Virtual Curriculum

One of two presentations given at the 2003 Annual Slice of Life Workshop: for Medical Multimedia Developers and Educators.


The Virtual Curriculum is a database-driven web application for medical students and faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Built around SQL server databases (MS SQL & MySQL) and driven by both ASP and PHP scripting, this application enables students and faculty to quickly find relevant course information, including schedules, room assignments, lecture notes, PowerPoint files, and other course related documents. Lectures are digitized in real-time using Helix RealProducer software and Osprey video capture hardware.

In addition to real time encoding of audio and video form the lectures, a separate software plug-in was developed to capture MS PowerPoint slide transitions. This software plug-in enables the capture of transition times for slide changes that can be synchronized with the digitized audio and video streams. The slide transitions are then merged into the encoded video stream. Video is encoded in multi-stream rate to allow for delivery of audio alone or video at varying bandwidths up to a maximum of 300 KBPS. Server log statistics show 60-70 users/class per day view the online lectures with peak usage of 130 students per day before an exam (class size is 150 per year).

In addition to the synchronization software, a separate application was developed to strip text from the PowerPoint files for incorporation. This application allows search of text from the PowerPoint slides. These are the same slides, which have been synchronized with audio, and video streams, allowing for some degree of random access to the encoded streams.

The application has incorporated Microsoft Search Server technology, creating a searchable index of all documents stored on multiple servers used to maintain the curriculum. Search queries can also be executed on the main database tables for finding related materials. One component of the site that is tremendously useful is the student bio/photos application. The bio/photo application includes a photo of the student, along with biographical information of that student entered into the database by the individual student. This tool allows small group instructors to familiarize themselves with the students in their groups, providing a more intimate learning experience that proves invaluable during evaluation and grading.


The Virtual Curriculum is an online repository of course documents, cases, digitized lectures, and evaluations for students and staff. Centralizing course content enables students to quickly find relevant materials for individual courses, lectures, and small group assignments. We will be demonstrating the methods in which the average student and faculty member accesses, navigates, and uses the various components of the Virtual Curriculum Website.

John Ellingsworth
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia PA 19104

Mike Chirico, Joseph Durrance, Mike Feldman
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia PA 19104