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Moursund, D.G. (1997)The Future of Information Technology in Education. Learning and Leading with Technology. Vol. 25, No. 1..
I have recently finished writing a book about the future of information technology (IT) in education (Moursund, 1997). In this book, I argue that the educational impact that IT has had so far is small compared to what the next 20 years will bring.
Rapidly Increasing Technological Progress
Continued rapid improvements in IT hardware will lead the way. For example, consider the following quote describing a memory chip being developed by a Japanese company.
NEC is developing a 4-GB memory chip; it will store 47 minutes of full-motion video, or 256 times the capacity of the 16-MB DRAM chip now commonly used. NEC says it will begin selling the chip around 2000 (Pollack, 1997, p. D5).
We all know that steady improvements in transistor technology are leading to faster and faster microprocessors. By the year 2000, the GHz (one billion operations per second) microcomputer will be available. The following quote looks still further into the future.
Similar rapid strides are occurring in communications technology, as the following quote illustrates.
This bandwidth is about 400 times the bandwidth of the optical fibers currently in commercial use.
My analysis of information from many different sources suggests that total worldwide computing power and worldwide bandwidth will each grow by a factor of at least 500 in the next 20 years. It is certainly reasonable to speculate that similar amounts of change may occur in our educational system. The scenario that follows is based on a conservative estimate of a factor of increase of only 100 during the next 20 years. This is a compound rate of change of slightly greater than 25% per year.
Take a look at your own schoolthe amount of computing power in the school and the nature and amount of connectivity. Now, consider each increasing by a factor of 100. If your school is average compared to current schools in the United States, this level of increase would provide each student with a microcomputer that is at least 10 times as powerful as todays midpriced machine. It would provide every student with connectivity to worldwide and local area networks at a bandwidth that supports high-quality interactive video.
Consider a scenario 20 years in the future: Every student has a personal portable microcomputer for use at home and at school. Wireless connectivity to local and worldwide networks is provided in every classroom. A wide range of software tools and educational software is available to every student. Computer-assisted learning and distance education are routine parts of the teaching and learning environment, both at school and at home. These methods of instructional delivery provide access to instruction in the full range of coursework that is appropriate to K12 students. The combined power of current hardware and software supports high-quality voice-input systems. Tool and educational software are both intelligentthat is, they reflect the steady progress that has been occurring in artificial intelligence.
The market forces in IT are driving the technological changes that make this scenario plausible. These forces are driving the development of more powerful computers, increased bandwidth of networks, and increased connectivity. Such progress will occur independently of whether the facilities are made available to students in any particular school or school district.
Similarly, computer-assisted learning and distance education are also driven by market forces. These aids to teaching and learning will continue to improve and will become more available, independently of choices made by individual schools or school districts. The home market will be one of these driving forces.
Such scenarios that speculate about the future are useful in considering the present. Suppose that the scenario is an accurate prediction of what many schools will look like 20 years from now. What do you, personally, intend to do about it? What are the main thrusts of your professional interests in IT? For example, are you interested in the acquisition and maintenance of hardware, software, and connectivity, as well as technical support for end users? Or are you more interested in professional developmentthat is, helping all teachers learn to use IT effectively? Do you want to be involved in curriculum development and assessmentintegrating routine use of IT throughout the curriculum? Or, do you hope to be a high-level leaderone who facilitates large numbers of people working to accomplish the previously mentioned tasks? (There are now a small but growing number of assistant superintendents for IT.)
Whatever your answer, you face the challenge of continuing rapid change. You need to develop a network of people and sources of information that can help you meet these challenges. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) can be one part of the help that you seek. It is a source of high-quality information as well as a vehicle for getting connected with people like yourself. And, ISTEs publications can help you to stay abreast of your professional field.
Association for Computing Machinery. (1996, May). Communications of the ACM. New York: Author.
Intel view of the future. (1997, Apr. 23). New York Times, p. D2.
Moursund, D. (1997). The future of information technology in education. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.
Pollack, A. (1997, Feb. 7). Japan chip maker unveils next-generation prototype. New York Times, p. D5.
Moursund, D.G. (1997) The Growth of Instructional Technology. Leading and Learning with Technology. Vol. 25. No. 2.
The S-shaped growth curve is an important tool for analyzing the future adoption and implementation of a technology. It is a graphical representation of adoption levels of a new product over time. Figure 1 shows an example S-shaped growth curve.
Television provides a good example of this type of growth. When television was first invented there were no television stations, no televisions sets for sale in stores, and no television programs. It took quite a while for the infrastructure to be developed. In addition, the new product had to compete with radio, movies, live theater, and sporting events. Initially, its quality was low and its price was high. All of these things caused the initial rate of growth for the industry to be quite slow.
Gradually, the barriers to the development and growth of the television industry were overcome. More and more people decided to purchase television sets. The industry experienced rapid growth. The middle part of the S-shaped growth curve shows this type of rapid pace of adoption.
Eventually the market for television sets matured. The market became saturated, and growth in sales slowed. The television market became a replace-and-upgrade market.
Instructional Technology in Education
There are a number of different aspects of instructional technology (IT) in education that may be subject to the S-shaped growth curve, including the following practical and instructional concerns.
Of course, each of these components can be broken into subcomponents. For example, hardware includes portable computers that students carry, powerful multimedia machines with larger display screens, printers, scanners, digital cameras, and so on. As another example, in a secondary school the curriculum is broken into a number of distinct courses. Definitions can be developed to describe what it really means to fully integrate IT into each of these courses.
Nationwide Progress Toward These Goals
For each of these components, we can look at implementation levels throughout the United States and how they might look in the future. In this type of analysis, the measure is the percentage of schools in the country that have achieved the goal. If the 20-year forecasts in the September editorial prove to be correct, the growth curve for a number of these components might look like Figure 2,
Figure 2 suggests that less than 1% of schools in the U.S. have currently achieved the specified goal.
The growth curves for each component will be somewhat different. The overall timeline, the time when the most rapid growth occurs, and the steepness of the growth curve at that time will all vary.
Measuring School-Level Implementation
For each of the components, one can also develop a Levels of Implementation scale that can be used by an individual school or school district. To do this, we need a more precise definition of the target goal for a component, and then we need clear definitions of intermediate steps toward that goal.
For example, consider the hardware component. A goal might be to provide every student with a portable computer with midrange capabilities. Progress toward this goal can be measured in terms of percentages achieved. Thus, a rating of 15% would indicate that 15% of the hardware specified in the goal was available.
Progress on many of the goals can be measured by use of a Likert scale. Of course, it is necessary to define the points on the scale. For example, a seven-point Likert scale (see Figure 3) to measure integration of IT into the curriculum might be based on the following points:
1. Little or no use of IT in the content of the everyday curriculum.
There are many political aspects of education, and recently education has become of increasing political importance at the state and federal levels. President Clinton (as cited in Applebome, 1996) talked about IT goals in education in his State of the Union speech nearly two years ago.
Applebome (1996) reviewed the costs associated with such goals.
Schools and school districts may want to develop and publicize measures of their progress toward achieving the goals being discussed by politicians and educational leaders.
Applebome, P. (1996, January 25). Computer idea gets mixed response. New York Times, p. A9.
Moursund, D. (1997). The future of information technology in education. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.
Moursund, D.G. (1997) Alternate histories. Learning and Leading with Technology. Vol. 25, No. 3.
An increasing number of alternate history science fiction books are being published. Recently I read the first four books of the World War series written by Harry Turtledove (1994, 1995, 1996a, 1996b).
The story begins in 1941, after World War II is in full swing. At that time, the earth is invaded by beings from a planet that is many light years away. They have arrived at earth by traveling at sublight speed, with most of the soldiers in deep sleep.
The technology of the invaders has advanced far beyond that of the earth people. How far? Arthur C. Clarke asserted that any advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. To the earth people of the early 1940s, the technology of the invaders seems like magic.
However, much of the invaders technology is the technology we now take for granted. Computers built using large-scale integrated circuits. Radar, laser guidance systems and computers used in a variety of missiles, and other smart weapons. Nuclear weapons. Wireless video telephones. Video cameras. Infrared and low-light vision systems. Spaceships and jet airplanes.
Technology on our planet has advanced so much in the past 60 years that it might indeed be viewed as magic by people from 60 years ago. Moreover, the pace of technological change during the past 60 years shows no signs of abating. In fact, many scientists and engineers argue that the pace is accelerating.
Children readily adapt to new technology, but many adults struggle with such change. Thus, children growing up with computers at home and school are able to acquire a fluency with computer use that surpasses that of many of their teachers.
This provides an excellent opportunity for collaborative learning activities among students and teachers, where all are able to contribute and to learn. It also provides an excellent opportunity for helping students learn about change. How do individual people, and society as a whole, deal with a rapid pace of technological change? The following are some curriculum activities that can be adapted to a variety of grade levels.
We are just at the beginnings of the major changes that information technology will bring to our world. You can help to prepare your students for such changes by engaging them in the types of activities discussed in this article.
Turtledove, H. (1994). Worldwar: In the balance. New York: Del Rey.
Turtledove, H. (1995). Worldwar: Tilting the balance. New York: Del Rey.
Turtledove, H. (1996a). Worldwar: Upsetting the balance. New York: Del Rey.
Turtledove, H. (1996b). Worldwar: Striking the balance. New York: Del Rey.
Moursund, D.G. (1997). Professional development. Learning and Leading with Technology. Vol. 25, No. 4.
It was not too many years ago that most teachers earned lifetime teaching certificates through completion of their teacher training coursework and a few years of teaching experience.
As it became apparent that such an approach did not adequately support the increasing demands of the teaching profession, continuing education requirements were developed. In the past two decades, a great deal of research has been conducted concerning adult education and professional development for teachers. A summary and analysis of professional development research and effective-practices literature is given in NFIE (1996). Hall (1974) developed a Stages of Concern model for staff development. This article builds on Halls work.
Information technology (IT) is a rapidly changing field. Moreover, it affects curriculum, instruction, and assessment in every discipline. Thus, every teacher faces a continual challenge of becoming and remaining adequately prepared in IT.
Many IT professional development programs fail to adequately address the varying levels of teacher background and interest. This article summarizes eight levelsstages of concern and levels of knowledgethat an effective program for professional development needs to address.
Stages of Concern and Levels of Knowledge
An educator who knows very little about IT has different concerns and professional development needs than an educator who has been making personal use of computers and other IT tools for several years.
Professional development is more effective if it specifically addresses the concerns of the educator and builds on his or her current level of knowledge and use. This is one of the reasons for emphasizing one-on-one inservice and teachers learning alongside their students. In both of these professional development approaches, the learning opportunity can be carefully tuned to the stage of concern and level of knowledge of the learner.
The various Stages of Concerns and Levels of Knowledge (SC&LK) that teachers have about IT are not easily grouped into simple categories. However, the following list is indicative of the range of possible situations. This list is a Stages of Concern model that has been adapted specifically for microcomputers and other IT tools such as CD-ROMs, networking, digital cameras, and scanners.
This SC&LK scale can be used to do a needs assessment in a school or school district. Although a written questionnaire may suffice, one-on-one interviews will likely prove more effective in helping teachers place themselves on the scale. The needs assessment facilitates the design of professional development opportunities that are appropriate to the needs of the teachers.
A schools goal might be to help every teacher reach Level 5 or higher, and to have a cadre of teachers who are at Level 6 or higher
Hall, G. E. (1974). The concerns-based adoption model: A developmental conceptualization of the adoption process within educational institutions. Austin, TX: Research and Development Center for Teacher Education.
National Foundation for the Improvement of Education (1996). Teachers take charge of their learning: Transforming professional development for student success. Washington, DC: Author.
Retrospecctive Comments 12/19/04
I have used the 8-stages model in a lot of my teaching. Over the years, I gradually expanded it to a 10-stage model. The 10_stage model is available at (Accessed 12/19/04): http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~moursund/DigitalAge2/stages_of_concern.htm.
However, for the convenience of readers, it is also given below.
Moursund,D.G. (1998). Software Trends. Learning and Leading with Technology. Vol. 25, No.5.
We all understand the rapid pace of change in the capabilities of computer hardware. We can trace the historical development of computer hardware by looking at mainframe computers, minicomputers, and microcomputers. The trend has been toward putting more powerful computers in the hands of the end user. From the time of the first commercially produced computers in the early 1950s, the cost effectiveness of computers has improved by a factor of about a million.
The pace of change of computer software has been slower, but steady progress has occurred. Quite a bit of the software change has been dependent on the steadily increasing power of computer systems. Software trends can be summarized as follows.
You are undoubtedly familiar with various pieces of computer-assisted instruction (CAI) software. General categories include drill and practice, tutorial, simulations, and microworlds. Some researchers in artificial intelligence work on developing intelligent computer-assisted instruction (ICAI). ICAI software contains considerable knowledge of what the student is trying to learn, what an expert knows, and what can help a student learn. Moreover, it builds a model of what the student knows and his or her progress in learning. Thus, it adapts to individual learning needs.
You are probably also familiar with computer software that contains built-in help files. You can think of this as a type of just in time assistance or instruction in solving problems encountered when using the software.
The ICAI and help file ideas can be combined in any computer application such as a spreadsheet, database, or graphics package. A learner-centered version of such software could incorporate ICAI in its help system. As the user begins learning to use the software, the computer application would have knowledge of what an expert user knows and can do. It would have knowledge of a variety of pedagogy strategies that help move a novice user toward becoming a competent user and then an expert user. The software might begin by interacting with the user, gaining information about the users computer background, knowledge of the application area, and goals in learning to use the software. This initial learner profile would serve as a starting point as the computer application builds a profile of the novice user.
The development of learner-centered software is currently considered cutting edge research and development. Ten articles in the April 1996 issue of the Communications of the ACM examine various research projects that are developing and fieldtesting such software. In most cases, the focus is on developing stand-alone ICAI, rather than taking the next step of integrating such ICAI into standard application tools. Some of the applications being explored include:
A unifying theme in all of these examples is a combination of constructivism and problem solving in an advanced information-technology environment. Students, individually and in groups, use information technology tools as they address problems that are both meaningful to their current developmental levels and authentic.
The development of learner-centered software is in its infancy. You can see its beginnings in modern software tools, such as word processors and spreadsheets. You can also see it in good computer-assisted learning materials. Look for this as you evaluate software for your personal use and for use by your students.
Moursund, D.G. (March 1998). Moore's Law. Learning and Leading with Technology. Vol. 25, No. 6, pp 4-5.
Gordon Moore was one of the founders of Intel Corporation and is still an active participant in the company. In addition to his pioneering work with Intel, Moore is also known for a set of projections that have come to be known as Moore's Laws:
On average, these "laws" have proven to be relatively accurate over the past 37 years. Moreover, Gordon Moore and others believe that the laws may prove to be relatively accurate for another 15 years.
Since the advent of microcomputers, there has been a slow but relatively steady increase in the annual amounts that schools spend for hardware and software. It seems likely that this will continue for a considerable number of years into the future.
To help make this article concrete, suppose that annual school expenditures for hardware will increase by about 5% a year for the next 15 years. That is, assume that hardware expenditures will approximately double over that time period. When this forecast is combined with the forecast in Moore's second law, we get some thought-provoking numbers.
The second column in the table shows just the effects if Moore's second law continues to hold for the next 15 years. In terms of constant dollars, it projects that one will be able to purchase 1,024 times as much computer power for a dollar. If a school continues its current annual level of expenditures for microcomputers, 15 years from now this may buy about 1,024 times as much computer power per year.
The third column in the table combines Moore's second law with a 5-percent a year increase in expenditures. It indicates that the amount of compute power that can be purchased will have increased by a factor of about 2,000.
What Do These Numbers Mean?
The typical school has mixture of computers. Some may be 10 years old, while some may have just been purchased. A newer machine may have 100 times the computer power of an older machine. Fifteen years from now, we can expect that many schools will continue to have machines of widely varying ages and computer power. Whatever the mix of machines, on average we might expect a growth in computer power in a school by a factor in excess of 2,000.
There are many ways to interpret these forecasts of increasing computer power in schools. At the current time in the United States, there is an average of approximately one microcomputer per eight students. Fifteen years from now this ratio might still be the same -- but the computers might be more than 2,000 times as powerful as current computers in schools.
However, that seems like a silly forecast. Much of the use of computers in schools 15 years from now will not require such powerful machines. A more reasonable forecast is that all students will be making routine use of the tools in an integrated package (word processor, spreadsheet, database, graphics, Web connectivity) as well as multimedia software and computer-assisted learning software. All of this software currently exists and runs reasonable well on today's mid-priced computers. It remains to be seen whether the educational value of such software will be substantially improved by use of a machine that is a hundred or a thousand times as fast.
Thus, as we look to the future, we will want to use some of this increasing availability of computer power to improve the ratio of computers per student. We might imagine having 10 times as many computers (a ratio of about 1.25 computers per student), with these computers averaging 200 times as much computer power. Many educators might find this to be a good allocation of the steadily increasing computer power. Every student could have a relatively powerful multimedia laptop computer. Every classroom could have additional more powerful machines with large displays.
A Worldwide View
Gordon Moore estimates that the chip factories of the world are now producing approximately one quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) transistors a year. This is approximately a sixth of a million transistors for each person on earth.
If there are no increases in dollar sales of chips, Moore's law predicts that 15 years from now yearly productivity will be 170 million transistors per person. That is roughly the number of transistors in today's 16 megabyte computer.
Worldwide dollar sales of chips have been increasing at an average rate of 15% a year for many years, and appear likely to continue this growth rate for another 15 years. If this forecast is combined with the forecast of Moore's law, 15 years from now the yearly worldwide productivity of transistors will exceed a billion transistors per person, for every person on earth.
This article takes a very simplistic view of the future of computers in schools. The focus is entire on computer power. There is no discussion of connectivity, teacher training, curriculum reform, instruction, or assessment. All of these are essential, and all will have substantial costs.
The point to this article is that computer hardware (computer power) will gradually become less of an issue. The focus of attention over the next couple of decades will be more and more toward curriculum, instruction, assessment, and staff development. The goal will be to use the increasing computer power in schools to improve the quality of education that students are receiving. This goal will be addressed in educational systems throughout the world.
Retrospective Comments 11/4/00
Moore's Law has continued to receive a lot of attention during the past few years. It appears that the rated of progress in chip technology during the past three years has exceeded the predictions provided by Moore's Law.
There seem to be two emerging schools of thought on Moore's Law. One says that by approximately 2006, Moore's Law will cease to be an accurate vehicle for forecasting, because we will have reached the end of what can be achieved with currently forecast improvements in silicone technology. The suggestion is that there will be a significant slowdown in the progress of producing chips with more capacity.
The other school of thought indicates that we will develop new techniques that may even produce faster improvements in chip technology than are forecast by Moore's Law.
Gordon Moore retired from Intel in 2001. Also in 2001, Gordon Moore made a commitment to contribute $600 million the California Institute of Technology over the next ten years, and he indicated he did not want the money to be used for constructing buildings.
Retrospective Comments 10/7/02
Recent articles have suggested that Moore's Law will continue to hole for at 10-15 more years. Moreover, during the past few years we have seen a still greater pace of improvement in disk storage and in telecommunications bandwidth.
Retrospective Comments 12/19/04The predictions as to when the Moore's Law will cease to be reasonably accurate have narrowed, with current estimates tending to be in the range of 8-10 years. Meanwhile, progress is continuing in quantum computers and optical computers. Major success in these areas might well lead to increased in computer capabilities that are beyond what Moore's Law would have predicted for that particular time.
Moursund, D.G. (1998).Some Hidden Costs of Computers. Learning and Leading with Technology. Vol. 25, No. 7.
We all know what it costs to buy a computer. Nowadays, one can get quite a good machine for less than $1,500. It even comes bundled with some application software such as a word processor and an integrated package.
With this sort of figure in mind, many people then develop a plan for acquiring a large number of computers for a school. They tend to assume that this initial cost is the full cost, and that any incidentals will be absorbed through existing budgets. For example, computers use electricity, but the electrical costs will be a modest part of the total electrical bill for the school or school district. Maybe they will need to do a little rewiring. This can be absorbed in building maintenance.
Unfortunately, such muddled thinking leads to a severely underbudgeted situation that fails to support the goals that a school has for information technology. Here are a few of the more obvious flaws in the budgeting process. There are no provisions for:
The list can easily be extended. For example, who pays for the teacher time for making the major changes in curriculum content, instructional processes, and assessment?
A good plan for information technology in the school addresses the costs of all of the types of items listed above. Some of the costs are ongoing, while others require an amortization schedule with provisions for periodically replacing outdated hardware and software. For the remainder of this article, I will address just items 4 and 5.
Over the past year, I have read several articles about the real cost of providing a corporate employee with a desktop computer. Much of this data comes from the Gartner Group, Inc. Quoting from its Web page (http://www.gartner.com):
Here is some Gartner Group, Inc., data from the May 26, 1997, issue of Business Week (p. 136) on the estimated annual costs of providing a corporate employee with desktop-computer support services. The figures are not the cost of the hardware, software, and connectivity, but the cost of the people who provide the needed technical and administrative support for the desktop computers that corporate employees use.
Notice the bottom line. The annual costs of the people needed to support the computer system user are far more than the costs of a medium-priced computer. One can argue about what these numbers might mean when translated into a school environment. For example, perhaps the administrative and technical support people in corporations are paid a lot more than corresponding people in a school setting. If so, then perhaps $3,201 per microcomputer user is too high.
Alternatively, one might argue that in a school setting there is apt to be a huge diversity of hardware and software, and much of the hardware is relatively old. Many of the machines have multiple users, which further complicates maintenance and support. Such arguments suggest that the $3,201 figure is too low.
Lets make this discussion more concrete. Suppose that a school has 500 students and approximately 30 to 35 educational and support staff. Assume that the school has one microcomputer per eight students (close to the national average in the United States), and a microcomputer for each staff member. This means that the school houses nearly 100 microcomputers. Further suppose that this is a local area network that is connected to a district network, the Internet, or both.
If we use the corporate figure of $3,201 per networked microcomputer, this would mean that annual support costs would be approximately $320,000or six full-time equivalents (FTE) of support personnel, assuming they are paid at the level of teachers and have an equivalent benefits package.
Of course, the reality of the situation is that a school with 500 students is lucky to have one full-time technology coordinator. Hardware maintenance and repairs that are beyond the skills of this person are contracted out to the school district or to a local business. The total level of support provided by this internal and external support system might be two FTE.
What can we say about the other four FTE of needed support?
Some schools and school districts are making good progress in implementing a partial but significant component of a solution to the problem. They are training students to play major technical and administrative support roles. This approach has now been tried in enough schools and school districts that many of the bugs have been worked out. It can work quite well. It can be beneficial to both the students who are learning to provide the needed support and the computer users who are receiving support from students.
A school district in Olympia, Washington, provides a good example of such a school site. You may want to check out its Web site (developed by the students) at http://kids.osd.wednet.edu.
How is your school district dealing with the technical, administrative, and network support issues? Id like to hear about innovative solutions.
Moursund, D.G. (1998). Project-Based Learning in an Information Technology Environment. Learning and Leading with Technology. Vol. 25, No. 8.
Project-based learning (PBL) has long been an important part of the repertoires of many teachers. Information technology (IT) has added new dimensions to PBL and increased its value in curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
In this column, I describe nine general characteristics of a PBL activity that is designed to be carried out in an IT environment. A project need not have all of these characteristics to provide a valuable learning experience for students, but you will likely find that the most successful IT-assisted PBL lessons have many of these desirable characteristics:
The following nine sections provide more detail on the nine considerations.
1. Learner-Centered Lessons
2. Authentic Content and Purpose
3. Challenging Projects
4. Product, Presentation, or Performance
5. Collaboration; Cooperative Learning
6. Incremental and Continual Improvement
7. Teacher Facilitated
8. Explicit Educational Goals
9. Rooted in Constructivism
Retrospective Comments 12/19/04
This editorial was written at a time when I was getting quite interested in Information and Communication Technology-Assisted Project-Based Learning. The eventual result was the book:
I created a Website to support my work in this area. Accessed 12/19/04: http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~moursund/PBL/. In addition, I have developed a 1-credit course on this topic, and given many workshops on this topic. A detailed syllabus for the course is available at (Accessed 12/19/04): http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~moursund/PBL/Syllabus641.html. For quite a few years, now, all of the courses I teach make extensive use of ICT-Assisted PBL. Thus, I role model what I want my preservice and inservice teachers to be learning about this important component of teaching. See the syllabi at (Accessed 12/19/04): http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~moursund/dave/teaching_courses.htm.