Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Utah had been working to expand and reimagine programs in online and continuing education. In March 2020, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dan Reed announced Deborah Keyek-Franssen as the new associate vice president and dean of Continuing and Online Education—tasked with expanding pathways available to students for degrees, certificates and lifelong education.
The pandemic has only accelerated the need to connect students and community learners with more flexible educational opportunities in order to meet the needs of rapidly changing technologies, work landscapes, higher education and student expectations. One of the ways U leaders have done this is to bring together UOnline, elements of Teaching and Learning Technologies and Continuing Education and Community Engagement into one unit, now known as University Connected Learning (UCL).
“This important name change coincides with efforts taking place across campus in enhancing, innovating and scaling educational opportunities for all types of learners,” said Reed. “University Connected Learning encompasses many valuable departments and programs that allow the U to expand access to education and meet the needs of a changing workforce in Utah and beyond.”
UCL connects faculty and students to the technologies, data and supporting services that enhance learning and teaching. It also connects academic departments to communities through programs and services that support lifelong learning and community engagement.
“We wanted to pick a name that really emphasizes our role as a university-wide service unit bridging diverse learning experiences,” said Keyek-Franssen. “I’m proud that everyone within UCL can see a bit of what they do in our name and that the change coincides with renewed efforts all across campus to enhance and diversify the ways we are teaching and learning together.”
A new name does not mean any of the popular programs such as Go Learn, Osher Lifelong Learning and Youth Education will go anywhere. Keyek-Franssen said they have been intentional about creating a program and service management infrastructure that builds on successes and focuses on better-sustained engagement with academic departments and communities.
“We will continue offering the same services and are also adding some new ones as part of our expanded service infrastructure,” said Keyek-Franssen. “It’s all about helping departments and students be successful at meeting the needs of constantly changing community and workforce demographics and requirements. We hope our growing U community joins us in building bridges and closing equity gaps in access to lifelong learning.”