Overview

In August of 1996, the IEEE Transactions on Education will publish a special issue, accompanied by a CD-ROM, on the topic "Applications of Information Technologies to Engineering and Science Education." Although the IEEE Education Society is leading the effort, the IEEE Foundation, the National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education, the IEEE Educational Activities Board, the IEEE Computer Society, the IEEE Technical Activities Board, the International Engineering Consortium, the IEEE Circuits and Systems Society, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the IEEE Engineering Management Society have joined the effort as co-sponsors.

The primary objective of the special issue of the IEEE Transactions on Education is to enhance communication between those in different disciplines who are working to apply information technologies to engineering and science education. These workers have much in common that is not bounded by discipline.

A second important objective is to demonstrate WWW/CD-ROM technology as a practical means for journals to archive software and multimedia material.

Although the CD-ROM may contain electronic versions of the printed contributions, its main purpose is to permit distribution and archiving of special material related to the printed articles. Examples include software (executable files and/or source code or even installation software), color graphics, video files, sound files and postscript files.

Cross-platform compatibility is achieved by treating the CD-ROM essentially as a World Wide Web (WWW) server so that WWW browsers (such as Mosaic, Netscape and others) running on Microsoft Windows machines, Macintoshes or UNIX machines can all view the same files on the same CD-ROM (ISO 9660). This approach to cross-platform compatibility exploits the cross-platform de facto standard that the recent explosive popularity of the WWW has generated.

The publication of a journal issue accompanied by a CD-ROM is an experiment of broad interest to professional societies that publish journals. If the three main functions of publishing a journal are (1) screening and review of contributions, (2) dissemination of the contributions and (3) archiving of the contributions, then it is easy to see that the project offers the opportunity to learn about the impact of CD-ROM/WWW technology on all three.

First, we used an experimental paperless review process. We placed the files for both the printed and CD-ROM parts of each contribution on a controlled access WWW server for viewing and/or downloading by the reviewers, who transmitted their reviews by e-mail. (Authors were required to submit both their manuscript and the CD-ROM material in file format.) This approach not only permitted a virtually paperless review process, it also allowed us, in parallel with the review, to begin preparing the contributions for publication on the CD-ROM by checking file formats, compatibility with standards (ISO 9660) and so forth. It also required authors to submit files in a readable format before their contribution could be reviewed. This approach provided strong incentives to authors to submit their complete contributions in a timely manner.

Second, we are conducting an experiment on electronic distribution of the special issue. As an experiment, with the understanding that it does not establish precedent and that we will collect access data, W. Kenneth Dawson, IEEE Vice President for Publications, approved our placing the special issue on a widely publicized WWW server during a period extending from two months before publication of the special issue until two months after publication. We expect that visibility and distribution of the special issue might be improved, and interest stimulated in it, by making the contributions available on the Web for a limited time. The experiment should give us some data.

Third, including a CD-ROM with each copy of the issue is an experiment in archiving software and multimedia. It is noteworthy that very little of the software produced during the computer era has been archived. Widely available archiving for large amounts of software and multimedia packages should be possible for the first time through CD-ROM technology.

Expected outcomes from the experiments include:

  1. Demonstration of CD-ROM technology as a practical means of archiving software and multimedia material.
  2. Demonstration of a paperless review process via the WWW and e-mail.
  3. Assessment of the WWW as a complementary vehicle for distribution and promotion of journal content.
  4. Assessment of authors' interest in contributing in the topical area of the application of information technologies to engineering and science education.
  5. Initiation of cooperative publishing efforts in the application of information technologies to engineering and science education by several different professional societies. A joint publication may make it easier for members of diverse technical societies to share expertise in this area, the interest in which transcends any single technical society.
  6. Experience about the practical details of cost and timing related to publication of an archival journal accompanied by a CD-ROM.
For details, see The Making of the Special Issue...