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Online Is the Future of Education

Online Is the Future of Education

Online information is a very important part of the future of education according to Bill Wilson, Connexions author and a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department at Rice University. "Online is where the kids (students) get everything," said Bill. "I do not see why all educational material cannot go online. That is where the kids go to get information."

It was his belief in the importance of having knowledge online that prompted Bill to be one of the first Connexions authors. Bill and Don Johnson, another professor in ECE, authored the initial two courses in Connexions back in 2000. "Bill’s greatest contribution was to start putting content into Connexions before it was clear that Connexions would last", said Sidney Burrus. Sidney was the dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University when the Connexions project was first started. Sidney added, "Both Bill and Don put their entire courses into Connexions, which could have been a big mistake. As it turned out, it was great for Bill as well as for Connexions." The Connexions project was originally started in 1999 by Rich Baraniuk and some of his colleagues in the ECE department.

The greatest advantage Bill saw in having his own content in Connexions is that the material his students could use was based on his own notes. It fit the classes he was teaching better than any other existing material. Another advantage Bill noted was the ease of adding to or modifying the material that was already in Connexions. Bill said, "I really like the ease of updating and changing the material in Connexions. I can quickly change the material and get it out to my students. And my students really appreciated the quick updates." If he or a student noticed a part of the content that needs modifying, the next time Bill was in his office he would go online, make the necessary changes, and his students could access the updated material that same day. Usually in just minutes after the need for the change was discovered. This concern about students and the material they use is reflected in a comment Rich Baraniuk made about working with Bill, "He has high quality standards and really cares about what the students get out of the material."

Bill’s efforts in Connexions have been noticed by people outside of his classes also. He has received e-mails about his material from people all over the world. "I get a fair number of comments, questions, and errata from the general population," stated Bill. "And most of the comments are very positive," he added with a smile. Bill periodically checks the popularity of his material on Google, "I have dropped from number 8 to number 15 when you Google 'Smith Chart.' But that still ain't bad."

Over the life of the Connexions project, Bill has noticed many improvements in Connexions. "It is so much easier to get information into Connexions now than when I first started out with the project," he said. "Input was very manual at the beginning." Looking to the future Bill said, "I feel that Connexions will continue to improve as time goes by."

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