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Why Unizin?

Jun 11, 2014, by Shelton Waggener
Tags: Advanced Network Services, Campus IT, Cloud Services & Applications, Community-Driven Innovation, Digital Content for Research & Education, Executive Insights, Frontpage News, Higher Education, Instructure Canvas, Internet2 Member, Internet2 Network, News

Over the last 15 years, Internet2 has expanded dramatically from its early days of developing a national advanced network for the original 34 universities. Today we support not just advanced networking for the Internet2 member institutions, but also have deployed the NET+ services portfolio subscribed by over 300 universities, operate the US UCAN community anchor environment supporting 93,000 educational community anchor institutions, steward 7.5 million academic and research identities as part of the InCommon federation and continue to incubate and develop solutions that are core to the success of our research and academic mission. This week, we are proud to be part of the announcement of the Unizin Consortium.

Unizin is the latest in a long history of nationwide higher education collaboration where our institutions come together to address a challenging problem, one that can’t be easily or effectively solved by a single institution. This model is our legacy and how our research community takes on grand challenges head on like 3,000 scientists working to discover the Higgs bosen or cancer researchers collaborating on mass data sets as they strive to identify cures.

In this case, it’s a group of faculty, provosts and technologists who are working together to address the long-term implications of how we can collaborate on solutions to support institutions, faculty, and learners in a avalanche of emerging digital learning tools creating an ocean of pedagogical data. Working together, a group of innovative institutions, beginning with the four charter schools (Colorado State University, University of Florida, Indiana University, and University of Michigan) will strive to create an environment where the community stewards the learners data in secure and collaborative ways so that the promise of personalized learning need not be hampered by having “data walls” between the students experience in a classroom setting at one institution and an on line course offered by another institution. More significantly, the goal is to not have those data sets be held captive in commercial environments where the institution, faculty and even learners would have to “buy back” their own information in the same way our libraries have had to buy back scholarship work after the fact.

It’s a long-term vision. It’s not about the technology, but about how higher education leverages technology to achieve great things. What is particularly exciting about this project is that the community has learned what it takes to make these efforts successful. Rather than creating yet another separate legal entity with all its overhead for legal, finance, HR and other administrative functions needed to successfully grow these efforts, we are building on what we already have learned and what our members already own- Internet2.

Governed by the community and for the community, our focus is to deliver value to our member institutions: operations value, technical value and coordination value and in this case, a bit of all three as we serve as the operator for this important community undertaking. The Unizin service will benefit from Internet2’s high speed research and education network, utilize InCommon federated identity, build off of the existing terms and conditions used in NET+ agreements and be supported by the important people and systems infrastructure needed to run a successful effort of this national scale.

Internet2 is your organization. The community is really making use of all it has to offer to create real impact on the ground, for the faculty, students, scholars, administrators and community members of all kinds. It’s really not “Why Unizin?” but it’s really YES - Unizin!