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UI officials discuss software shift

BY LINDSEY DRILLING | SEPTEMBER 03, 2014 5:00 AM

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The University of Iowa Faculty Council met Tuesday to discuss the possibility of using a new learning management system, Unizin.

The council also received an update on performance-based funding, which is the new funding to be implemented in 2016 that could cost the university millions of dollars.

Steve Fleagle, the UI associate vice president for Information Technology Services, gave the presentation on Unizin.

Unizin is a conglomerate of higher-education institutions that work together to create an efficient platform for the higher-education learning environment.

Unizin would also replace the university’s current software, ICON.

“We are discussing doing a pilot project for next spring, but we need to decide if the project is worth our time,” Fleagle said.

Unizin has already partnered with Colorado State University, Indiana University, the University of Florida, and the University of Michigan.

The University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota, and Ohio State University are close to joining the Unizin team, Fleagle said.

If the UI decided to join Unizin, it could have input into the new software as well as help to develop it.

“There is no software yet. The four partners [Colorado State, Indiana, Florida, and Michigan] are working on it,” Fleagle said. “They have groups working on it now. If we wanted to do it, we need to get in so that Iowa’s needs can get met … The disadvantage of waiting is that you don’t get access to those discussions right away. I think we have as good of people at Iowa as anyone else involved influencing it.”

The UI does not need to decide right away if it would like to join Unizin. The university has the opportunity to run a pilot program numerous times until it can get the software to work for its needs.

Most of the council members had positive reactions about getting involved in Unizin.

 “ICON controls our lives,” said Jonathan Wilcox, a UI English professor and Senate member of the Faculty Council. “It’s not always our friend. If we get involved in this, it seems like a good idea.”

The Faculty Council has yet to reach a consensus on the Unizin program and plan to revisit it at a later time when there is more information.

In addition to Unizin, officials also addressed the new funding model.

UI Director of State Relations Keith Saunders presented a plan for the upcoming budget proposal that will be on the state Board of Regents’ docket next week.

“The actual model that shifts dollars around will be presented to the regents,” Saunders said. “The exact shifts of the model haven’t been released.”

Although the model has not been released to the public, Saunders said, the university could see an increase of $4 million to its budget before the new funding model is implemented.

“The board always acts on budget requests in September because it’s due to the governor on Oct. 1 …” Saunders said. “The timeline [is that] the board will [propose to] the Legislature, then it will go to the governor … then all three universities will get their funding.”


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