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1 February 2000 CD ROMs
David Petley
Author Affiliations +

Integrated Watershed Management CD ROM by H. Schreier, S. Brown, L. Lavkulich, and P. Zandbergen. Institute for Resources and Environement, University of British Columbia, 1999. C$100, US$75. Requires PC with Windows 3.1 or higher.

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The development of the multimedia computer and the world wide web seems to offer a multitude of opportunities for delivering courses in new and innovative ways. To date, progress appears to have been relatively slow in this area, probably due to a multitude of factors, one of which is the amount of time it takes to write such materials. The value of these media is only realized if the opportunities they provide include animated diagrams, video, sound effects, and interactive learning via question and answer sections, simulations, etc. The failure to make use of such potential means the resource becomes little more than an electronic book, and one that is generally more difficult to read and proves strenuous to use as a source of reference information.

The CD ROM Integrated Watershed Management is the major resource that accompanies a distance-learning course of the same name being offered by the University of British Columbia. The course, which assumes that the participant has a bachelor's degree in a cognate subject, runs over 14 weeks. As I did not register for the course, this review examines only the material available on the CD ROM.

The package must be installed on the hard drive of the user's computer, a process that is gratifyingly easy to complete. The menu allows easy navigation through the package, for which the authors should be congratulated. (However, in my copy, the Internet access button succeeded in linking to my browser but then failed to find a web page, returning an error message.)

The main part of the package is divided into 10 chapters. The first provides an introduction to watershed management, and subsequent chapters look at topics such as techniques, river hydrology, water quality, governance, land use issues, case studies, and watershed management. Each chapter starts off by introducing quite basic concepts, then seeks to develop the themes. For example, the introduction starts by explaining what is meant by the term watershed, then goes on to explain the advantages and disadvantages of the watershed approach to management. The text makes extensive use of animated diagrams in which the user is invited to move the cursor to specific locations in order to understand aspects of the topic. Thus, the package is interactive, although the user remains fairly passive, as the information is always available on demand. The linkage between different parts of the package is most impressive, allowing the user to follow lines of interest. In general, the depth of information available and the quality of presentation are very good, and every page seems to open up further avenues for exploration.

Throughout the package, the material provided is well written and factually accurate. Extensive use is made of photographs, and the detailed case studies are both useful and instructive. However, there is a strong North American bias in the choice of material, which is unfortunate, given that the course could and should have a global appeal. It is perhaps a shame that the legislative framework does not develop the theme of differing international approaches to the same problem, eg, comparing and contrasting the approaches used in Canada and in the European Union.

Overall, I think the material contained within this package is interesting, thoughtfully compiled, and well presented. My disappointment comes from the failure to utilize the possibilities of the system to the full by incorporating video footage, sound clips, etc. In the case examples section, eg, the material could have been brought alive by the inclusion of some real footage of the sites, allowing the user to develop a much better feel for the problems associated with each catchment. Similarly, one feels that the material could have been more interactive, with the use of self-assessment sections. As a general rule, I find it very difficult to absorb material presented on a computer monitor. The use of interactive material, in which I have to deduce the answers to problems, possibly by referring back to previous sections, greatly aids this process. In this package, this is required too infrequently.

In summary, this is a bold attempt to produce a useful electronic package. The amount of time and effort invested in the package by the authors and the clarity of the information presented are to be admired. The inclusion of a relatively small amount of extra (video and interactive) material would have greatly enhanced the package. However, it must be remembered that the primary aim of the CD ROM is to support a course in which I did not participate, and so its usefulness in that context cannot be ascertained.

David Petley "CD ROMs," Mountain Research and Development 20(1), 99, (1 February 2000).[0099:CR]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 February 2000
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