Published June 24, 2014

Unizin, the latest in a gathering force of online education platforms, aims to help universities share their content and analytics while maintaining rights.

On June 11 Unizin — a nonprofit academic consortium founded by Colorado State University, the University of Florida, Indiana University and the University of Michigan — announced its online presence with a lengthy blog post from co-chairs Brad Wheeler and James L. Hilton.

Unizin offers universities a chance to have skin in the game of online content management.

“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,” write Wheeler and Hilton.

Universities can maintain the content their faculty and students create and share it with others on the network. Members will also share analytics of how the content performs.

Unizin’s content will be delivered through Canvas, an open-source learning platform from educational technology company Instructure that is the backbone for many massive open online course (MOOC) programs.

Inside Higher Ed reported that the four universities associated with Unizin’s launch are all in varying stages of moving toward Canvas, which could give the platform a competitive edge over other, similar offerings.

5 Things to Know about Unizin

In their blog post, Wheeler and Hilton pose the question “Why Unizin?” and answer with a detailed description of the consortium’s background, structure, goals and purpose:

  1. Powered by Internet2‘s 100 Gigabit network, Unizin operates as a cloud environment that seeks to supplant premises-based software platforms. “It is not just learning management system (LMS) hosting, as the market already has such offerings. Rather, Unizin is an evolving and integrated set of services for content, software and analytics steered by its members.”
  2. Unizin will not offer content courses or degrees. Instead, it empowers its university members to reach those goals. “By pop culture comparison, Unizin is the ‘Intel Inside’ behind the great brands of its members”
  3. Unizin is broad enough to allow different universities to approach the distribution side of its content platform in different ways. “The opportunities, needs, interests, and timing are not monolithic, and the Unizin service enables each to make use of the infrastructure as suits its current needs.”
  4. Unizin partnered with Instructure for one of the platform’s core software components, mostly because of Canvas’ track record and open-source design. “The founders chose to partner with Instructure to give the Unizin service a very rapid acceleration from day 1.”
  5. Unizin is built to grow. Comparing Unizin to Internet2 at its beginning, its founding members intend to build the consortium to massive proportions. It operates as a nonprofit, with its members paying fees to maintain the infrastructure. “There are many decisions and trade-offs to be made in these early days, and those who are investing the capital to form Unizin will be shaping those decisions. “


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