Friday, November 21, 2014

About Unizin

We've been talking about Unizin for a while now, as the University of Minnesota recently joined the Unizin consortium. But some of you may not be entirely clear on what Unizin provides for us. So I wanted to take a moment to provide my viewpoint.

At its core, Unizin is a consortium of higher education institutions working together, to help educators share information with each other. Unizin focuses on digital content development and data analysis, tools that educators can leverage to improve teaching and learning. In the end, Unizin allows people who are using different learning management systems to share course content with each other.

We use Moodle for our learning management system (sometimes also called a course management system). So as an educator, you probably know how to set up and manage your courses in Moodle. But a colleague at a different institution may use a different LMS, such as Blackboard. There are several LMS's out there. Here's a quick rundown from Delta Initiative of the most popular systems:

(click to enlarge)

Maybe you are teaching an introductory course, and you have developed a set of learning material and quizzes that really helps your students to learn the content. You decide to share your work so that colleagues at other institutions can benefit from the outstanding work you have done. But how can you contribute your course concepts if not everyone is running Moodle? How can other educators using different LMS's import your learning materials and quizzes?

Enter Unizin. Because of Unizin's focus on open standards and interoperability, educators who want to share course concepts with others will finally have the opportunity to do so. Unizin strives to foster a community more concerned with creating and sharing content and improving outcomes, across multiple LMS's. Unizin is about providing common infrastructure to support educators who wish to share and collaborate on course development.

From the Unizin frequently-asked questions, many people in higher ed 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.

Our participation in Unizin gives us an opportunity to participate in the national conversation about sharing course development. I look forward to the University's partnership with Unizin.
image: Unizin

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