Last week, Unizin, a university owned-and directed consortium, announced that they will be piloting xpLor, our open content repository that is standards-based, cloud-delivered and has a growing network of users across institutions and LMSs. I wanted to take some time to explain why a partnership between Unizin and Blackboard makes sense and the opportunities that could come from it.

Online ecosystems are expanding. Students and faculty are demanding access to environments that allow them to work collaboratively across institutions in an effort to generate the best learning outcomes. This is a necessary shift as the traditional path to a degree evolves and learners look for alternative models that best meet their needs. Providing open tools to do just that is a key component to the Blackboard business model and is a critical element to how we build on and continually improve our solutions and services.

Unizin was first announced earlier this year as a consortium that wanted to provide a suite of services to member institutions for residential and online digital education, sharing course content, and for comprehensive learning analytics tools. We noted that a vision for an ecosystem for all higher ed institutions  that seamlessly blends learning platform, content and data to the benefit of students, faculty and institutions is one that we’re very committed to and actually have in place today. It is one that we’re continually putting a great deal of investment into with lots of important developments focused on what institutions and faculty need to support learner success in a changing education landscape.

xpLor, which is being used by nearly 500 institutions all over the world and offered for free to all Internet2 members, is a successful, proven tool that is helping students and teachers across institutions create and search content that is tagged, rated, and aligned to competencies and standards. We also have the most robust analytics tools in the market today that are helping schools of all shapes and sizes aggregate data about student behavior, giving educators and administrators insights to tailor curriculums, programs and policies to work better. And our industry-leading environment, Blackboard Learn, is designed specifically for openness and interoperability through our network of customizable Building Blocks and full support of Common Cartridge, Basic Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) and Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) standards.

The synergies here are hard to miss.

As Amin Qazi, CEO of Unizin stated: “Our number one goal is to support open learning tools across our member institutions. As we surveyed the landscape of learning object repositories, it became clear that Blackboard’s xpLor had to be a part of that conversation. We want to ensure we are evaluating the tools, systems and approaches that will best benefit our community and provide an environment that gives schools the tools they need to improve the education experience. Given Blackboard’s industry expertise and marketing-leading teaching and learning solutions, they had to be a part of that conversation. I am excited to work with them on the pilot of xpLor and to potentially expand our relationship as we learn more about their solutions.”

I am excited too. Stay updated by checking back here and following me @markstrassman.

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