Integrated Content Environment (ICE) System
Integrated Content Environment (ICE) is an open source project of the Learning Resources Development (LRD) unit at the University of Southern Queensland. The project is designed to bring together several aspects of LRDS function, as well as its technical and human interfaces to the university.
ICE builds on past work in both computer applications and business processes to provide a unified system by which authors, editors and instructional designers from across the University can collaborate on the creation of learning materials, original research, and administrative material, including messaging and discussion.
ICE has two main components. Firstly, there is a content authoring system with an easy-to-use word-processor based application. Secondly, there is a web-based application designed to tie together all of the other systems and resources that USQ staff need to engage in courseware authoring and to manage materials and interaction.
The key driver for the ICE project is currently courseware – but the system has been engineered so that it may be used in a research or administrative context. Looking to the future, the integrated nature of the ICE application would allow new projects within USQ to blend research and teaching repositories.
The ICE authoring environment consists of interoperable OpenOffice.org Writer and Microsoft Word compatible templates with some customised menus and extensions, and a supporting web application to allow:
basic generic formatting of a document using styles for headings and other structural elements
pedagogical elements such as learning outcomes, lists of readings and activities
piece-by-piece course construction with immediate feedback about the web and print views
modular collaborative and distributed authoring
basic print and web/CD publishing under author control
author-controlled rendering from a single source for:
The ICE project has a definite starting point (the need for an accessible structured editing environment for course content providers), and some medium-term goals (a distributed web application that can coordinate human, technical and content resources in building courses) and longer term goals (to create a technological base for content repositories and future developments in e-Learning at USQ). The methodology for dealing with the immediate requirement and working-towards subsequent requirements is to build small pieces of functionality and release them to pilot users.
ICE is developed using an Agile software development methodology. This means that the project development is done with small pieces of functionality and releasing them as fast as possible – as opposed to a traditional development approach involving long planning, building, testing and release cycles that attempt to build a major application over a period of years.
The Agile process involves:
ICE users are currently involved in pilot projects, with releases to the wider University community happening when and only when the pilots are successful. The first pilot project was conducted with Dr Shirley Reushle's courses from the Faculty of Education and quickly extended to other courses in the faculty. Further pilot users have been on a case-by-case basis from the Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Business with increasing complexity in courseware. ICE is also being piloted for e-JIST journal and in the near future for newsletters such as the GLS and USQ News.
The ICE project is a two-pronged approach to creating written content for courses offered at USQ. The first approach is a simple word-processor interface for authoring. The second is a supporting web application which will provide distributed management for all kinds of resources to do with creating content.
Beyond the immediate requirements for courses, ICE has relevance as a tool for authoring and managing research papers, books, and theses and is also to be used for newsletters and electronic journals. Visit the ICE open source website at http://ice.usq.edu.au for further details.
automated creation of web content with internal navigation
IMS packages to allow interoperability with a variety of Learning Management Systems (LMS)
PDF versions of content for printing.
Stakeholder involvement via pilot projects.
A growing user-group composed of pilot users with representative input into project steering.
Fortnightly engineering cycles with releases of new functionality at the end of each cycle – longer release cycles for production-ready releases to the broader community.