3. Coordinate the efforts of credit and noncredit offerings toward a scalable, portfolio-level approach that serves students for life.

4. Create more efficient and effective models for designing and launching leading-edge stackable degrees, credentials, and certificates.

“One of the main things that came out of our conversations as a task force was that we have incredibly unique learner audiences, one of which is this concept of a new majority learner,” Linder said. “What it means is, there is a whole population of people that higher education wasn’t necessarily built to serve, and that makes up a large part of our learner audience. So, we’re really trying to think about what it means to personalize our digital education efforts for this diverse set of stakeholders and learners that are coming into our community.”

Office of Digital Education Transition Will Bring More Support to Campus

As Monday’s CU Connections article described, the CU System’s Office of Digital Education (ODE) as it is currently structured will no longer exist in a few months. The decision is part of a phased approach to re-examine digital strategy, infrastructure, and operations and determines how the system can better serve the needs of its diverse student populations. In CU Denver’s case, that means moving toward becoming a hybrid campus that meets learners where they are.

Linder explained that three main service areas currently housed within the centralized system office will transition to CU Denver’s campus: programmatic marketing will join University Communications; recruitment and student success services will join the Division of Strategic Enrollment and Student Success; and program development, market intelligence, and instructional design will join Linder’s team.

“This allows us to connect and align various areas across the university around the issues of student support,” Linder said. “We really want to make sure that we’re leveraging and enhancing the student-service model, which allows students to go to one place to find what they need.”

CU Denver is in the process of working with the CU System’s HR unit to determine how ODE employees will be absorbed. Linder assured that ODE employees’ voices and needs are being considered. “As you can imagine, this has been a very unsettling time for many staff involved in this process, and we want to help them to have clarity about their positions as soon as possible,” Linder said.

Addressing the Need for More Faculty Support Across Modalities

To help align the support for faculty needs related to flexible classroom pedagogies, the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) will now report to Linder. Also Lind joininger’s team is Crystal Gasell, former IT program manager for academic technology applications and design, who will serve as director of an academic technology and training unit.Together, the CETL and Gasell’s leadership will offer a “one-stop-shop” for faculty pedagogical support needs.

“Many of you are very familiar with Crystal’s work supporting faculty, and this is going to allow us to have more specific one-on-one support around technology, tools, and trainings,” Linder said.

Questions Highlight Need for Staff Support, Technology Infrastructure, and More

Faculty and staff in attendance submitted questions during a live Q&A on topics including but not limited to course modality, tech infrastructure, employees impacted by the ODE transition, faculty involvement, technology access, funding, and more.

Linder pointed out that half of the Digital Task Force members were staff and emphasized the importance of faculty and staff involvement in the university’s goal to become a hybrid campus. “There are so many opportunities already for staff to engage with our learner populations, as they do in so many incredibly deep ways,” Linder said. “As we start to think about the hybrid campus model, I think one of the main areas we will want to think through carefully is, there are opportunities for things like cross-training, where we may have had certain staff working with certain modalities in the past.”

Faculty, she said, “will help us to have ideas about what programs need to be developed. They’ll help us to understand industry connections between their disciplines. They’ll help us to make choices about modalities and what’s really going to matter.”

Linder acknowledged that CU Denver currently isn’t putting enough money into digital marketing efforts and that some questions don’t yet have answers. A vision of this size and scope takes time and collaboration across campus, Linder pointed out, but the university remains committed to building a digital education strategy at CU Denver that works for all.

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