Universities to take back control of digital resources

A new consortium called Unizen hopes to exert greater control and influence over digital education

unizen-digital-resourcesFour large research universities have formed a new consortium in an attempt to wrestle some control of the digital learning landscape from educational technology companies, the founders announced Wednesday.

Called Unizin, the consortium consists of Colorado State University, Indiana University, the University of Florida, and the University of Michigan.

According to its website, Unizin will function as an evolving set of tools that can be used to improve all kinds of digital learning — including flipped classrooms, online courses and degrees, badged experiences for Alumni, and massive open online courses (MOOCs).

“It’s tilting the table in favor of interoperability and university control,” James Hilton, the vice provost for digital education at the University of Michigan, said in a conference call Wednesday. “It’s about affirming that our faculty and students create unique learning environments, not the technology.”

In a blog post last month about the then-rumored collaboration, consultant Michael Feldstein said Unizin should have organizations and companies like the MOOC consortium edX worried.

The Internet2 network, the consortium of 250 institutions that all four universities are members of, and the learning management system Canvas will be the framework for the collaboration. Canvas, developed by Instructure, also offers its own MOOCs.

“Assuming that Unizin could succeed in making a big media splash and attract students to their course catalog, I don’t see what edX offers that Unizin on Canvas couldn’t do better, and the value to administrators of getting all MOOC and non-MOOC courses on the same supported platform shouldn’t be underestimated,” Feldstein wrote. “If I were Anant Agrawal, I would be very worried about Unizin poaching my customers.”

(Next page: How much money are the universities investing in Unizin?)

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