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New ICON to début

BY ALEKSANDRA VUJICIC | APRIL 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa Courses Online will get a makeover this summer, with a whole new modernized interface involving fewer clicks and more alerts.

University of Iowa ICON senior IT support consultant David Long said the update will benefit both students and instructors. The content and discussion tools will be redesigned with a cleaner layout, notification options will be available for students to get alerts about deadlines and posted grades via text or email, and instructors will have a simplified uploading process for posting content.

ICON was originally launched in 2005 after UI officials made licensing agreements with the software vendor Desire2Learn. The site has grown to facilitate over 4,000 different courses reaching roughly 11.7 million page views from 187 different countries in 2013. 

This is the largest update the site has seen since its 2005 launch, and it will cause the system to shut down for two days, May 27-28. But Long said the site should be up and running on May 29 with a new layout and a new black and gold logo.

“It’s a very large and very complex system, but this week we went through a dress rehearsal, and the process went really well,” he said. “There haven’t been any downsides to the upgrade that we’ve seen.” 

Many of the changes were made in response to a 2011 satisfaction survey that was given to both students and instructors, Long said. The process of planning the update began in October.
The survey found that an efficient content tool led to higher satisfaction with the site overall.

In response to the survey findings the content tool will be revamped, allowing students to view documents right through the ICON browser without having to download the files to their computer.

UI junior Andrea Myles has had problems viewing PowerPoint or PDF files from her iPad since external programs that are needed to view such content are not downloaded on her device.

“I hope they take different technologies into account, and hopefully, it’s as easy as they claim it to be,” she said.

Instructors will also be able to upload documents by simply dragging and dropping, which Long said will save time in comparison with the long uploading process currently in place.

The survey also found students wanted a way to get more notifications. They will now be able to receive text or email notifications when a new grade has been posted, a news item has been added, when an assignment is due within the next couple of days, or when a new discussion post has been added, Long said.

“I’m constantly checking ICON for grades so I think it would be great to have notifications,” UI junior Chanel Chasanov said.

The only downside could be the confusion with adjusting to the update, Chasanov said.

“As long as they teach us how to work with the changes, it should be very beneficial,” Chasanov said.

Long said ICON staff will have faculty road shows in which they will go to different colleges and give presentations about the upgrade in order to inform people about the coming changes.

Overall, the function of the tools will stay the same but students can expect to find a cleaner interface that makes navigating through the site a lot easier, Long said.


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