Aug 302007
Authors: Erik Myers

It took nine months for university officials to conceptualize the new online university CSU-Colorado, and it might just take another year before it’s up and running.

Approved by CSU’s board of governors one week ago, the online university is directed mainly toward community college graduates seeking a bachelor’s or master’s degree, or those simply seeking professional development.

Rick Simpson, associate provost at CSU, said it has yet to be determined what the degree programs will entail, as the selection process is somewhat different.

“We will be doing thorough educational demand analysis work to determine what programs we would offer to our perspective student populations,” Simpson said.

Early research of job markets both regional and local have determined four fields that will likely become the initial programs of the university: business, health care, public sector and education. All four fields will have various emphases available.

Simpson said he hoped that CSU-Colorado would be able to fill in certain occupational needs required around the state, such as the growing number of subject-specific teachers in the field of education.

“You always hear there are great shortages of teachers in the math, science, engineering areas,” Simpson said. “If there’s a high demand for those kinds of skills and content areas, we can be providing those through either professional development programs or interdisciplinary masters programs.”

In developing CSU-Colorado, CSU coordinated with the Colorado Community College System, whose associate degree graduates are the university’s targeted demographic. Simpson said that officals intend to secure accredidation from the Higher Learning Commission for CSU-Colorado, so that community college credit would be transferrable to CSU-Colorado, while CSU-Colorado credit would be transferrable to other four year universities in Colorado.

Although no final price has been set, officials are aiming for a $250, per-credit-hour rate for CSU-Colorado. Springfield said that CSU-Colorado would be a non-profit enterprise but that revenues would be flowing back into the Fort Collins and Pueblo campuses and their respective colleges for provided curriculum and faculty. Beyond that, Springfield said revenues would be distributed across the universities as needed.

Lou Swanson, vice provost for Outreach and Strategic Partnerships, said that CSU would be drawing $4.5 million from the reserve funds of the CSU System, which would be paid back to the reserves with interest.

Swanson said there was value in having such a university providing service to those who had little access to higher education, as it would ultimately provide an improved economy for Colorado.

Maria Puzziferro, director of the Denver Center for CSU, is overlooking the curriculum development at CSU-Colorado. Puzziferro said that since degree programs have yet to be figured out, an approach to online learning at the university has been conceptualized, known as Active Mastery Learning.

“We’ve conceptualized it as having courses that would have lots of interactive, engaging exercises and activities, even some online gaming,” Puzziferro said, adding that the exercises would allow students to learn the content and then apply it to real world instances.

When asked what would be considered as such exercises, Puzziferro listed video clips, textbook reading, audio clips, podcasts, webpage links and crossword puzzles among some possible exercises in which students could learn and apply.

Simpson said that since its status as a land-grant institution, CSU had been a school designed to bring the best education to the masses. Since then, Simpson said, CSU had become larger, more selective and thus less accessible. Simpson said he believed CSU-Colorado would be a return to those roots.

“(CSU-Colorado) is another important step in the outreach and engagement in the community, by bringing education literally to a person’s home or business wherever they are, and allowing them to connect with CSU as a system.” Springfield said.

Senior reporter Erik Myers can be reached at

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