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UI Faculty Council to discuss new technology

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | SEPTEMBER 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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A new technology created to ensure instructors are able to remain in control of their educational content and data may come to the University of Iowa.

The UI is considering jumping on board with Unizin. Today, the Faculty Council will discuss the possibility of implementing Unizin, an online database that allows universities to share information and resources.

Lon Moeller, the associate provost for undergraduate education, will present the idea to the council. He said he is not yet sure whether the UI will commit to Unizin.

“We’re talking to faculty and administrators across campus to see if there’s interest in Unizin as a program,” he said. “We’re evaluating Unizin as a pilot project.”

Unizin is university-owned, meaning its values are concerned with the academic aspect of learning rather than the monetary and company aspect of educational software.

Instead of allowing companies to enforce their programs and push their technology for their benefit, Unizin works to be sure the software benefits the students.

Other universities — including the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champagne — are considering implementing Unizin.

Charles Tucker, the vice provost for undergraduate education and innovation at the University of Illinois, wrote in an email that the benefits of many universities joining Unizin include being able to band together to “influence the companies that provide software for teaching and learning.”

Essentially, according to its website, Unizin works to enforce better education by having software that allows instructors to understand their students and learn how to teach them in the most effective way. Unizin also makes educational technology more efficient for both instructors and students by allowing professors to share technology more fluidly, the website says.

Tucker said the system can streamline different technologies to make things simpler for professors and students.

“The Unizin approach is to promote a standards-based approach where the same digital course materials can work in any learning-management system,” he said. “Faculty spend less time making the technology work, and students get a better course.”

The new technology is aimed to create maximum educational and cost efficiency when it comes to higher education.

In the past, scientific publishing has been researched, written, reviewed, and consumed, but universities have had to pay upwards of $1 billion due to renting them back to libraries and losing control of the publishing process, said James Hilton, the vice provost for digital educational initiatives at the University of Michigan, which also uses Unizin.

“Unizin is about tipping the table in favor of making sure universities and their faculty members retain control of our content, data, relationships, and reputation,” Hilton wrote in an email. “Unizin is about making sure that the digital infrastructure that teaching and learning run on stay under our control.”


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