I’ve been meaning to write an update post on Unizin, as we broke the story here at e-Literate in May 2014 and Unizin went public a month later. It’s one year later, and we still have the most expensive method to get the Canvas LMS. There are also plans for a Content Relay and Analytics Relay as seen in ELI presentation, but the actual dates keep slipping.
e-Literate was able to obtain a copy of the Unizin contract, at least for the founding members, through a public records request. There is nothing to see here. Because there is nothing to see here. The essence of the contract is for a university to pay $1.050 million to become a member. The member university then has a right (but not an obligation) to then select and pay for actual services. Based on the contract, membership gets you . . . membership. Nothing else.
What is remarkable to me is the portion of the contract spelling out obligations. Section 3.1 calls out that “As a member of the Consortium, University agrees to the following:” and lists:
- complying with Unizin bylaws and policies;
- paying the $1.050 million; and
- designating points of contact and representation on board.
Unizin agrees to nothing. There is literally no description of what Unizin provides beyond this description [emphasis added]:
This Agreement establishes the terms of University’s participation in the Consortium, an unincorporated member-owned association created to provide Consortium Members access to an evolving ecosystem of digitally enabled educational systems and collaborations.
What does access mean? For the past year the only service available has been Canvas as an LMS. When and if the Content Relay and Analytics Relay become available, member institutions will have the right to pay for those. Membership in Unizin gives a school input into defining those services as well.
As we described last year, paying a million dollars to join Unizin does not give a school any of the software. The school has to pay licensing & hosting fees for each service in addition to the initial investment.
The contract goes out of its way to point out that Unizin actually provides nothing. While this is contract legalese, it’s important to note this description in section 6.5 [original emphasized in ALL CAPS but shared here at lower volume].1
Consortium operator is not providing the Unizin services, or any other services, licenses, products, offerings or deliverables of any kind to University, and therefore makes no warranties, whether express or implied. Consortium Operator expressly disclaims all warranties in connection with the Unizin services and any other services, licenses, products, offerings or deliverables made available to University under or in connection with this agreement, both express and implied, …[snip]. Consortium Operator will not be liable for any data loss or corruption related to use of the Unizin services.
This contract appears to be at odds with the oft-stated goal of giving institutions control and ownership of their digital tools (also taken from ELI presentation).
We have a vested interest in staying in control of our data, our students, our content, and our reputation/brand.
I had planned to piece together clues and speculate on what functionality the Content Relay will provide, but given the delays it is probably best to just wait and see. I’ve been told by Unizin insiders and heard publicly at conference presentations since February 2015 about the imminent release of Content Relay, and right now we just have slideware. I have asked for a better description of what functionality the Content Relay will provide, but this information is not yet available.
Unizin leadership and board members understand this quandary. As Bruce Maas, CIO at U Wisconsin, put it to me this spring, his job promoting and explaining Unizin will get a lot easier when there is more to offer than just Canvas as the LMS.
For now, here is the full agreement as signed by the University of Florida [I have removed the signature page and contact information page as I do not see the need to make these public].
By Phil Hill
- Also note that Unizin is unincorporated part of Internet2. Internet2 is the “Consortium Operator” and signer of this agreement. [↩]