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CSU Joins Attempt To Build Digital Delivery Platform

Colorado State University Photography
Colorado State University Management professor Ken Petersen teaching a Distance MBA class, Rockwell Hall.

Colorado State University along with three other university partners have announced plans to develop a shared digital education delivery platform. The tool, called Unizin, is being billed as a one-stop shop for the digital education space — whether it’s for students taking online classes or those in the traditional brick-and-mortar classroom.

Many universities currently use platforms like Coursera or Blackboard to meet these needs. CSU Vice President for Information Technology Patrick Burns said these tools don’t meet all of the current and future demands teachers have.

“Simply put, it’s going to be much better to do this as a collaboration than each one individually,” said Burns during a June 11 conference call.

CSU, Indiana University, and the universities of Michigan and Florida have each agreed to pay $1 million over the next three years to develop and shape the shared service platform. In addition to using the platform to share course readings and syllabi with students, teachers will be able to view course materials from other partner schools. The platform will also collect student performance data teachers can use to improve classes.

“To try to use big data and big learning analytics and predictive analytics to improve student success — it’s a very extraordinarily complex space right now and it’s very young,” said Burns. “We’re convinced together we can learn better, faster, more efficiently and more effectively.”

According to Inside Higher Ed, the list of four universities is smaller compared to an earlier list of potential participants. They report that if membership in the platform grows, it could “pose a risk to learning management systems and MOOC consortiums, some experts argue.”

Ultimately, CSU’s Burns said one success of Unizin will rest on measurable outcomes: improving student retention, persistence and completion--like graduation rates.

“That’s an output we’re certainly measuring today and are continuing to measure,” he said. “But we’re also going to try to look at the learning experience. And we improve learning, that’s the way we’re going to improve student success. And I think that learning’s going all digital and this is the best digital learning ecosystem for that.”

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