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Materials Science on CD-ROM version 2.1

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Review

This is an extract taken from Information World Review, 122, February 1997

LEARNED INFORMATION 1997

Perfect material for scientists

Mat Sci on CD-ROM book cover Materials Science on CD-ROM version 1.1 is an interactive learning tool for students and teachers alike. Dulcie Pettigrew, Subject Librarian of Materials, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle gave it an overwhelming thumbs-up. Version 1.1 is an interactive learning tool for students and teachers alike. Dulcie Pettigrew, Subject Librarian of Materials, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle gave it an overwhelming thumbs-up.

Materials Science on CD-ROM is a computer-based, student-level text, published as a result of the work of the MATTER materials teaching project. The modules can be used by students individually and at their own pace. They are also suitable for lecturers who wish to supplement their lecture or tutorial notes.

Scope and quality of information

At present the modules cover the following topics: electrons in crystals, the mechanics of composite materials, an introduction to phase diagrams, nucleation in metals and alloys, atomic diffusion in metals and alloys, an introduction to point defects, dislocations, an introduction to electron microscopes, image fundamentals, beam-specimen interactions and a glossary. Further modules are being prepared for 1997/98 and beyond.

The package has been developed by a team of academics from a number of universities. As the modules have been prepared by teachers with experience of presenting key materials science concepts to students, the quality of the information is excellent. The use of computer technology also gives students the chance to learn interactively, which gives the publication advantages over standard textbooks even though they might offer a similar quality of information.

The accompanying manual is aimed at the teacher and includes detailed information about each module, written by the academic who prepared it. Each section follows the same format, covering the assumed level of pre-knowledge required for the topic, the module structure - showing the content of the module and including illustrations, functions and graphs - and a bibliography.

Ease of use

The CD-ROM contains both MS Windows and Macintosh versions. It is easy to load and easy to use. The accompanying book suggests that students have had basic Windows training before starting, but the on-screen help is so supportive that this does not seem necessary.

Each module is prefaced by a contents screen. The student can then choose to work through the entire module, or jump to a section of particular interest. The glossary is accessible through the ‘hot word’ facility, and should be useful for revision purposes. Not all the screens are interactive, but those that are use the interactive facility in an interesting way.

Value for Money

This is the first time I have come across reasonably priced software for materials science which is available commercially. Development costs have presumably been subsidised by the input from the Higher Education Funding Councils. The CD-ROM will be an essential acquisition for university libraries and engineering departments. While it does not give the breadth of coverage found in some student textbooks (eg Ashby & Jones' Engineering Materials), the interactive learning element will make it a useful tool at a reasonable price.

Conclusion

This is a worthwhile and reasonably priced package. It will be welcomed by students who would like to learn at their own pace; by lecturers who can incorporate the material into their lecture and tutorial plans; and by the university subject librarians who are on the lookout for material in a modern format. I look forward to the appearance of further modules in 1997/98 and hope that these will make more extensive use of interactive elements.

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