Bringing the benefits of iCE to life

Thomas Jefferson University’s Janice Bogen explains the thinking behind the Interactive Curricula Experience (iCE) Platform

Universities everywhere are looking for ways to promote efficiency, capture students’ attention and deliver content in a way that makes sense to them. At Thomas Jefferson University, we have come up with a system that does all of that, and I believe, has the potential to do even more.

Recently, Jefferson’s Center for Teaching and Learning announced the launch of its Interactive Curricula Experience Platform & App – or iCE. The system is two-fold. First, iCE allows faculty to upload course content including videos, audio, articles or interactive quizzes. Content is then readily available to edit and build custom courses. Second, iCE delivers the content to students in an interactive, intuitively-designed iPad application. Colleagues from each of Jefferson’s six colleges are already building modules and courses on iCE in preparation for the fall 2015 semester.

We started, not by thinking outside of the box, but by simply throwing the box out. But how would we deliver content if there were no rules?’

Behind the scenes, our dedicated staff and faculty have been building the program from the ground up for years. It started with the idea for an iBook. But our team found that format inflexible for our needs. Soon, we were discussing, “What if’s?” We started, not by thinking outside of the box, but by simply throwing the box out. But how would we deliver content if there were no rules? 

That is how iCE was born. It is a platform that delivers content through an iPad App that leverages the expertise of faculty members. Why recreate a slide deck on an Introduction to Physical Therapy, if the Physical Therapy faculty has already done so? Instead, take the content, edit it for your students and then combine it with some additional content into a module. This process decreases the administrative burden on faculty, increases efficiency and guarantees that the students are learning from experts. 

iCE is interactive and intuitive. It presents the content in a way that our learners are used to seeing, just like their favorite Apps. During beta-tests in the fall of 2014, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

iCE’s capabilities immediately presented a solution to a vexing problem facing Jefferson’s Global Health Initiatives Committee (GHIC). Our inter-professional committee brings together expertise in global health from around the University including medicine, nursing, population health, pharmacy, physical therapy, radiologic sciences and more. We are tasked with creating educational materials with global health learning content that can be infused into the curricula of Jefferson’s six colleges, as well as medical resident and fellow training.

Originally, our plan was to distribute presentations to faculty using a series of conventional slide decks. Topics included working with medical interpreters, social determinants of health and an introduction to refugee health. While the content was robust, the delivery mechanism was lacking.

Nicholas Leon, PharmD, co-chair of the committee, pointed out that the slide decks mainly serve as cue cards for the lecturer, but their effectiveness decreases when someone else (the student) uses them without additional context. iCE allows us to provide interactive content directly to the platform. Faculty can grab, edit, contextualise and deliver relevant items otherwise mostly inaccessible. 

I am looking forward to seeing how faculty members use these resources through the upcoming academic year. There are so many opportunities for innovative learning techniques, flipped classrooms among them. As our students’ learning needs change, iCE will allow us to change with them.

Janice Bogen is Assistant Vice President International Affairs at Thomas Jefferson University, a private health sciences university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.