What is Unizin?
The rapid pace of technological advancement is having a profound effect on higher education and reshaping the ways in which students learn and in which universities deliver academic content. In response to this exciting, but challenging, educational environment a number of leading research universities have come together to form Unizin, an inter-university technology service that supports teaching and learning in the modern digital landscape.
At its core, Unizin is a consortium of higher education institutions working to shape an efficient and effective destiny for today’s higher education learning environment. Unizin’s founding partners are Colorado State University, Indiana University, the University of Florida, the University of Michigan, Oregon State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Minnesota.
Unizin has been created to help member universities and subscribers customize and unify a wide range of tools for online learning and digital course management. It will support services for educational content, software platforms, and analytics.
Unizin is membership-based and university owned. It is funded by member investments and governed by those institutions as a not-for-profit service operator. Unizin members can use the service for a range of modern instruction scenarios, including in-person courses, online courses, massive open online courses (MOOCs), or flipped classrooms (in which lectures are viewed by students at home, and in-class time is for discussion or projects).
Higher education needs Unizin for several reasons:
- To manage the content our faculty and students create.
- To share this content across universities at significant cost savings to all.
- To foster interoperability among the various systems for teaching and learning, and break down the barriers that exist between platforms.
- To facilitate learning analytics in order to improve student outcomes.
As educational content, software systems, and learner analytics become increasingly digital, it is important that universities have the ability to quickly grow and adapt. Unizin is a strategic move by universities to assert greater control and influence over the digital learning landscape than would otherwise be possible by any single institution.
Who founded Unizin?
Colorado State University, Indiana University, University of Florida, University of Michigan, Oregon State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and University of Minnesota have already committed to Unizin; we expect other institutions to come on board shortly.
Who can join Unizin?
Unizin’s founding partners are united by a common set of values regarding the need for a service such as Unizin, as well as a willingness to make a financial commitment to the project. The founding partners will continue to actively seek out other institutions that share these values and are willing to make a financial commitment to Unizin. In addition, the Unizin business model eventually will allow institutions to subscribe to its services and products.
Who governs Unizin?
Unizin will have a board of directors, comprising representatives from each founding university that makes a significant financial investment.
Who will benefit from Unizin?
- Instructors. They will be able to share their own teaching content and gain access to a repository of shared digital content, from campus colleagues and others at member institutions. Unizin will allow them to assemble and deliver this content to students in a range of ways. Likewise, analytics will allow for clearer assessments of student learning.
- Students. Learners will have access to the materials and thinking of the best minds in their fields. Instructors will be able to approach and assess learning in new ways – ways that reflect digital lifestyles and learning, and that take individual needs and experiences into account.
- Instructional technologists and support staff. They will gain access to a large and growing toolkit to help faculty transform and improve their teaching practice. Flexibility and adaptability of the environment will not only ease the job, but also ensure greater faculty support.
What is Unizin’s relationship to Internet2?
Internet2 will serve as financial home to Unizin and provide the expertise and infrastructure required for Unizin’s formation and growth, but membership in Internet2 does not automatically result in a membership of Unizin. Like Internet2, Unizin is a university formed and operated technology service that is part of the community it serves.
When will Unizin be available for use?
Members will have access to Canvas licenses in late summer 2014. This is the first of many benefits to come.
Where will the Unizin team be located?
Once an executive director is appointed, that person will evaluate potential locations for the team that will be put in place over the next year. The Unizin Board will make a selection based on the director’s recommendations.
What sets Unizin apart
How is Unizin different from a Learning Management System (LMS)?
While the core toolset includes an LMS, Unizin is focusing more on digital content development and data analytics to improve teaching and learning. These are essential and strategic capabilities that enable universities’ core mission of education.
How is Unizin different from MOOC efforts like Coursera and edX?
While much attention over the last two years has been given to the tools and providers that support MOOCs, Unizin will focus broadly across all of the technologies that are used to create and deliver digital content, services, and data for residential and online educational environments. Unizin seeks to give institutions control over the digital education ecosystem, which will include strategically contracting with leading vendors and supporting open standards.
Because of the focus on open standards and interoperability, Unizin is designed to complement and extend the tools and platforms that deliver MOOCs. For example, it is in everyone’s interest to enable faculty who teach MOOCs and teach residential courses to share data, content, and tools across both environments. Unizin is about making the various tools work well together in a loosely coupled environment.
There is another sense in which Unizin is different from MOOC efforts. Unizin is about providing common infrastructure to support the missions of its university members. It is not a public-facing brand. It will not offer content, courses, or degrees in its own name. Unizin’s membership model is built on the premise that universities need to strengthen their influence in the use of data and content for the long run. They will accomplish this goal by working together and taking greater control over content, while also opening content up for selective sharing.
Is Unizin trying to displace the others?
Not at all. These other efforts have helped to transform higher education and teaching and learning in general. For its part, Unizin seeks to drive the development of content and data standards for analytical purposes, working as part of a free market of ideas and approaches.
Is Unizin another open- or community-source project like Sakai or Kuali?
No – those endeavors focus on building software as a community, for use by individual institutions. Unizin strives to foster a community more concerned with creating and sharing content and improving outcomes.
Is Unizin just going to be about online or distance learning?
No. University members can use Unizin as a campus, online, or multi-institutional platform for education delivery.
What technical platform does Unizin use?
Unizin’s founders selected Canvas for its learning management system with significant availability for open-source enhancements – which translate into opportunities for Unizin’s future evolution.
Will Unizin be a Canvas reseller?
No. Members of Unizin will be able to obtain the Canvas LMS product for campus use via their membership. If members already have Canvas, they can maintain that existing relationship (either via a direct contract with Instructure or via Internet2 Net+ services) or take advantage of the Unizin agreement.