The University Record, March 25, 1997

Web site supplements course materials for MSE 250

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

Steve Yalisove faced a problem that is all too familiar to many members of the U-M faculty---how to keep hundreds of undergraduates interested in a required fundamentals course when the main reason they enroll is because they have to.

Yalisove, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, found his solution on the WorldWide Web. Last summer, Yalisove redesigned the course content for MSE 250, "Principles of Engineering Materials," incorporating video clips, multimedia materials and animation to illustrate key points and engage student interest. All this material, plus "fireside video chats" with instructors, homework assignments and study tips for exams were placed on the MSE 250 Web site, which can be accessed by the 300-400 engineering undergraduates who take the course each term.

"I saw the Web site as a way to supplement materials presented in the textbook and in lecture, bring real-world examples into the course and get students to revisit ideas outside of class," says Yalisove, who taught the new course for the first time during fall term.

Multimedia production and presentation equipment worth $15,000 for use in MSE 250, as well as other courses, was purchased by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. To develop and maintain the Web site, Albert F. Yee, MSE's department chair, turned to the Internet to locate and recruit a materials science expert with an extensive background in multimedia development. Yee found the perfect candidate in Darcy Clark, who had just received his Ph.D. in materials science from the University of Queensland in Australia. After a job interview on the Internet (via two-way video cameras), Clark was on his way to Michigan.

"This position was the perfect blend of my materials science and multimedia development skills," Clark says. "I was impressed by the department's commitment to integrating new instructional technologies into the MSE program, as well as the impressive facilities within the department and the Media Union."

This term, MSE 250 is being taught by David J. Srolovitz, the Edward DeMille Campbell Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

"Our teaching ratings are much higher and I think the students are learning more," Srolovitz says. "Certain concepts, like crystallography, which are difficult to explain in two dimensions, become easy with this new visualization technology."

While initial evidence of the new curriculum's effectiveness look promising, Srolovitz says the ultimate test of its popularity will begin next fall when the College of Engineering begins offering MSE 250 as an elective, rather than a required course.

Those interested in accessing the Website should contact Clark at darcyc@engin.umich.edu.