It’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.
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.”
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.
There is an exciting new development in the teaching and learning space that you need to know about. It’s called Unizin. Simply put, Unizin is a consortium of universities formed around the idea that higher education—and not just private vendors—should own, direct and share a set of services that further teaching and learning.
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.