Instructional programs of the future will be more interactive and user-friendly than the lecture and fixed-sequence documentaries of today. Computer aids for learning may be built into new manufacturing technologies themselves, as well as installed in stand-alone workstations for educational purposes. Multimedia and virtual reality technology may hold promise for providing a flexible, socially acceptable, and nonthreatening interface for educational and skill-building programs; an NII and future home and factory systems offer the means to distribute and use such programs. The delivery systems will have to provide overview data as well as fundamental knowledge. NSF support of these technologies, perhaps through Education and Human Resources Directorate programs, could increase the skill base of the manufacturing sector, as well as of other sectors of society in general.
The challenge of providing new educational technology can easily be underestimated. But it is a complex, multifaceted task. The target population spans a wide range of educational backgrounds, capabilities, and needs. Some individuals will want a high-level overview of the material, and others will want in-depth courses with detailed practice sessions. The work force today spans multiple languages in the domestic United States, and specific topics will also be made available to people in other countries and from different cultures. Thus the content of educational programs and information is critical, the quality of presentation must meet modern expectations, and usability must be tunable to purpose.