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Accomplishments Report - Academic

Buff Portal Successfully Launches

Academic Year 2018-2019

Buff Portal is CU Boulder’s new online student portal, replacing the student tab in MyCUInfo. This new portal is a comprehensive online experience that will serve as a one-stop shop to enhance how students find the resources they need to succeed and thrive at CU Boulder. 

In March 2019, OIT released a “beta” version of the portal and by August, 10 percent of CU Boulder students had visited the new portal with over 2,000 providing feedback. The team followed an iterative design process based on agile methodologies, building the portal in-house in close collaboration with students and staff. Regular feedback was used to guide updates and redesigns, empowering OIT to respond to the changing needs of our campus. The student response to the Buff Portal has been extremely positive, with users describing it as intuitive and “Pretty Gucci‘’, and reporting that Buff Portal simplifies many CU processes. 

This work was made possible through collaboration and strong partnerships with Student Affairs, Enrollment Management, Undergraduate Education, Graduate School Dean’s Office, Strategic Relations & Support, and several groups within OIT. 

Enabling Future Online Students through New Automated Infrastructure

Academic Year 2018-2019

Education is constantly evolving and our campus has to be flexible and adapt to the ever-changing needs of our students. One way our campus is transforming is by focusing on online education. Partnering with Coursera, OIT worked with colleagues across Strategic Resources and Support, College of Engineering and Applied Science, and Academic Affairs to launch the world’s first globally scalable Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)-based electrical engineering master’s degree (MS-EE). 

For this launch to be possible, OIT partnered with University Information Systems (UIS) to develop and create new integrations and processes connected with our existing Student Information System now known as the Automated Platform for Online Programs (APOP). With this new infrastructure, individuals from all over the world can become CU Boulder students. They can enroll, pay for courses, and earn micro-credentials, certificates, and degrees. Online students do not need to go through the traditional application and admission processes, but rather utilize innovative performance-based admissions criteria, gaining admission to courses and the program by proving their expertise and skills. This new infrastructure facilitates a vastly more accessible and inclusive way of learning and MS-EE is the first program of many to be offered by CU Boulder utilizing this new platform.

CU teams across our entire administrative and academic enterprise have come together to innovate our learning management systems and create a world-class automated enrollment management system that allows new students almost real-time access to the world of our CU Boulder content. It puts a real emphasis on improved student experience.

- Robert H. McDonald, Dean of University Libraries & Sr. Vice Provost of Online Education

CU Boulder’s First Girls Who Code Camp

Academic Year 2018-2019

According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), in 2016 only 19 percent of computer and information sciences bachelor’s degree recipients were female. While at the same time, 57 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients were female. To try and close that gap, American lawyer and politician, Reshma Saujani, founded the tech organization Girls Who Code which offers summer immersion programs and camps for girls in elementary school through high school. 

This past summer, a couple of OIT staff members hosted the first Girls Who Code camps on the CU Boulder campus. The team submitted a grant proposal to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and received support from NCWIT’s CEO and co-founder, Lucy Sanders, and the School of Engineering.

The first series of clubs were held in July with about 25 participants ranging from third grade to high school seniors. Third through fifth graders were grouped together for four half-day sessions during which they toured OIT’s data center, experimented with the code editor Scratch, heard from women and men with STEM-based careers, and worked through the Girls Who Code curriculum. One of the club facilitators is a CU Boulder student who shared her experiences working on NASA projects while completing her degree. In addition to activities that the younger girls participated in, the girls in the sixth through twelfth-grade camp were tasked with creating a coding project plan and building the app they proposed. The final projects included a gymnastics game and an ocean cleanup game which the girls built.

We hope that this is just the beginning of a movement that spreads across CU’s four campuses and produces a pipeline of girls who choose to pursue STEM fields of study.

Canvas Web Grading Sync: Faculty Asked, OIT Responded

Academic Year 2018-2019

Submitting final grades to the Office of the Registrar was a tedious process for instructors. Before submitting, faculty had to take more than 20 steps and mistakes easily occurred. This process was quite frustrating, especially at the end of the semester, one of the busiest times of the year.

When our campus was evaluating new learning management systems, one of the top faculty requests was to have a system that provides an easier way to submit final grades. Once Canvas was chosen, creating a solution that would sync students’ final grades in Canvas to the Registrar’s web grading system was a top priority.

OIT collaborated with University Information Systems (UIS), the Office of the Registrar, Continuing Education, and the Academic Technology Advisory Group (ATAG) to develop a tool that allows instructors to sync their students’ final grades in Canvas to the Registrar’s web grading system. This solution, the Web Grading Sync tool, saves faculty time while also protecting students’ data. The Web Grading Sync tool was also shared with colleagues from other CU campuses so they can benefit from this collaborative effort.

Collaborating with Faculty to Promote Active, Engaging, and Experimental Learning

Academic Year 2018-2019

In the spring of 2018, funding was made available by the College of Arts and Sciences for a three-year initiative that promotes active, engaging, and experiential learning through the use of technologies within the College of Arts and Sciences. Led by OIT’s Arts & Sciences Support of Education Through Technology (ASSETT) team, the initiative brings faculty participants together from across the college to collaborate on four cross-disciplinary teams. Each team has its own objective:  

  • Develop resources and learning objects related to metacognition and mindfulness, which can be implemented in courses across the college.
  • Establish a multimodal publishing collective of students and faculty to produce projects that are open and accessible to the community at large.
  • Explore how we can use technology to generate meaningful opportunities for students, both inside and outside the classroom.
  • Integrate data science methods and tools across the curriculum to create an inclusive environment for data science in the College of Arts & Sciences.

An overarching objective of the incubator is the formation of a sustainable community of educational innovators. We think this initiative, if successful, could serve as a template for how to effect change in, not just higher education, but in large organizations. Perhaps most importantly, the more successful the incubator is, the more students will benefit from an energized and dynamic movement of faculty, staff, and students whose driving motivation is to learn.

 - David Brown, Divisional Dean of Social Sciences for the College of Arts & Sciences and a sponsor of the Innovation Incubator

Unified Student Experience/Buff Portal Beta Launched

Academic Year 2017-2018

OIT is partnering with students and campus offices to design and build Buff Portal - CU Boulder’s new student portal in support of the Unified Student Experience (USE) project. An early portal prototype was launched to a diverse group of 100 students to evaluate usability. Students were given specific tasks to complete within the new portal using their mobile device. As one student noted, “My feedback has been valued and I’ve seen the changes I have suggested in action as I continue to work with it.” We found that 87% of students rated the portal as easy to use and intuitive. Feedback about usability, bugs, preferences, etc. has been captured for future inclusion into the overall design. Overall, feedback has been very positive and clearly indicated that Buff Portal is on the right path.

Online Vision (MS-EE)

Academic Year 2017-2018

This spring, OIT partnered with the College of Engineering and Applied Science, Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI), and University Information Systems (UIS) to help deliver a MOOC-based online, asynchronous, on-demand graduate degree. By building strategic partnerships, organizing resources, gathering requirements, and understanding and defining the student experience, the team built a highly flexible and on-demand course structure, empowering future students to take control of their academic experience. The Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (MS-EE) full curriculum should roll out across Academic Year 2019-20. Learn more at

OIT has been a tremendous partner, engaging with a wholehearted willingness to develop a cutting-edge educational product. The Fulfill-Upon-Click enrollment management system promises to be the first of its kind in the nation. The MS-EE is not only revolutionary in terms of curriculum, but will also lead other universities in terms of the student experience. The technology that OIT is developing will have a powerful impact on future online projects and, eventually, the residential campus experience. Ultimately, OIT has been a fearless proponent for change in higher education.

- William Kuskin, Vice Provost and Associate Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives

Supporting UEAC and Campus Advising Units

Academic Year 2017-2018

Student Success is a top priority for our campus. MyCUHub, a centralized, campus-wide, student engagement system, continued to support student success this year by expanding its user base to over 20 business units and adding new functionality to the core set of advising based utilities. Student card swipes are now tracked in MyCUHub for events, trainings, and tutoring centers. Faculty can now submit course early alerts via a web-based form which enables advising staff to provide timely, targeted messaging and resources to their students.

With the launch of the new University Exploration & Advising Center (UEAC), there was an opportunity for OIT to further explore the unique needs of the students they are serving so they can target their advising more effectively. OIT provided UEAC with qualitative data that helped them make educated decisions on how to support their students.

The Adoption of Canvas

Academic Year 2017-2018

In fall 2017, Canvas was selected to be our campus's Learning Management System (LMS). To help ease the transition from Desire2Learn (D2L), OIT hosted 80 training sessions (72 in person, 8 online). The types of training included: Teaching with Canvas, Using Canvas to Maximize Student Engagement and Collaboration, Canvas Showcase, Canvas Migration Support, Grading in Canvas, Quizzes in Canvas.    

The adoption of Canvas has been good. The 2018 fall semester had 82% of courses on Canvas (2,614 courses) and 18% (575 courses) on Desire2Learn. 

In addition to training, the team has completed a number of enhancements: 

  • The student identifier used in Canvas was changed from the Unique Universal Identifier (UUID) to the Student ID (SID).
  • When a student or auditor drops from a Canvas course, they are now marked as “inactive” instead of being removed from the course completely.
  • A simplified Turnitin integration, that only sets up plagiarism detection for your assignments, has been enabled.
  • Course creation process was improved. Instructors no longer have to contact OIT and wait for up to two business days to get their course shells. If they have a basic course, the course is made available for them immediately.
  • The Web Grading integration launched in May. It allows instructors to export final grades from Canvas in a format ready to upload to the Registrar’s web grading system. An even better version will be available in December.