PRISM Magazine Online - May-June 2000

Frank Huband - Executive DirectorHigher education in general, and engineering education in particular, are at a crossroads. Our cover story "Whose Property Is It Anyway?" explores how both academia and the courts are addressing the question of who ultimately owns online course content developed by faculty members. The answer to this question--especially in light of the growing popularity of distance education--will have a major impact on the financial prospects of professors and universities for the foreseeable future.

The global demand for U.S.-based engineering education means that in the next decade, U.S. faculty members and universities will be providing Web-based engineering education to students both here and abroad. A particular course may reach thousands, or even tens of thousands, of students. But it is unclear who the principal financial beneficiaries will be.

If faculty members can sell their services to the highest Internet-based bidder, the market could provide seven-digit income to the best online teachers. On the other hand, if faculty members can provide instructional services only through their universities, the benefits of a professor's "Master Teacher" competence might go primarily to his or her institution. Although historically the rights to textbooks and other teaching-oriented intellectual property have typically belonged to faculty members, it is not clear what the future will hold--and the discussion and litigation will continue.

This issue of Prism also provides a glimpse into the fascinating world of particle physics, specifically the CERN laboratory in Switzerland. Scientists there are conducting cutting-edge research that has already helped spawn beneficial technology like the World Wide Web. With a new collider on the way, CERN will continue to be a focal point for fundamental research into the nature of matter.

Finally, become acquainted with freshman Congressman Rush Holt (D-N.J.), who hopes to become a key voice for technology if the Democrats take control of the House in 2001. With his physicist's training, he has been a valuable resource on many technological issues for representatives without a science background.

We strive to make each issue of Prism an informative read, and this one is no exception. I hope to see you at the Annual Conference in June, where you can tell me your thoughts on Prism and ASEE in person!

 

Frank L. Huband
Executive Director and Publisher
f.huband@asee.org

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