College of Engineering -- University of Wisconsin-Madison
hanks to Assistant Professor Julie Jacko's computer interface research, there may be a brighter future for computer users who experience various visual impairments. Jacko (right), who received a five-year, $500,000 NSF PECASE Award for her project, and PhD student Josey Chu (left), are working to identify systematic approaches to matching software and hardware that accommodate users' visual capabilities.
Jacko is collaborating on the project with ophthalmologists from the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami School of Medicine. One of the team's approaches is monitoring a person's eye movement using an eye-tracking device while simultaneously tracking a cursor's position on the computer screen. "We will then be able to correlate movement of the cursor and movement and position of the eyes as computer-based work is performed by low-vision users," Jacko says. She also incorporates EEG measurement, which records activity that occurs in the visual cortex when a person is performing visual work. "We anticipate observing differences between people with and without low vision, and between different diagnosis groups," says Jacko.
Her research may lead to the development of commercially available software that will enhance the user's perceptual experience to a level close to that of a normally sighted user.
Curriculum redesign fits a changing world
When IE faculty considered revising and updating the department's curriculum, they asked themselves, "What should IE students know, understand and be able to do when they graduate?"
They solicited input not only from curriculum advisory committees, but also students and alumni, who answered questions about which courses were the most and least useful, and which skills they considered most important. The faculty also considered industry challenges and trends, how graduates measure success, and ABET accreditation criteria.
The result? The department reduced the number of credits students need to graduate from 130 to 121, changed the content and structure of many IE courses, worked with other departments and schools to revise the content of courses IE students take, and developed an integrated design experience that spans all four years of the IE curriculum.
New consortium aids E-commerce education
Members of academia, government and industry can share information about navigating the turbulent technological waters of electronic commerce through the new Global E-Business Consortium, developed by Associate Professor Dharmaraj ("Raj") Veeramani. Through the consortium, faculty and students from such disciplines as engineering, computer sciences, business and law, government, and representatives from companies of all sizes, particularly those in the manufacturing, retailing and associated industry sectors, can create, integrate, transfer and apply knowledge of emerging electronic commerce technologies, business processes and organizational strategies.
Because of the variety and rapidly changing nature of electronic commerce technologies, the consortium, which debuted in fall 1998, fills the need for an unbiased, holistic and trusted forum for collaborative learning, creative experimentation and information exchange.
"It's not just a technological issue," says Veeramani. "To survive and prosper in this dynamic environment, companies will have to completely rethink their business and how they conduct it." The consortium will offer seminars, workshops, roundtable discussions and symposia, and will conduct research through faculty-student projects to identify and understand the most effective uses for electronic commerce. The group also has created a website that features a weekly newsletter, discussion forums, educational materials, case studies, frequently asked questions, job postings and a help desk.
Online support for overcoming alcohol abuse
People struggling with alcohol abuse soon may have a new support resource in CHESS II, a computer program developed and modified by Professor David Gustafson, Professor of Child and Family Studies Linda Roberts and Professor of Family Medicine Michael Fleming. To incorporate factors that affect alcohol-consumption decisions, the group is reworking the Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (CHESS), a program that provides online support services and interactive information to people with health crises or medical concerns.
"In order for us to really try to do something effective for this group of people, we have to recognize the kinds of things that lead them to drink; we have to try and overcome these," says Gustafson. "We're doing a model that does that. The program follows a strategy that takes people from where they are, not only as individuals but in their relationships with others, and moves them step by step through a change process."
CHESS II will include modules dealing with various active steps of change, a user-friendly cartoon wizard called Merlin to help people navigate the program, and point/counterpoint characters depicting struggles and decisions drinkers face when they're trying to quit. The program also helps users view setbacks as learning opportunities, and will telephone participants who have not signed on for a week to encourage them to continue using CHESS II.
Gustafson hopes CHESS will expand into areas such as stop-smoking and weight-loss programs. "This program is spawning a wealth of ideas on how to adapt CHESS to make it more effective in the behavior-change area," he says.
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