Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The University of Iowa is among the first schools to begin using the Unizin Data Platform (UDP), a tool that will help researchers study the process of learning and enable institutions to leverage holistic data to increase student success.

Unizin is a higher education consortium that aims to improve learner experiences with digital teaching and learning resources. The data platform collects and standardizes data from a variety of sources, simplifying data management and saving member institutions time and effort. It supports learning analytics, application development, research, and business intelligence.

Iowa gained access to the first phase of the platform in early April and is currently ingesting data from MAUI (the student information system), Canvas (the learning management system known on campus as ICON), Engage (the electronic textbook reader used for ICON Direct), and Elements of Success (a system that provides real-time data on how students are performing in class and helps to estimate grades).

UDP enables Iowa researchers to understand student learning behaviors through analytics on a large scale. Currently, Iowa researchers plan to investigate instructional strategies and student use of reading tools that promote student reading. UDP allows researchers to conduct the study in multiple institutions, which will increase the generalizability of the study.   

Unizin is working to integrate data from additional sources: Turnitin (plagiarism-detection software), Kaltura (a digital media platform), and Top Hat (student-response-systems, or clickers). Early adopters including Iowa are testing the next phase of UDP, a relational database that gives context to event data.

Iowa has been in close contact with Unizin about data needs of researchers and developers on campus to help shape the kind of data Unizin ingests and provides. Iowa served on the task force that helped decide what student information system data would go in the platform and how it would be modeled.

"Increasing our ability to improve student success and engagement through data, was a major driver in our decision to join Unizin in 2015," says Maggie Jesse, senior director of the Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology. "I am extremely pleased to see the initiatives that are forming through our Unizin engagement and even more pleased to see Iowa emerging as a national leader in these efforts. "