Throughout the curriculum, student schedules are rigid and full with curricular activities running from a.m. Specifically, the integrated, systems-based approach precludes the division of content into well-defined and isolated disciplines and students must locate and use course materials without the convenience of distinct categories for content organization.
Additionally, faculty members from multiple disciplines would need to collaborate to set up and maintain course sites within Blackboard, the course management system used at UIC College of Dentistry.
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In an integrated curriculum, all of this content is explored within one course focusing on the cardiovascular system.
Students undertake a similar process throughout the first year in classes devoted to the digestive system or to the musculoskeletal system, until all organ systems are explored.
The newly implemented curriculum eliminates discipline-based boundaries and focuses on simultaneous investigation of the biochemistry, histology, anatomy, and physiology of organ systems.
For example, a student studying the human heart would learn not only the anatomic structure of the heart but also its embryologic development, what it looks like microscopically, how it functions physiologically, how it might be affected by the presence of various microorganisms or pathologies, as well as how this information is relevant, clinically.
Usability methods, such as card sorting, were employed to obtain these data.
Card sorting refers to a number of exercises in which participants group and/or name objects or concepts.Some challenges for course site organization, imposed by the curricular changes, included the following: Addressing the challenges listed above and providing appropriate attention to order and consistency within and among course sites were identified as keys to a more effective engagement strategy.As most of the organizational challenges, identified above, related to student usage, and because students spend substantially more time interacting with the course sites than do faculty members or administrators, students were recruited to help determine which specific information architecture conformed best to student organizational preferences and expectations for site navigation.Differences in results between the two cohorts, with regard to content organization, suggest that an iterative approach to card sorting is beneficial in site construction and modification.Although the initial card sort allowed the faculty to develop a course site structure that could function well within the new curriculum, the second card sort provided insight into unanticipated navigational issues and allowed for modifications to site organization before the development of significant problems.Results suggest that repeated use of card sorting may be an effective means of creating course sites that are more focused and can more specifically meet user needs.