Content Communities Part II: The Unizin Solution

a birds-eye view of a team of content creators working on course development

Like we mentioned in the previous blog, universities are and will continue to be places where instructional content is created. Lately, we’ve seen a change in how instructional content and courses are created as pressure rises for teaching practices to adapt to the needs of next-generation learners. Faculty are still the primary creators of lecture materials, course materials and textbooks, but increasingly instructional designers, media developers, graphic artists, software developers and others are appointed to support faculty in the creation of this content and courses. At Unizin, we call teams that support course development, content communities.

Content communities are groups of people who guide content from creation and use, to catalog and storage, to discovery and reuse. By investing in these content communities, universities can scale the course development process while maintaining the faculty input that is associated with quality courses. Content communities also help support instructional practices that improve personalized learning, outcomes, retention, and student success.

So what are the workflows of a content community? They include:

  •       Author and publish original subject-matter content.
  •       Create original activity content, curate it into collections, and share with others.
  •       Discover, adopt, and remix content for instruction.
  •       Organize content in a course design and development context.
  •       Deliver content for instruction and measure content interactions for analysis.

Part of the way Unizin plans on improving these workflows is with the Course Development Suite. The Course Development Suite provides a foundation for collaborative workflows that can power a teaching and learning ecosystem. It has three main applications: Collections, Discovery, and Course Libraries.  The Course Development Suite helps users navigate course materials available within their institution, find and organize items that match their learning objectives, and structure courses and learning experiences with content. These applications complement other Unizin offerings like Pressbooks Hosting services and Unizin Engage.

Collections

Universities have several content-producing organizations, departments, and individuals on campus. These organizations or individuals can use Collections to upload their content into themed folders in their institution’s content ecosystem. For example, in our previous blog we told you about an institution that built a program that digitized slides in a laboratory. They struggled to raise awareness about the existence of this software. This institution could use Collections to upload folders of slides from the software and publish them for other faculty and departments to find. Using Collections would solve the problem of discoverability and also provide valuable information to the creator and other users about which courses the slides had been used in previously. Collections are tagged with rich metadata about which courses and disciplines the content was intended for. The owner of those collections can decide which parts of their collections are discoverable and by whom.

Discover

Next in the course development process, Faculty, instructional designers, IT staff, librarians, and other teaching and learning staff can use the discovery application to find collections and content and adopt them into the Course libraries application. While browsing, they can see which other courses have utilized the content and who owns it. In the last blog, we told you about a Member that learned about five different training modules for video-based discussions. When content is uploaded to Collections, it’s easy to determine if the content you need exists in the Discover application. If they are not using the Course libraries application, there is also the option to download the collection locally.

Course Libraries

Instructional designers, librarians, faculty, instructors, and teaching and learning staff can use the Course Libraries application to organize content into a course structure or for personal use. Faculty can choose to work alone in the course development process or invite others to help. Within Course Libraries, these groups can suggest edits to content or request additional items, like captioned videos or animations. Course Libraries enables faculty to reuse and adopt content and learning objects in the future.

Course development is a complex process that has lived in email, intranets and various cloud drives for too long. The current workflow hides valuable course materials and compartmentalizes collaboration. With Course Development Suite, Unizin is supporting the emerging practices of content communities and the needs of next-generation learners.

Unizin’s goal is to provide platforms, tools, and services that scale the practices of content communities in a way that is faculty-directed to ensure the highest quality; university-owned and controlled; interoperable and open to drive our public mission; and standards-driven to enable flexible integration. We believe the course development process is the anchor of content communities. We’re taking the course development process out of inboxes and putting it into a shared set of applications that allows for more collaboration, a way to measure the use of course materials, and a way to share content while respecting the creators’ sharing preferences.

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