Colorado State University Commits $1 Million to Meet Need for High-Tech Workers; Yates Announces Plan for "Virtual College," Distance Ed Links

Colorado State University, in response to the pressing need for more high-tech workers to keep Colorado’s economy strong, today announced the creation of a "virtual college" backed by nearly $1 million dedicated to bolstering the university’s high-tech departments as well as plans to beef up its distance education infrastructure.

President Albert C. Yates, in his fall address today, pointed to the expansion of the recently created Center for Information Science and Technology into a "virtual college" as a main university priority for the coming year. Yates has charged the new initiative with increasing the number of graduates with high-tech degrees by 60 percent over the next four years. In a related initiative, Yates also called for the university to improve distance education opportunities throughout the state and nation through the university’s extension offices and through expanded infrastructure to better connect Colorado State’s many educational offerings to the University of Southern Colorado and Fort Lewis College-members of the Colorado State University System.

"Quick attention will allow us to respond to the extraordinary changes in technology that pervade and redefine much of life, living and work," Yates said, in announcing the "virtual college" plan during his annual address to the university community. "In fact, we have already dedicated nearly $1 million in new funds to enhance our capacity to address high-tech workforce needs."

Provost Loren Crabtree, one of the leaders of the new effort, said: "We are not going to address this problem by creating new or different levels of organizational bureaucracy; rather, we will take advantage of the Internet and other technologies to create new and better ways of sharing resources and collaborating. It’s a new answer to a new problem."

Crabtree also said that ongoing efforts in the Division of Educational Outreach to link to the university’s extension offices and sister institutions are all part of the university’s longtime commitment to serving the state and nation.

"We’ve been a leader in distance education for 30 years, and through today’s announcements, we’re demonstrating our dedication to retaining that edge, and to using the latest technology to coordinate, innovate and then deliver our educational offerings where they can be used," Crabtree said.

Jud Harper, former vice president for research and information technology who also is spearheading the effort, said a new model was needed to capitalize on existing high-tech strengths at Colorado State. Under this model, the university will not create a new organizational structure, but rather will provide central support, coordination and funding to bolster existing high-tech departments.

"A ‘virtual college’ will provide all the interaction without compromising the existing relationships and strengths in our academic departments," he said. "This model will promote interdisciplinary work across different units by becoming a central resource without disrupting the important relationships and expertise already in place."

Harper said the "virtual college" will be charged with creating new courses and program development in high-tech areas, with enhancing student and faculty recruitment and retention in these areas, with fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and with serving as "one-stop shopping" for students, faculty and industry representatives interested in high-tech efforts at Colorado State.

Today’s announcement is part of Colorado State’s ongoing efforts to assist the statewide initiative of Gov. Bill Owens to help meet the burgeoning demand for high-tech workers. One key goal of the Colorado State "virtual college" will be to serve as a link with the state’s Colorado Institute of Technology, which was launched in March.

Colorado State’s allocation of resources in high-tech areas will underwrite six key initiatives over the next four years:

  • Support primary information science and technology departments, including Computer Information Systems, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Journalism and Technical Communication. The infusion of funding will expand the number of master’s and bachelor’s graduates by 60 percent over the next four years.
  • Expand educational contacts and offerings in information technology with interdisciplinary programs and external contacts through short courses, certificate programs and contacts with industry. These will be designed to articulate with K-14 and state initiatives. The Center for Information Science and Technology will complement existing departments’ activities and will develop an information technology minor and other offerings to meet emerging student, industrial and societal needs.
  • Increase information science and technology competence of all students at the university by creating and offering courses to assure technical literacy and problem-solving capabilities. For example, the university’s new core curriculum includes logical and critical thinking as a required course.
  • Expand the use of instructional technology by equipping and staffing more classrooms and providing professional development assistance for use of technology in courses offered on campus and at a distance.
  • Establish the university as a primary provider of information science and technology post-baccalaureate training in Colorado through distance and continuing education channels.
  • Enhance student advising to increase enrollments in workforce training and degree programs and ease student transfers from community colleges.

"There is a shortage of technically qualified workers throughout the industry and it is vital that Colorado State continue to work closely with the state in meeting this need," said Harper. "Creating appropriate technological educational opportunities for students is central to our mission at Colorado State. Our students are increasingly interested in high-tech fields, and this demand calls for expanding existing programs and developing new offerings. Our efforts are all directed toward meeting student as well as industry needs."