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Frank Huband


Some 30 years ago, Marshall McLuhan declared that in the 20th-century electronic age, the world had become a global village. McLuhan, author, communications theorist, and, briefly, an engineering major, wrote that electronic technologies would allow collapse of space and time. Today, the Internet has indeed globalized communication and enabled users worldwide, from all levels of society, to easily connect and exchange ideas. This month’s Prism cover story, “Millions Log In,” looks at the bold and revolutionary program MIT developed to offer, via the Internet, its entire curriculum to anyone, anywhere in the world, free. This remarkable effort resulted in a rich educational resource, MIT’s OpenCourseWare. The site, composed of MIT’s full curriculum, gets 15 million visitors a year. Faculty and students from Ghana, Uganda, and Nigeria use the site, while half of all users log in from Asia. “Free to users” does not mean without cost, however; It’s estimated that each course costs the university $10,000 to $15,000 to upload, and there are ongoing copyright problems.

Elsewhere in the global village, physicist Kathy Sykes is working to ease the ongoing communication problem between the public and scientists, engineers, and policymakers. This dynamic professor from the University of Bristol, England, has taken her efforts to BBC-TV, where she hosts programs to help popularize and demystify science. She also strives to bring rationality into public debates over controversial subjects such as stem cell research, believing the public needs to understand evolving technologies to make intelligent decisions about them. Sykes is profiled in “A Level Head.”

Desert Advance” takes us to the oil-rich Persian Gulf, where American and European universities are setting up outposts and in the process may contribute to a changing complexion in Arab higher education. Their arrival is both timely and ironic. Many Persian Gulf leaders remain suspicious of U.S. policies but are firmly pragmatic about their future. Home for centuries to some of the world’s finest universities and academies, the Arab states have seen their technological and scientific talent shrivel over the past 30 years. According to the World Bank, they have lost 23 percent of their engineers, 50 percent of their doctors, and 15 percent of bachelor-of-science degree holders. The push to ramp up education initiatives demonstrates the Gulf’s pledge to diversify its economy and close the higher education gap.

This month, we have provided, for your interest, a selection of stories with an international flavor. I continue to be interested in your comments or suggestions.


Frank L. Huband
Executive Director and Publisher




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