Redesigning UICOM Curriculum


University of Illinois College of Medicine

Instructional design, eLearning development, multimedia design, curriculum design, faculty development

Target Audience
Medical school faculty

Tools Used
Microsoft O365, Camtasia

N/A (internal project)

Year(s) / Project Duration
2017 (~1-2 years)

In preparation for the redesigned medical school curriculum that debuted in fall 2017, I presented a design mock-up with a colleague from another campus to the faculty and administration to demonstrate how to create connections between various services and products that students, staff, and faculty use. This mock-up was specific to what is called ‘Phase 1’ of the curriculum, which includes the M1 and M2 years.

Iterative design of templates to be used by faculty and administration. These documents are current as of 21 November 2021.


In addition to the development of these forms for Phases 1 and 2, there was a strong need to create consistency of the design of the learning management system (LMS) that is used in the college, Blackboard. One of the most important aspects was the naming of the courses in the LMS.

Something unusual…

For the M1 year of Phase 1, there are 5 courses (called blocks) that are taken in sequential order along with 3 longitudinal courses. For the M2 year, there are 3 blocks and the longitudinal courses continue here as well. If the LMS was used in the traditional sense, there would be potentially 50+ course shells to manage for the three campuses. Thus the decision was made to try something different which is to house all the courses for M1 and M2 years in one giant course shell.

Opportunities and Issues

This has presented other opportunities and issues over the years. One challenge in particular has been storage. The university puts a cap of 2GB on all courses. The content in the medical curriculum quickly surpassed that cap which required some strategic thinking to find a solution. As all curricular content is housed in Box cloud storage, documents which would normally be uploaded directly to the LMS are now linked from Box instead. Students have expressed their displeasure with this change. Until the college decides to perhaps purchase their own LMS, this process will continue to be in place.

Naming Conventions

The naming conventions needed to be consistent and consecutive, so it would be easy for the faculty, staff, students, and eventually accreditation agencies, to find content. Note: There is also a Phase 3 which is the fourth and final year of the medical school curriculum. Phase 3 is a bit more unique and includes many elective courses and are not housed within one giant course shell like we do for Phase 1 and 2.

Naming Convention of Courses for Phase 1 and Phase 2
Here are examples of the adopted naming convention:

Illinois Medicine Curriculum Phase 1 (Chicago, Class of 2026)
Phase 1 is the traditional M1-M2 years of education.

Illinois Medicine Curriculum Phases 2 & 3 (Chicago, Class of 2024)
Phase 2 is the M3 year of education.

Prototype and Final Product for Phase 1

A ‘dummy’ course was created to show all stakeholders some options for the redesign. A subset of students along with staff and faculty helped to guide the design. It was crucial to get their input as they would be the users of the redesign. The final design has gone through a few tweaks over the past few years as the curriculum has also evolved.

As the curriculum entered the 3rd iteration, accommodations to campus-specific requests had to be addressed. For example, the Peoria campus administration wanted to include a tab on the left for their virtual reality projects.

On the left is an example of the original left-hand navigation for the class of 2021.

On the right is an example of the modified left-hand navigation for the class of 2023. To accommodate any campus-specific needs, all three campus stakeholders agreed that the top section “above the line” should remain the same and anything below is ‘fair game,’ within reason (i.e. we don’t want to have a left-hand navigation that is too long).

What does it look like now in 2023?

This is what the course shell looks like for the Class of 2025 after a few years of changes. The names of the deans have been obscured for their privacy in the image.

Prototype and Final Product for Phases 2 & 3

The process was similar for the clerkship courses which take place in the third year of the medicine curriculum. There are seven core clerkship courses students are required to take and while each one is a separate course, we decided to house them all in one giant shell as well.