Preface



This issue of the IEEE Transactions on Education includes an experimental Rapid Publication Supplement in which the main parts of each contribution included are published on an accompanying CD-ROM. Only the abstracts of the contributions contained on the CD-ROM appear in the traditional printed portion of the issue, where the reader may easily scan them to determine if a visit to the CD-ROM is warranted to learn more. This experiment was made possible by the experience gained in publishing the August 1996 special issue on the application of information technologies to engineering and science education, which also was accompanied by a CD-ROM.

Publication of technical contributions on CD-ROMs is no longer especially unusual. A radical aspect of these two experiments, however, is reliance on author-developed HTML material as the primary format for each contribution. The importance of this approach is not so much the richness of environment, the speed, nor the convenience it brings to the publication process. The point is not even that widely available, powerful and inexpensive authoring tools now make it possible for authors to prepare and submit such contributions. Rather, the importance is the possibility the approach affords authors for publishing the increasingly ubiquitous interactive multimedia learning materials that they are developing, with file formats common on the WWW, for use by their students. Authors usually do not prepare these interactive learning environments in PDF (Portable Document Format) or SGML (Standardized General Markup Language), nor are the environments easily represented in such formats. And yet, being able to share these environments with other educators, to hold them up for scrutiny by peers, and to archive them (as opposed to pale paper descriptions of them) as they are developed is critical to the effective development and implementation of these new approaches to learning.

Speed and convenience in the publication process are not, of course, irrelevant. For the Rapid Publication Supplement in this issue, authors were required to upload their HTML documents and additional files to a combination FTP/WWW server. Authors thus could verify immediately the integrity of the files they uploaded by viewing them with a WWW browser and then notify the editors by e-mail when their contributions were ready for review. The contributions were available immediately, of course, to the reviewers, with whom the Review Associate Editor (J. C. R.) maintained contact by e-mail. The same process sped up revisions as well.

We initially solicited contributions due February 1, 1997 for possible publication in August 1997 and contributions due May 1, 1997 for possible publication in November 1997. One objective of the experiment was to assess the feasibility of a 6-month time from submission to publication for contributions submitted, reviewed and published electronically. Given that IEEE Publications requires receipt of material for printed publication about 2 months beforehand, a 6-month publication cycle allows only about 4 months for review and revision.

When only about 15 contributions were received for the August issue, we decided to consider those contributions simply as early contributions for the November issue. In February 1997, the Editor-in-Chief (T. E. B.) sent an e-mail to authors whose papers belonged to a considerable backlog that awaited review and publication and invited them to convert their contributions to the specified electronic format as a means of speeding along the process of review and possible publication. At a time too late for effective remedies, it became clear that many (most?) authors of papers caught in the backlog failed to receive the February e-mail, at least in time to respond quickly enough. Nevertheless, we received 11 converted contributions from authors with papers in the backlog.

The overall number of contributions received for review totaled 47. Of these 47, 11 arrived after June 1, too late for assignment of reviewers. These contributions were accepted for electronic review for possible publication in print in a subsequent issue. In early August 1997, the Internet/CD-ROM Associate Editor (W. M. M.) was still receiving belated requests for instructions for uploading files to the server from authors with papers waiting in the backlog.

Of the 36 contributions received before June 1, review was completed for 26 of them. Of these, 16 were accepted (some after revision) for publication in the Rapid Publication Supplement in the November 1997 issue, 2 were published in paper format in the August 1997 issue, 1 was published in paper format in the Novmember 1997 issue, and 7 were not accepted for publication. Two contributions could not be reviewed in the format in which they were submitted. The remaining 8 contributions received before June 1 may be publishable in traditional paper format. Thus, they, like the 11 contributions that arrived after June 1, are undergoing the electronic review process.

Clearly, delays were still a problem, although contributions received as late as mid-May of 1997 are published in this November 1997 issue. Even with electronic submission and review of the contributions, the editors conclude that a 6-month publication cycle (4 months for review and revision) is difficult to achieve. The difficulty is enhanced by the occasional nature of the CD-ROM issues, which makes it difficult to hold over contributions for publication in a subsequent issue when the reviews are late. A 9-month publication cycle (7 months for review and revision) probably is more realistic.

More details about the mechanics of the publication process are given in the contribution entitled Publication of Archival Journals Accompanied by CD-ROMs that appears in this Rapid Publication Supplement. An account of publishing the August 1996 issue is given in the contribution entitled The Making of the Special Issue on the Application of Information Technologies to Engineering and Science Education published in that issue.

The CD-ROM for the Rapid Publication Supplement is best viewed with WWW browsers no less capable than Netscape Navigator 3.x or Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.x. The CD-ROM meets ISO 9660 standards and should be readable by browsers running on any of the popular operating systems for desktop machines. In addition to the capability for displaying HTML, GIF, JPEG and ASCII text files, the browser should be configured to display QuickTime movie files, as well as AU, AIF, and WAV sound files. To make sure that your browser is properly configured for these common file types, you can test it with sample files available on the WWW at, for example, http://www-dsed.llnl.gov/documents/WWWtest.html. This site also includes links to viewers and plug-ins for various file types for different platforms. When contributions to this Rapid Publication Supplement require special plug-ins for viewing file types other than those already mentioned, they include links to FTP sites from which the plug-in can be downloaded. Concerns about licenses and obsolescence precluded us from including plug-ins on the CD-ROM.

We suggest that you begin exploring the CD-ROM by opening the file INDEX.HTM that resides in the root directory. This file presents a table of contents that includes the title, authors and keywords for each contribution. The titles are hyperlinked to the initial HTML document for each contribution on the CD-ROM. The names of authors are hyperlinked to their contact information, which appears below the table in this document. The contact information for authors includes hyperlinks to personal home pages, institutional home pages and personal e-mail addresses.

You can use the Find function in your browser to search the table of contents document for a particular word, whether that word is the name of an author, a keyword, a word in a title, or a word in the address or affiliation of an author. It is useful to remember that each author's name occurs at least twice on this page, once in the table adjacent to the title of that author's contribution and once in the contact information section. Because a search with the browser Find function can span only a single HTML document, the browser cannot conduct a full-text search of the CD-ROM. If you find such a search important, you must use platform-specific tools to search for particular text strings on the CD-ROM. In Windows 95, for example, the Windows Explorer offers such capability.

The files for each contribution are located in a separate directory or folder on the CD-ROM. The numbers of the directories correspond to the order of the papers in the printed portion of the Rapid Publication Supplement and are listed in the table of contents document. An alternative approach to viewing the files on the CD-ROM is to open the file INDEX.HTM that appears in the directory corresponding to a contribution. This file is the starting page suggested by the author for viewing the files in that directory. A link Return to the Table of Contents lies near the top of each such page, as an aid to navigation of the CD-ROM. By clicking on the directory number hyperlink in the table of contents, all files in that directory, including INDEX.HTM, should be displayed in a file and directory listing. Thus, you can open any file type that your browser is configured to view by clicking on it.

As a parting note, the editors express our special appreciation to the contributors and reviewers for their admirable patience and commitment to this experiment in electronic publication. We are most grateful to the IEEE Education Society for making the experiment possible.

Marion O. Hagler
Co-Editor for the Rapid Publication Supplement
m.hagler@ieee.org

Janet C. Rutledge
Review Associate Editor for the Rapid Publication Supplement
jrutledg@nsf.gov

William M. Marcy
Internet/CD-ROM Associate Editor for the Rapid Publication Supplement
cswmm@coe.ttu.edu

Ted E. Batchman
Editor-in-Chief
batchman@ee.unr.edu