PRISM Magazine On-Line  -  January 2000

O.U.'s Material Advantage

    I would like to add my voice in support of the quality of the educational materials produced by the Open University ("Distance Education the UK Way ," November).

    I first used O.U. course materials in 1990 in the form of textbooks produced as the "Materials in Action" series. That series includes four titles, which I used while at the Watson School at Binghamton, on sabbatical at Wisconsin, and now in the Greenfield Coalition's program at the University of Detroit Mercy and Focus: HOPE.

    Those text materials were, and in my opinion still are, unmatched in their clarity of exposition, format of presentation, and technical content. Moreover, my opinion is supported by the variety of students to whom I have provided those resources. Their view of the course materials was that the combination of text and exercises, frequent sidebars with detailed topical explanations, and self-assessment questions created learning tools that were easy to use with little supervision.

    In fact, the sidebars are an early print example of the "hot button" links that are so common in current multimedia. That format makes the printed text material quite compatible with the computer-based instruction format being developed in the Greenfield Coalition.

    I would expect that the U.S. version of Open University should have little difficulty attracting faculty members, once they become familiar with the quality of the O.U. course materials.

    James A. Clum
    University of Detroit Mercy;
    Focus: HOPE

Continuing Praise

    Sept and Oct PrismThe September and October issues of Prism had very good continuing education features, and in the November issue, Frank Huband's message ("Driving the New Economy ,") stated "you can count on ASEE to keep you informed on continuing/lifelong education and advancements in engineering."

    I am very pleased to note in ASEE activities and publications what seems to me to be a growing recognition of the role of continuing education and lifelong learning in engineering education circles. By golly, these advances make me feel very nearly like a full-fledged member of the engineering education community, able to push aside the stepchild status of earlier years.

    Congratulations on your vision and on what I certainly perceive to be a growing positive recognition of continuing education as an important part of the total engineering education enterprise.

    Frank E. Burris
    UCLA Extension


Money Isn't Everything

    I enjoyed very much the article about the IITs ("Jewel in the Crown ,"  October), and being an IITian myself, it made me proud of my alma mater. I would, however, like to point out that the only prominent IIT graduates mentioned were the ones who have made "big bucks" recently. Don't get me wrong, I am very happy to see their success and hope that they will continue to share their wealth with the IITs and make the institutes strong. However, it was disheartening to note that in an engineering education magazine, there was not even a passing mention about other IIT graduates who have made significant contributions in other ways-especially in engineering education.

    Many of us have chosen to work in universities across the United States and elsewhere, and have helped educate many undergraduate students-not to mention those who are in teaching institutions in India, sacrificing lucrative careers in favor of teaching. In my opinion we have contributed equally, if not more. The creation of educators is an important aspect of the IITs and merits attention. I can understand an article in The Wall Street Journal or People magazine that highlights the monetary achievements of some IIT graduates, but I expect at least Prism to focus on things other than strictly monetary issues.

    Arun R. Srinivasa
    Texas A & M University

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