Presented by Rick Miranda, Colorado State University

The Unizin Innovation Summit is an opportunity to reflect on where we are in the Unizin Consortium and our goals for the future. One of the benefits of operating inside the Consortium is the ease of communication and cooperation that it affords. We can come together to share our expertise with each other, discuss our progress, and ensure we are meeting both our strategic goals and fulfilling our mission of improving teaching and learning. As universities, we’re moving away from competing with one another, as we have in the past, and toward a collaborative model in which we work together, with partners like Unizin, to improve education.

Our goals for Unizin are starting to be realized in the form of several advancements: the common usage of the Canvas platform as a foundational LMS for us; the development of Engage and its wide adoption as a state-of-the-art eReader with capacity for exciting functionality; the beginnings of our ability to share content modules across the Consortium (either generated by Members or by vendors); the incorporation of innovative all-student-access mechanisms for content dissemination; and several others, including (importantly) a focus on effective and useful learning analytics.

This last item, using data to improve student outcomes, is critical for our faculty and advisors moving forward. They will be able to analyze both individual and aggregate class and student performance at a level of granularity that can really drive pedagogical improvements.

The Transition
The methods, tools, and platforms of today were not so prominent in universities a generation ago. We were organizations that trusted that if we put good faculty in rooms with good students, then good things would happen. Generally, they did.

Now, and certainly a generation from now, we’ll need to reach a much larger, more diverse group of students than ever before. We will have a more diverse faculty base that will partner with instructional and course designers to drive student success. In addition, both faculty and students will expect an effective, technology-enhanced education – after all, every other part of their lives will be tech-enhanced.

We are at the dawn of an era when these methods, tools, and platforms will be at the heart of learning. In fact, we’re seeing that happen in front of our eyes now, and we’re all swimming in that stream.

The Consortium
There are several ways in which the Consortium affords us leverage. One obvious one is the fiscal leverage that we have with vendors when we negotiate contracts or build tools together. Another is the intellectual leverage we are developing together by sharing our expertise and even part of our IP. A third might be in the realm of policy development around the issues of instructional technology: data security, data integrity, IP, and ethical considerations. We know that we’re going to get much better results in these areas by working together, and we are much stronger than we would be separately.

As we move forward, it will serve us well to remind ourselves that we are not a technology organization seeking to apply things to learning. We are a learning consortium, seeking to use and jointly develop technology that supports learning and student success. Keeping a focus on our primary mission of serving students and enabling them to learn most effectively will always be our priority.

The Unizin Consortium is built on the basic principle that we are not going to cede the heart of the academic enterprise to entities who are essentially unrelated to us. We are purposefully coming together as universities and intending to leverage our combined power to both affect positive change and to remain the leaders in education and innovation as we shape the learning landscape of the future.