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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk


Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

How to Crash an Engineering Course at Rice University Lynnette Reese

    I never thought that I would be sitting in on an EE class, years after graduating, taught by a Professor Emeritus at Rice University. I snuck in at the tail end of the course when he was in the middle of discussing op amps. I feel so guilty; I haven’t paid the university a dime, but I am excited to be here. I settle in and listen for a while. No one asks any questions; I assume they are all busy taking notes. Then I sped up time a bit so things would go 25% faster, since I had seen most of this before. It’s handy, but you have to have a MOOC to do that.


    MOOC stands for Massive Open On-line Course. More open source stuff! Free class video lectures of about 30 minutes each will have you discussing dependent voltage sources in no time.

    The Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering course from Rice University is online at It made me realize how much my knowledge had faded. Oops. Most people don’t know the difference between an electrical circuit and an electronic circuit. Watch the lesson for Week 3 to find out. I really like the professor, Don Johnson; he’s articulate and thorough. The site says: “Don H. Johnson is the J.S. Abercrombie Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice University, Houston, Texas.” And I can see why; he’s got this course covered, he’s been teaching it for years.

    A little research shows that University of Texas says they spend from $150 - $300K to put a course online, and these courses do not offer college credit, although you can get a certificate of completion (although only 1 – 13% actually take a MOOC to completion.)

    It’s unclear as to whether universities will continue to produce these classes and offer them free online. I hope they do. There’s no advertising at the Coursera site. The professor didn’t drink from a prominent Coke cup like on those TV talent shows. Neither to other MOOCs that I have visited (although there can always be a “first,” since they do cost money to produce.) I still wonder how Twitter plans to make money, and yet I would not mind in the least if the right frame of the Fundamentals course had an ad for an op amp or a robot kit. Coursera has several universities signed up to teach online. Other MOOCs to check out are Udacity, edX, and the Open Learning Initiative, which apparently has been around for a decade. Look at a list of MOOCs at for an idea of just how many there are.

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Lynnette Reese holds a B.S.E.E from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Lynnette has worked at Mouser Electronics, Texas Instruments, Freescale (now NXP), and Cypress Semiconductor. Lynnette has three kids and occasionally runs benign experiments on them. She is currently saving for the kids’ college and eventual therapy once they find out that cauliflower isn’t a rare albino broccoli (and other white lies.)

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