Sections, Chapters Take On Continuing Ed

The IEEE Expert Now E-Learning Outreach Program showcases the value of membership

6 November 2009

Section and chapter leaders looking for a way to illustrate the value of IEEE membership can point to the IEEE Expert Now E-Learning Outreach Program. Run as a pilot for the past two years, the program offers more than 100 hour-long tutorials from IEEE conferences and workshops. IEEE units have been showing the tutorials at continuing education events they’ve been organizing. The courses cover areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and robotics, as well as soft skills, including how to communicate effectively and how to manage people. Attendees can earn continuing education units or professional development hours after they complete a course assessment following the event.

Those wishing to put together a program of Expert Now tutorials should also arrange for a local expert to attend the meeting to discuss the topic and answer questions from the audience. Tutorials are available on CD-ROM or downloaded using the Learning Management System software available from the Expert Now site. The site also offers a best-practices guide to help organizers plan their event.

IEEE Educational Activities administers the program, helps organizers select tutorials to match members’ interests, provides feedback surveys for attendees to complete, and processes the paperwork to issue the credits.

Senior Member Carl Debono, chair of the IEEE Malta Section, showed the “Computational Intelligence: Natural Information Processing” tutorial to 15 people. He says he chose it because “it’s a hot research topic in the engineering and information and communications technology fields.” He served as the event’s expert because his research involves applied machine learning.

IEEE Member Doug Czinder, who chairs the Educational Activities Committee for the IEEE Southeastern Michigan Section and his local chapter of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, teamed up with the section’s chapter of the IEEE Computational Intelligence Society to present three tutorials in one day. “Type-2 Fuzzy Logic Controllers: Towards a New Approach for Handling Uncertainties in Real World Environments,” “Cooperative Control of Multiagent Systems: Synthesis and Experimentation,” and “A Software Design Method for Embedded Systems” drew 25 people. Czinder says he picked the three courses because the topics are at the leading edge of what’s happening in the robotics and computational fields.

“The tutorials generated ideas and conversation among people who might not otherwise be in touch with each other. It was a fun event for everyone,” Czinder says. “IEEE Expert Now is also a good program to show the value of membership.”

He has advice for other organizers: Start planning early to make sure you can get the experts you need to discuss the program. A scheduling conflict left him without experts to discuss the material.

“Even though we had a lot of good discussion without an expert, it would have been helpful to have one,” he says.

The IEEE Richland (Wash.) Section did have an expert on hand to discuss “Stuff You Don’t Learn in Engineering School.” The three-part tutorial covers setting priorities, making decisions, managing people, and communicating effectively. Member Shuai Lu, chair of the section’s Education Activities Committee, says he selected the courses because he wanted general-interest topics that “most members would find beneficial.” Each session drew about 20 people.

“Many attendees were young engineers who had just graduated with master’s or doctoral degrees, and they wanted to know more about the softer skills needed in the workplace,” Lu says. “Others worked in the lab and wanted to know what skills to develop to improve their overall performance.”

Lu, a manager at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, also in Richland, stressed the advantage of having experts present the material and share their experiences.

“Because the course is a prerecorded video, it’s delivered without consideration of the makeup of the audience or their specific questions,” he says. “The expert shares experiences that are relevant to them, and answers questions.”

One of his section’s goals in holding the educational seminars, he says, is to show that “members belong to a great organization that has, as one of its main objectives, developing its members’ skills.”

Sections or chapters can order courses from the IEEE Expert Now catalog.

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