Courseload and Content Relay, Unizin’s Next Steps

In the last blog, I described the great opportunities that Courseload’s features bring to Unizin Members and emphasized lowering costs while enhancing user experience. In this blog, I want to describe how this acquisition is critical to Unizin’s roadmap going forward.

At its core, Unizin is about ensuring the academy stays in control of our data, our content, and our reputations. What does a Courseload have to do with that? Actually, quite a lot!

Although the focus of Courseload’s current capabilities is its eReader functions, Courseload also comes with sophisticated content delivery and discovery capabilities that we intend to make the foundation of Unizin’s Content Relay. The Content Relay is aimed at making two problems easier to address: creating and supporting simple and sustainable workflows around 1) the deposit and distribution of faculty/institutionally generated content; and 2) the discovery of content that can be used in classes, labs, and experiential learning settings (e.g., repositories, OER, institutionally licensed content, publisher paid content, etc.). The Content Relay can enable content remix/re-use to happen seamlessly in an environment that has traditionally been segregated and legally complex (rights management alone is enough to bring most people to their knees in despair). With the acquisition of Courseload, Unizin has the opportunity to tackle this problem in ways that support the core principles upon which Unizin was founded.

With that said, we are planning to sustain Courseload Engage and the supporting platform. But we obviously need Unizin personnel to deliver all of that. Very fortunately we were able to secure several key staff members from Courseload, Inc. all of whom are clearly some of the top talent in the entire industry. Their skills, abilities, knowledge and experience will hugely benefit Unizin immediately. Their expertise will truly accelerate our own internal growth, maturity, and product delivery and support capabilities for Unizin. And we are happy to announce that they will continue to operate out of Unizin’s new offices in Indianapolis.

Dinner with Unizin and Courseload team in Indianapolis
Dinner with Unizin and Courseload team in Indianapolis

Alongside these deliverables, we will be enhancing the Courseload solution with some key product features such as mobile support for Engage on iOS and Android and real-time data extraction using IMS Caliper standards. The latter will allow us to explore the potential contribution of Courseload usage data. This combination of usage data and the Unizin Analytics Relay solution might yield some hugely powerful insights for membership!

More details on roadmap, development and deployment progress will be released in the coming months. It’s truly an exciting time to be a Unizin Member. We look forward to growing our digital learning ecosystem, providing solutions that improve learning experiences and, ultimately, increase learner success!

– Robin Littleworth, Chief Operating Officer

Unizin Aims to Connect Learners and Content with the Addition of Courseload

We are thrilled to announce that we recently acquired the software and trademark assets of Courseload, Inc!

Courseload Engage is a leading platform for delivering textbooks and other educational resources in digital form to students. It brings collaborative teaching and learning capabilities to students and instructors, which ultimately brings us closer to improving learning experiences. Some of the key product features include the ability to highlight, annotate, bookmark, and search digital texts, as well as to consolidate and share study notes, all of which foster learner interactions with the content. Our intent is to deploy Courseload as the digital text platform for the Unizin ecosystem.

The acquisition of Courseload speaks directly to the shared Unizin vision in many ways. Most notably we can incorporate it to bolster our eLearning portfolios and give students access to more and better eLearning materials. Thus, our members can use this technology to enhance learning on their campuses starting in the fall. Not only do we have another great tool at our disposal, it empowers our faculty with greater control and options concerning content.

This technology facilitates the increased digitization of content, which in turn can reduce the cost of education at our institutions. Courseload has already proven several times over that they can deliver content at a lower cost than other alternatives. Hence, this is consistent with our Unizin vision to ensure a cost-efficient path for the best tools that best serve our students.

Courseload is also a foundational piece of the Unizin ecosystem because it is focused directly on improving the student learning experience, both financially and pedagogically. We look forward to tracking and measuring the outcomes and cost-savings passed on to students at our Member institutions.

Summarily, Courseload is a solution the fits into our overall Unizin vision of providing key elements of the digital learning landscape that we can use to improve learning on our campuses and advance higher education.   While this acquisition may not exactly be what we had in mind when we stated Unizin intends to control the ecosystem, it does clearly demonstrate the resolve and seriousness of our consortium.  We are privileged to be able to exercise Unizin’s scope, supported by the leadership of our Board of Directors, to obtain this technology, which will yield significant cost savings for the long-term, while simultaneously providing best in class tools and services to our campuses.

Clearly we are executing on our vision. And we are definitely tipping the table in favor of the Academy.

We look forward to the many successes of the Courseload technology and the team within Unizin!

Robin Littleworth, Chief Operating Officer

How Visually Appealing Courses Improve the Learning Experience

SamAdams_640x480It’s the first day of class, let’s say, History of Journalism. The teacher is talking about how Sam Adams stoked the flames of revolution with his essays and articles in the Boston Gazette. You could say he was one of the first writers to go ‘viral’ in the colonies. Did you know, Adams also started the 1760s version of today’s Associated Press AND organized the Boston Tea Party all while crafting a pretty tasty seasonal stout? Busy guy.

Enter 2015, from the CEO

Over two years ago, Brad Wheeler, Indiana University Professor and Chief Information Officer, wrote to his colleagues about the future of digital learning in higher education and how universities can pave a path toward scaling learning and teaching beyond a single institution. In his closing remarks, he posited a potential path forward where universities can ”sew together a set of content, distribution and analytics capabilities via strong contracts with a range of potential players.”

Enter Unizin

The technology that supports teaching and learning is increasingly more like plumbing (the basic infrastructure that both enables and constrains) than like a shiny, eye-catching plumbing  fixture. More important, this infrastructure is as critical to the future of residential and online education as bricks and mortar have been to our past. We ignore this technology, this infrastructure, at our own peril. Enter Unizin.

Why Unizin?

The formal launch of Unizin begins an exciting new chapter for Digital Education and a path for universities to shape our future. We have been fortunate to be among the many who have shaped the ideas that form Unizin, and our institutions are among the earliest universities to join. Our goals and purpose in endorsing Unizin are simple: As professors and members of the academy, we want to support faculty and universities by ensuring that universities and their faculty stay in control of the content, data, relationships, and reputations that we create. As we look at the rapidly emerging infrastructure that enables digital learning, we want to bias things in the direction of open standards, interoperability, and scale. Unizin is about tipping the table in favor of the academy by collectively owning (buying, developing, and connecting) the essential infrastructure that enables digital learning on our campuses and beyond.