Strategic Initiatives Updates

The goal of these updates is to provide our community with more information regarding the current strategic priorities that are driving the work of Unizin personnel. Our Unizin Reports also contain updates around these topics, in addition to other important information we wish to socialize across the consortium. Updates here are intentionally designed to be smaller in nature, to give consortium members a sense of the current state of high-priority projects.

Increase the UDP's Flexibility and Value

The average UDP tenant is 11TB and can see upwards of five million events a day early in a fall semester. Drawing information from this data can be challenging. Unizin continues to seek new avenues to increase the flexibility of the UDP, while simultaneously increasing the UDP’s value.

Status Update: November 2023

Unizin’s first synthetic data, representing a fictitious university of 9,000 students, was used to support the Unizin Hackathon on 10/26-27 in Fort Collins, where members could explore and use the data set to prototype various applications and visualizations. The data set was also used to support the MHacks hackathon at the University of Michigan on November 18th and 19th. The synthetic data set represents 20 of the most common Unizin Common Data Model (UCDM) entities and includes 9 million unique Caliper events.

Learning analytics-focused data marts
The data marts that exist in the UDP require several steps to create, starting with various UDP tables and then building several ‘helper tables’ before the final data marts are created. Several Unizin members asked to see more information about the helper tables, which will help analysts and data scientists decide if specific data mart are appropriate for various projects. To help make this more transparent, Unizin published documentation that graphs the various data transformations and aggregations that happen prior to data landing in the specific data marts.

Status Update: May 2023

Work on the student success data marts continues, including a new measure we call the ‘fictitious average student’ in each course, as defined by student activity data. Some of our members use a similar field for within-course comparisons, exploring each student’s activity data within a course and comparing that to the fictitious average student. We calculate weekly student average analytics around the assignment and discussion activity data, as well as student session length data, which can all be found in the Taskforce – Level 2 Course Weekly Distribution Summary data mart.

Work continues on Synthetic data, and we hope to have more information later this summer detailing how the data was generated, as well as when members can access the synthetic data.

Learning Tool Integrations with the UDP

The vast majority of the UDP consists of data from a member’s SIS and LMS systems, harmonized with the UCDM to enable research, software development, and reporting. Currently, the UDP also includes event data from tools such as Top Hat, while missing important context data that is critical for matching Top Hat’s use to a specific student enrolled in a specific course. We continue to discover challenges with mapping across SIS course sections, LMS course sections, and learning tool course sections, which is important to resolve in a way that’s applicable to a diverse range of tools. This is a high priority for Unizin, as the UDP’s value goes up exponentially once we can coalesce SIS, LMS, and learning tool data in a standards-driven platform. 

Status Update: November 2023

Improving existing data integrations is ongoing. Over the summer, Unizin staff worked with Packback to finalize Caliper event data, which are now flowing into each member’s UDP. The data represents each time a student makes a post within Packback. RedShelf eReader data is also flowing into the UDP, with each Caliper event representing when a student navigates to a new page in an eText. In collaboration with colleagues at Minnesota and Ex Libris Leganto, a final round of test events is landing in Minnesota’s UDP. Once test events are validated, Unizin’s goal is to make these events available across membership, for those that use Leganto.

With Canvas Data 2.0 taking the majority of development cycles, the fall was spent engaging vendor partners in exploratory data integration discussions, including Yellowdigg, Tunrit in, Vital Source, and Blackboard Ally.

Status Update: May 2023

We continue to engage Kaltura and Top hat on various enhancements to their Caliper events. Events from Engage/RedShelf are now landing in tenants for members that leverage Unizin’s content program. We have 2/3rds of D2L’s Brightspace LMS mapped to the UDP, and continue to work on the final 1/3rd. We are also working with Packback to implement a first round of events to the UDP later this summer. Work continues with Ex Libris Leganto, in collaboration with 1EdTech and the University of Minnesota, to create a reading list LTI that integrates Library reading lists and content within Canvas Courses. This uses the Library Caliper Profile to capture reading views, item selection, and access. Events are being tested right now with the University of Minnesota, and we’re hoping to see properly configured identifiers later this summer. Once Caliper events contain the appropriate identifiers, we can enable these Caliper events for other member UDP tenants.

Status Update: June/July 2022

Top Hat event data is now landing in the UDP, and includes unique LMS person and course identifiers, meaning we can now unify the Top Hat data with LMS and SIS data. We are exploring Kaltura data, which currently includes an LMS course ID that allows for matching Kaltura use back into specific courses, though we currently do not receive any unique person identifier that allows for similar unification across a student’s use of specific learning tools. We hope to work with Kaltura to add the LMS person ID to their caliper events. We are also working with Redshelf to implement Caliper events from the Reading Profile, starting with View events that should start to populate in the UDP by August 1st.

Status Update: January/February 2022

In Mid-March, a new Data Engineer will be joining Unizin. Part of his role will be to engage the community around data modeling challenges and propose a solution to these challenges that will allow us to add new learning tool data to the UDP more quickly in the future.

Canvas Data 2.0 Implementation

Instructure has released Canvas Data 2.0 (CD2.0), making it available for current Instructure customers. Unizin is working on mapping CD2.0 data into our Unizin Common Data Model (UCDM), so our members that are using the UDP for various reporting, dashboarding, and application development should not see any significant interruptions to their analytics tools or workflows. Unizin is also exploring a raw CD2.0 hosting solution in BigQuery for members relying on Unizin to host Canvas data.

Status Update: November 2023

During the summer, Unizin began working with a member institution to begin validating CD2 data in a UDP staging environment and began scheduling migration windows for each member across the fall semester. As Unizin began working with additional members on data validation, a small number of irregularities were discovered in certain CD2 fields related to timestamps and numeric value strings. Unizin shared early validation information with Instructure, who has been a great partner in the migration efforts. Instructure is working to implement a solution for the irregular values as early as January and also assured Unizin that members will have access to CD1 data streams as long as it takes to ensure each migration to a CD2-sourced UDP is successful.

Unizin is also testing an environment with member institutions to host unmodeled data adjacent to modeled data in the UDP, such as raw CD2 and Canvas Catalog data. This solution is designed to support members who rely on Unizin for raw Canvas data hosting, as the Unizin Data Warehouse (UDW) will be decommissioned at the end of 2023. The goal for this new solution, which is considered a new feature of the UDP, is to evolve into a location where members can access unmodeled data, and easily link these data to modeled data. If you would like to help test this new feature of the UDP, please contact

Status Update: May 2023

We continue to work on mapping CD2.0 to the Unizin Common Data Model (UCDM). Mapping is over 99% complete, with just five remaining fields for a full CD 2.0 to UCDM mapping. Instructure indicates the remaining five fields will be available in CD2.0 by the end of May 2023. Once we have these fields, we will update our batch import process to account for CD2.0. We will begin working with our members on this later in the summer, publishing CD2.0 in a member’s SIT UDP environment, while CD1.0 remains in UDP production environments. This will allow us to test and validate CD2.0 data before moving it to production environments.

We are also testing a hosting solution for raw CD2.0 data in BigQuery. Once a member turns off their CD1.0 feed, no new raw Canvas data will flow into existing Unizin Data Warehouses (UDWs). If you are interested in testing the new BigQuery environment with a snapshot of CD2.0 data, please let us know by submitting request through Jira.

Share Student Activity Analytics

Various Unizin members have developed unique methods to take different student data streams, and apply specific statistical or data science techniques to generate student activity analytics. These analytics are then visualized in various dashboards and applications, designed to inform decisions made by individuals critical to a student’s success, such as teachers, advisers, and the students themselves.

Unizin is exploring how to best share the various student activity analytics across the consortium, accelerating the ability to take an interesting algorithm from one member institution, and re-apply that algorithm at other member institutions.

Status Update: November 2023

Unizin staff are working with colleagues at Indiana University (both Bloomington and IUPUI campuses) to create a codebook that represents how IU calculates a Canvas Activity Score, which is provided to advisers at two-week intervals during the first half of a semester. In addition to extracting and providing code that runs on the UDP, Unizin is also exploring different platforms to host code associated with student activity analytics projects. Once CD2 migrations are complete, additional Unizin resources will be dedicated to collaborating with member institutions using the UDP to create student activity analytics, and how we can best share these resources across the consortium.

(COMPLETED) eReader Replacement Taskforce (RedShelf)

In May of 2021 a task force examining the future of Unizin’s original eReader made the recommendation to partner with a company and bring a new, more modern eReader into our digital content ecosystem. To that end, RedShelf was identified as our new eReader, and work is underway to incorporate RedShelf into our technology ecosystem.

Status Update: June/July 2022

Milestone two of the RedShelf integration has been completed.  Milestone two was to successfully launch student users and instructors from the Engage bookshelf into the RedShelf reader for summer term courses by May 1.  We missed this deadline by a few days but were able to successfully provision content in RedShelf by/before the first day of classes at each institution.   The team is now working on Milestone three, which includes automating the RS processing and the Unizin provisioning as well as the delivery or Caliper view events to the UDP.  This work has a deadline of August 1 but we’re working towards a July 18 delivery date.

Status Update: January/February 2022

Unizin engineers are currently working with their RedShelf counterparts, with RedShelf scheduled to provide an API for Unizin to test by February 28th. February through April will involve API testing and iteration, followed by a functional LTI launch planned for May 1st. We also anticipate our first round of basic Caliper read events being emitted from RedShelf and landing in the UDP sometime in May. By August 1st, RedShelf will be fully integrated into our digital content ecosystem and available for use across the consortium. We plan on offering both the original Engage eReader and Redshelf eReader in the fall, though we will continue to brand our content platform under the “Unizin Engage” brand.

Status Update: November 2022

The fall semester at Unizin’s participating member institutions saw eText content delivered exclusively on the RedShelf reader with Unizin’s Engage platform, without hiccup. During the fall semester, Unizin Engineering wrapped up the last bit of work with RedShelf’s team to integrate RedShelf’s Caliper data for Read events are flowing to through Engage to the UDP as well as ingestion of some operational data that will allow Unizin to move closer to fully automated provisioning.

(COMPLETED) UDP in the Google Marketplace

Unizin has successfully transitioned its UDP Google Marketplace presence to a SaaS model through “Private Offerings.” In this way, Unizin will work with new clients more directly and efficiently to determine pricing based on FTE, implementation, and management of an institution’s UDP, and future analytics.

(COMPLETED - level 1 data) Learning Analytics Strategic Taskforce

Beginning in September of 2022, Unizin began making the Task Force data marts available for level 1 data (at the level of student records) for testing in parallel with the Data Services and Solutions team’s “self-paced training site,” first with the Colorado State University, and then opening the marts to a number of additional institutions interested in testing and providing feedback. Aggregated data at the course and program level will follow this spring.

Status Update: June/July 2022

The Data Services and Solutions (DSS) team is focused on realizing nine core data marts for level one analytics (at the student level) for all three use cases (impact of course activities, measures of activity/engagement, student profiles). A functional, proof of concept data mart is being tested with Colorado State University in June, including asynchronous training resources for the data mart. After testing the mart with CSU, DSS will then reconvene both Task Forces, provide an overview of the data marts produced, and provide access to the data marts within member BigQuery production environments for feedback in Mid-July.

Status Update: January/February 2022

The Data Services and Solutions (DSS) team is beginning to model data for possible inclusion in the data marts identified above, and working with a small consortium-based working group to review the models to ensure alignment with taskforce recommendations. This work is scheduled to take place from January to June of 2022, with the first data mart being available for testing and feedback in midsummer.