Content initiatives at Unizin Member universities have made headlines this year. Indiana University announced this September that its eText initiative has saved students at least $15 million since the program began in 2012. The University of Wisconsin-Madison published a policy that prioritizes the production of Open Educational Resources (OER) as an important part of the Educational Innovation (EI) Initiative and its Unizin membership.

These and other initiatives point to the fact that more and more digital content is being produced on university campuses. Much of this content is created with the hope that it will be exchanged, customized and grouped with similar content for use in different sections or courses. Unfortunately, because technology and workflows that support content sharing and course development practices are often not intuitive, interoperable, or are non-existent. Many times, this content is isolated, forgotten or lost. This leads to duplicative efforts and a frustrating experience for faculty or course development teams.

A good deal of redundancy can be seen when institutions stop and look at the types of content being created to support teaching and learning. For example, during early conversations with Unizin institutions about content tools, one Member learned that five different employees at their institution had built the same set of resources for training faculty who wanted to use video-based discussions. Further research revealed this is not an uncommon occurrence. How many schools have a media literacy module? How many media developers have created an animation of the osmosis process? The likelihood that several identical resources exist on a single campus is very high. This is because the workflows of the course development process are siloed by department or school and limit opportunities for collaboration.

Another institution built a piece of laboratory software that acts like a microscope and creates slides that can be introduced into a catalog of photos. The team that built it struggled to promote the tool, because a reliable way to publicize the software did not exist. If someone else adopted it into their course, the creators would have no way of learning who downloaded it and how they used it in the course. This fragmented technology also results in the lack of a feedback loop. Teams lose contact with faculty members once elements of the course are designed and out the door. There is little follow-up on what worked and what didn’t work, which means little opportunity for continuous improvement.

At Unizin, we see course development as a linear process, with different people who come in at different stages. We call this diverse group of practitioners a content community. Unizin is identifying the pitfalls, repetitive workflows and roadblocks in the course development process. The Content Studio is the first step toward a comprehensive course development solution. Our goals are to reduce redundant efforts and provide greater opportunity for improvement in the future. Supporting a technology infrastructure that is standards-based and interoperable allows for greater transparency between roles and creates collaborative workflows.

Unizin wants to bring the various roles in the content community together to focus on course development and the whole content lifecycle, from authoring to adopting all the way to measuring. Together, our institutions and their vibrant content communities can optimize learning by using tools that support transparent, interconnected course development practices.

Part II of this blog will feature an in-depth look at Content Studio and how its applications support content communities and course development practices.