Unizin Reports

Summer 2022

by | Sep 19, 2022

This report is to be shared by design to communicate the full scope of Unizin impact, work products, and status at your institution.

Perspective:  A New Age: Redshelf Replaces Unizin’s Original  eReader……………. Brad Zurcher

The end of summer also brings us to the end of an era.  As of August 1, Unizin is no longer delivering new eText orders on the original Engage eReader.  There remains a small amount of work to be done to better scale provisioning and better support event data on the back end but the work of replacing the proprietary reader with the Redshelf reader is complete.


During the summer semester, four of our seven programs opted to utilize the RedShelf reader ahead of the August 1 production release and the feedback was quite positive.  For most users this appeared to be nothing more than a version update with lots of new features and some new design work.  Mike Shiflet, program administrator at Ohio State has the following feedback: “The RedShelf transition has been wonderful for Ohio State.  We have had minimal technical issues and the very few we experienced seemed related to the book files provided by the publisher, nothing done by Unizin or RedShelf.”  


Indeed, many thanks are due to the campus program administrators who devoted much time and energy to ensure that faculty and students were aware of coming upgrades and updating campus resources, knowledge bases, and training materials to ensure end users have all the information they need to successfully navigate the new reader.  Together we’ve had a very successful transition.


In addition to the program admins, a final “thank you” is due to the large number of folks from across the consortium that have participated in this project over the last 18 months.  The Engage eReader Replacement Task Force began its evaluation of three readers in February ’21 and helped choose RedShelf and the future replacement of Engage.  That task force was made up of a large number of program admins, accessibility experts, learning tool experts, and eText/affordability experts.  The eReader transition is complete.

Brad Zurcher

Brad Zurcher

Director of Partnerships

Digital Content Program Update: Academic Year Summary

The completion of the summer term ends another academic year.  As we reflect on the past year, the Unizin team is once again grateful that our members allow us the opportunity to assist in the delivery of course content.  We often talk about how the textbook market is broken and while we can’t fix it all at once, we are certainly making a difference.


Consortium-wide, the total dollar amount of content we distributed was down slightly year over year (-1.5%) and the total number of billable enrollments were down slightly as well (-2%), but the estimated savings per billable enrollment went down nearly $2 and our out-out rate continues to move closer and closer to zero (from 0.83% to 0.65%).  Even with the slight dip, Unizin still distributed over $21M in 2021/22 worth of eTexts and courseware at an average price of under $50.

Strategic Taskforces Learning Analytics Progress

The Student Success Taskforces data marts providing “level 1” (student-level) data has been a central goal of DSS since the finalization of the five base dashboards and accompanying data marts.  These marts provide course contextual data and metrics per course to create course profiles; Student term profiles, including student context data in an academic term; and weekly student activity in courses through performance on assignments, completion of assignments and discussions, and calculations of time spent in the LMS.  


Appropriately modeled, these marts deliver granular data at the student level that can be aggregated up to address course and program/curriculum-level (levels 2 and 3) data.  Colorado State was the first member institution to be provided access to the mart for investigation and feedback.  As of September 1, a mailing was sent out to members to promote the new DSS training/bootcamp site and availability of the Task Forces data marts.  A number of member schools have now requested access of the marts to test and provide feedback (University of Michigan, University of Nebraska-Lincoln,  and University of Wisconsin).  DSS looks forward to engaging with members as they test and explore these data marts, incorporating changes in modeling, for example, through the use cases explored.  


The new Self-paced Training also was featured in the Town Hall, providing staff and faculty from member institutions to explore the UDP, and develop at their own pace, modeling and structured queries specific to the UDP and Unizin Common Data Model (UCDM) – more detail on the training site coming in October.  A “landing page” providing a link to the training site (which is restricted to specific IP ranges per institution) will be put in place and available through Unizin previous “Bootcamp” site on Unizin.org.  At present, member institutions can access the site through the following link: https://udp-bootcamp.resources.unizin.org/  If users receive a “403” permissions error, they have asked to submit a ticket so that DSS can trouble shoot and/or expand the range of allowed IP addresses for their institution.


Unizin Engineering and DSS continue to make steady progress on the path of integrating context and event data from on learning tool and content providers, with efforts focusing on building Top Hat context data ingest into the UDP; discussions with Kaltura around person identifiers; and upcoming transition to Canvas Data 2.0 (CD2).

D2L Brightspace Data from Purdue Global Progressing in UDP

Unizin Engineering and DSS continue to work collaboratively with our partner, Unicon, on the integration of Purdue Global, Brightspace data into the UDP.  With modeling for D2L’s Brightspace data to the Unizin Common Data Model near completion, small changes around two primary options sets defined within the UCDM are in process – one that represents added submission type options, “OnPaper” and “Observed;” and a representation of the added roles of  “primary” and “secondary” instructor.  


Additional work is forthcoming on D2L events stream, followed by use case driven reporting once LMS, SIS and event data are flowing to the Purdue Global GCP environment.  Target date for the completion of the POC for Purdue Global remains the first week of October.

Data Services and Solutions Town Hall Highlighted Summer Progress

Data Services and Solutions (DSS) mission, to bridge the gap between the potential of the UDP and actionable insights at member institutions, accelerated through a number of key projects and new processes this summer, all of which were highlighted through one of its new initiatives: The Data Services  and Solutions Quarterly Town Hall (see: slide deck and recording).  


So much of the value that Unizin facilitates with its members is through building community.  Understanding the interests of and growing our analytics community – those at our member institutions who model and conduct academic and institutional research through the UDP  – is paramount to DSS.  Not only do we need to effectively connect with the member researchers and teams with whom we routinely work, but also build connections with new researchers new to the UDP and DSS.  


The Town Hall held on August 8th, 2022 focused on three primary areas in which DSS has dedicated its time over the summer: progress on internal projects that impact all members, such as the taskforce marts, changes in UCDM modeling, or learning tool data updates; internal process changes, specifically support ticket submission or UDP access and permissions; and member project engagements.

Unizin Common Data Modeling (UCDM) Continues with Members

The importance of Data Services & Solutions member engagements brings both rich data analytics resources to member institutions, as well as feedback from institutions in a number of important capacities, such as use case driven changes to the UCDM.  In particular, through our engagement with Penn State, a new more granular representation of the course section enrollment option set values are coalesced, allowing “active, inactive and completed enrollment statuses to be represented a unique options in a new field (enrollment_status) in the course_section_enrollment entity.  In this way, Penn State was able to more granularly identify students who, due to COVID restrictions, are classed as “inactive” but were represented simply as “enrolled” in the UDP.


Time spent in Canvas calculations modeling work – largely a result of DSS’ work with Indiana University and the Canvas Activity Score project piloted at the IUPUI campus – centers on the creation of a data mart for IU that tracks the total navigation time and number of sessions for a student in a course on a weekly basis.  In this way, sessions will be defined based on three different cutoffs (10, 20, or 30 minutes), allowing researchers who employ this mart to decide based on particular course design or discipline, what is a reasonable time to measure a students activity within the LMS (as opposed to when they are simply idle or engaged in other tasks).

Supporting Ex Libris’ Leganto with Unizin’s Caliper Endpoint

The University of Minnesota Libraries has partnered with 1EdTech (formerly IMS Global), Ex Libris, UMN Office of Information Technology, and Unizin to implement the Caliper Library Profile for Ex Libris’ Leganto, an LTI course resource list management solution that ties institutional library content to LMS courses. Structuring events within the Caliper specification will capture and deliver to the UDP Caliper endpoint student interactions with course reading lists and course eText content (opening files or downloading). Testing and tailoring Leganto event specifications to land within the UDP is ongoing, building on the UDP’s ability to connect content interactions consistently to students and courses.


To support this work, Unizin recently updated our Caliper endpoint. This technology accepts Caliper events coming from learning tools, validates that the event follows the 1EdTech Caliper specification, enriches the event if the appropriate identifiers are present, tablularizes the event, and sends it to our expanded event store in the UDP. The endpoint now supports Caliper Library Use Candidate Profile, and we already see colleagues from Leganto(?) sending text events to the endpoint. Library data represents another important aspect of a student’s learning journey, and we look forward to updating our technology to support additional Caliper profiles as they emerge from the 1EdTech community!

Unizin Partners with a New LTI Vendor: Packback

Unizin is pleased to be partnered with Packback to offer Packback’s discussion platform through the Unizin Digital Content Program.  This partnership, first introduced to Unizin by Ohio State, will enable institutions to add Packback to their Order Tool catalog alongside eTexts and/or courseware.  Delivery of Packback through the Digital Content Program will ensure that students have access to Packback, via LTI, on or before the first day of class and at a price less expensive than anywhere else.

Unizin T&L Chair Elect Interview Questions - DeMonner

As you may know, Sean DeMonner,  Teaching & Learning Information Systems Executive from the University of Michigan, is the newly elected Chair Elect of the T&L Advisory Board.  I had an opportunity to interview him last week.

Cathy O: As the new Chair Elect of the T&L Advisory Board, what do you hope to learn/accomplish across the next year?

Sean: Because I haven’t been able to be as involved with the T&L Advisory Board as I have wanted to be over the past couple of years, I will be focused on coming up to speed with what is already happening with this group. That starts with learning more about the vision and direction of the current leadership and deepening those relationships. After that I intend to get better acquainted with the activities and people involved in the various subcommittees. I know there is a lot of passion in the community and a lot of good work being done, so I’m looking forward to learning more. I will be looking for opportunities to communicate this work more broadly and to make connections across the consortium where it seems to make sense to do so.

Cathy O: What does Unizin and its services mean to you/University of MI?  

Sean:  I think the strategic goal of my institution’s involvement with Unizin remains essentially unchanged: to positively influence the academic technology landscape in ways that are aligned with the values of Higher Education. This includes things like ensuring that we adhere to our fundamental principles of privacy and institutional stewardship of increasingly sensitive and valuable data about learners and their activities. It also includes influencing the marketplace in positive directions through the aggregation of demand to improve negotiating leverage, support for standards that reduce cost and increase choice, and the avoidance of vendor lock in. In terms of specific opportunities, I am excited about the continued development of the Unizin Data Platform service wrapper that will ease local institutional adoption (e.g. Data Marts for data distribution and the recently released UDP training materials). I would also like to see an expansion of our institutional use of Unizin publishing solutions, and for our staff to build more and deeper relationships with like-minded professionals at other institutions.

Cathy O:  What motivated you to ‘run’ for Chair Elect?

Sean:  Since its inception, I have felt that there is tremendous opportunity for the Unizin consortium to address the strategic goal outlined above. We have made a lot of progress, but there is still a lot of unrealized potential. The potential for using the UDP to support data-informed decision making in the teaching and learning domain, for example, is huge. Of course that will require much more than “just” a robust technical infrastructure and service model – we also must put significant energy into the culture change required (e.g. addressing ethical concerns, developing broader data literacy and deeper data science skills for all of our constituents). Because of our mission orientation, I think the Teaching & Learning community is well positioned to lead those transformational efforts. 

Cathy O:  Anything else you’d like to share about your experience with Unizin access the years or Ed Tech in general?


Sean:  I’m looking forward to getting to know more people from across the institutional Unizin membership, and learning from them along the way. I believe there is a lot of alignment in terms of our intrinsic motivation and finding those connections will be important as we seek to accelerate our progress toward shared goals. It has been a lot of fun so far, but we have more amazing things ahead of us.


Indeed, we have even more amazing things ahead of Unizin to accomplish as a consortium!  I couldn’t agree more. (Cathy O)

Unizin at Educause and 1Ed Tech App Innovation Summit

Unizin will be well represented at the upcoming Educause annual meeting, with a presentation and poster session, both focusing on the use of data to support student success. “A Tale of Three Institutions: Learning Data to Real Impact” will showcase how Penn State, the University of Iowa, and Indiana University are using data to provide actionable insights delivered to teachers, advisers, administrators, and students. Cathy O’Bryan, Unizin’s CEO, will be facilitating the session that also includes Maggie Jesse, Senior Director of the ITS Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology at the University of Iowa, Matthew M. Rust, the Interim Assistant Dean and Senior Executive Director of Campus Career and Advising Services with the University College at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, and Benjamin Hellar, Team Lead for Teaching & Learning with Technology (TLT) at the Pennsylvania State University. Hellar and Unizin’s CTO Bart Pursel will also be talking about Learning analytics as a team sport: collaborative approaches to launching university-scale analytics at two poster sessions on October 27th (10:15a.m. and 3:00p.m.). 


Hellar and Pursel will also be presenting at the 1EdTech’s Digital Curriculum & App Innovation Summit in November. The session, “Unifying Data from Across the Ecosystem to Further Teacher Insights”, will focus on how Penn State is leveraging data from multiple learning environments to provide teachers with data to support student success and reflective teaching practices. 


If you are attending Educause or the 1EdTech Summit, please stop by and say hello to your colleagues!

Unizin Ends FY22 with Positive Balance with All Positions Filled

For the fiscal year FY22, the Unizin financials show a positive balance.

The contingency funds built into last year’s budget were not utilized between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.  These funds were subsequently built into the current year FY23’s budget. Based on the additional funding available, the needed open positions are all filled.

Staff in the Spotlight: Mariah Aguilar

Mariah is Unizin’s Executive Assistant/Special Events Manager. She started as the office manager at Unizin five and a half years ago. Her daily duties are never the same. Mariah reports that this keeps ‘her on her toes!”  Mariah is known for jumping in wherever she is needed.  A lot of her time is spent assisting the leadership team and planning the annual Unizin Summit.

Before Unizin, Mariah was employed at a non-profit and worked closely with elementary school librarians. She is passionate about non-profits and enjoys seeing the positive impact that Unizin, as a team, makes across the higher-ed community.

Outside of work, Mariah is a busy mom of one boy, Eduardo, who is eight years old. Most of her evenings are filled with chauffeuring him to soccer practice and jiu-jitsu.  Somehow Mariah can still find time to never put down a good book! Mariah loves fitness. Two years ago, she was even certified as a personal trainer!

Welcome New Unizin Employees: Ty Miller & Jennifer Jimenez

Unizin is thrilled to welcome two new employees to the team: Ty Miller and Jennifer Jimenez! Ty is Unizin’s first Project Manager, coming to us from consulting firm Church & Dwight. She brings over ten years of experience in project management, including working with large technology-centric organizations such as Verizon.


Jennifer Jiminez is Unizin’s new Accounting Specialist. She comes to us from SAOS LLC where she perfected her role as ‘not your typical bean counter.’ Jennifer has a BS in Organizational Leadership and a Master of Science in Strategic Leadership. She is also QuickBooks certified and will be a great asset to assisting Glenda, Unizin’s CFO.


With Ty and Jennifer joining Unizin, we are now fully staffed for the first time in over two years! We are excited for our members to meet Ty, Jennifer, and the many other new and talented faces at Unizin soon!