June 11, 2014 at 10:53 pm

UM, 3 other schools form technology consortium

The University of Michigan is teaming up with three other research universities to form a technology consortium to improve how educational content is shared among universities and delivered to students, officials announced Wednesday.

The initiative also is aimed at taking control of the digital landscape shaping higher education.

The consortium, known as Unizin, will be a partnership between UM, Colorado State University, Indiana University and the University of Florida. It will use technology that will allow the four universities to provide content storing and sharing services, while maintaining intellectual property.

“This is a really important thing for digital education going forward,” Brad Wheeler, vice president for IT and chief information officer at Indiana University and Unizin co-founder, said during a conference call Wednesday.

For instance, a faculty member could publish a lesson plan or a class syllabus to be used by other university instructors.

“Our goals and purpose in endorsing Unizin are simple: As professors and members of the academy, we want to support faculty and universities by ensuring that universities and their faculty stay in control of the content, data, relationships and reputations that we create,” said a blog that was launched Wednesday on the consortium’s website, unizin.org.

“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.”

According to a release from UM, students will benefit by getting course materials and information from top minds in higher education. A variety of formats will be used, including large open online courses and “flipped” classrooms, where lectures are online and class time is used only for group work and discussions.

“Unizin stands behind open and transparent standards that allow institutions to use multiple tools and reuse content,” James Hilton, UM dean of libraries and vice provost for digital education and another Unizin co-founder. “Unizin is about sharing infrastructure — it doesn’t differentiate us from each other. What will differentiate us is what we do individually and together.”

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com
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