Interactive Curricula Experience at Thomas Jefferson University

Getting and keeping students' attention has always been a big challenge, but today, more than ever, they are absorbed in their mobile devices.

Comic books were tough to conceal in the classroom, and you could see when students passed notes to each other. Now, with their mobile devices, it’s next to impossible to know whether or not they are paying attention. Stand at the back of the classroom and you see students’ screens on Facebook, Instant Message, eBay, Angry name it. Students often don’t buy, much less read, recommended textbooks, and medical students, in particular, are notorious for getting information from unreliable sources online.

Jefferson iCE Platform and App

Enter iCE: Jefferson’s Interactive Curricula Experience Platform & App. iCE is an easy-to-use tool that gives professors super powers. How? By providing a way for faculty to assemble learning materials in a visually- instructive and engaging interface for their iPads.

Traditional learning management systems are, essentially, electronic filing cabinets into which some professors load a variety of potentially useful content but not always structuring it for students in ways that support their learning. iCE gives professors an easy-to- use system to provide contextual learning environments for students. Information is presented in a cohesive manner, which enables students to make more meaningful connections.

Supporting Diverse Learning Styles

The iCE App is a learner-centered environment that supports students’ diverse learning styles by putting them in control of their learning journey. Students can delve deeper into topics that interest them or brush up on a previous lecture before an exam. The system guides them from knowledge acquisition to mastery and knowledge application.

The iCE Platform is a repository of learning objects that can be anything that is digital, such as YouTube videos, Khan Academy lessons, text, sound, presentation documents, and recorded lectures. Faculty can search the Platform for relevant materials that others have uploaded and save time by not reinventing a resource that has already been done well.

Fostering Cross-Campus Collaboration

Why create that “Introduction to Research” slide deck, when the University’s expert in research has already done one? Instead, take that slide deck, edit it for your students’ needs and then add videos, interactive quizzes, articles and other content to contextualize it. By sharing course materials like lectures, presentations, interactive quizzes, videos and articles, faculty can reduce the administrative burden, increasing efficiencies.

In addition, it fosters cross-campus collaboration among faculty in Jefferson’s six colleges, which leverages the expertise of each faculty member and further promotes efficiency.

The platform creates a central repository where faculty can create or download resources, edit to fit the needs of their students and package into a custom course. It then delivers these packaged resources to students according to their course registration. iCE promotes learner-centered education and provides opportunities for members of the faculty to integrate innovative approaches to education such as flipped classrooms.

Results of Beta-Testing the System

When we beta-tested the system in the fall of 2014, we were very encouraged by the feedback from students and faculty alike. Students said that it was intuitively designed and faculty looked forward to collaboration. During the training sessions with faculty, you could see light bulbs going off and faculty embracing the capabilities of the program.

Faculty members from each of Jefferson’s six colleges are already building modules and courses on iCE in preparation for the fall 2015 semester. Each day, more and more content is added to the system, which means more content for faculty to pull from.

Discovering New Ways to Use Platform

Dedicated to health sciences, Thomas Jefferson University is committed to setting the highest possible standard for efficient and compassionate patient care, as well as educating professionals and developing new knowledge.

What started in 1824 as Jefferson Medical College is now Sidney Kimmel Medical College, which has grown into a leading institution for healthcare learning institutions. Sidney Kimmel Medical College is one of the nation’s largest private medical colleges, awarding over 30,000 medical degrees.

TJU is the largest free-standing health sciences university in Philadelphia. Along with its clinical partner-Jefferson University Hospitals-TJU treats more than one million out patients and 46,000 inpatients each year. Individual faculty members and staff across the University continue to find new ways to use the Platform. One example is Jefferson’s Global Health Initiatives Committee, which is tasked with creating educational products that can be infused in curricula of Jefferson’s six colleges, as well as resident and fellow training.

When we showed iCE to members of the Committee, they saw a solution to one of their biggest challenges: How to deliver information effectively about global health to faculty and students across the University. Without iCE, the Committee was planning to distribute presentations to faculty by using a series of conventional slide decks. Topics include working with medical interpreters, social determinants of health, and an introduction to refugee health.

As one Committee member pointed out, slide decks mostly serve as cue cards and their effectiveness decreases when read by someone else. iCE allows faculty to facilitate the learning of global health topics, even if they aren’t an expert. With iCE, the Global Health Initiatives Committee is uploading interactive content to the Platform. Faculty can easily grab, edit and deliver content directly to students. Best of all, the content is created by trusted experts in the field of global health.

We are constantly surprised by the ideas that faculty come up with after being introduced to the Platform. As we roll iCE out to additional faculty throughout the University, I know that we will find more ways to use the system, to collaborate with our colleagues and to engage students in their learning.

About Thomas Jefferson University

Our newly formed organization, Jefferson, encompasses Jefferson Health and Thomas Jefferson University, representing our clinical and academic entities. Together, the people of Jefferson, 19,000 strong, provide the highest-quality, compassionate clinical care for patients, educate the health professionals of tomorrow, and discover new treatments and therapies that will define the future of health care.

Jefferson Health comprises five hospitals, 13 outpatient and urgent care centers, as well as physician practices and everywhere we deliver care throughout the city and suburbs across Philadelphia, Montgomery and Bucks Counties in Pennsylvania, and Camden County in New Jersey. Together, these facilities serve more than 78,000 inpatients, 238,000 emergency patients and 1.7 million outpatient visits annually. Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is the largest freestanding academic medical center in Philadelphia. Abington Hospital is the largest community teaching hospital in Montgomery or Bucks counties. Other hospitals include Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience in Center City Philadelphia; Methodist Hospital in South Philadelphia; and Abington-Lansdale Hospital in Hatfield Township.

About the Author
Martha Langley Ankeny, M.Ed. is the Director of Learning Initiatives at Thomas Jefferson University; she is integrating iPads into the curricula as well as working with a team to build and deploy Jefferson-specific content through a Jefferson iPad App.