No matter how much expertise they may have, engineers occasionally need help keeping up with the latest and greatest innovations. To aid their efforts, National Semiconductor (www.national.com) has launched Analog University Online. It is the first analog-focused distance-learning university to offer free professional-engineering education. The site provides educational services and instant access to expertise, tools, and products.
This online university is designed to meet the information needs of novice, mid-career, and experienced design engineers alike. Its resources give designers fast access to technical information and training. In fact, it claims to help designers solve real-world semiconductor application issues in the shortest possible time.
Analog University (analogu.national.com) features beginning, intermediate, and advanced classes in eight different technologies: amplifiers, audio, data conversion, displays, low-voltage differential signaling (LVDS), power management, thermal management, and wireless. All of the classes are interactive multimedia learning experiences. They focus on the latest in-depth techniques for designing products with National's analog components. Each class module is built around a lesson plan that was designed by one or more of 16 National engineers, who form the university's first faculty.
Most Analog University lessons begin with an hour-long online streaming-media seminar. Students may access new live seminars or choose from the 22 archived seminars presented by faculty-member engineers. After the introductory seminar, each Analog University course progresses through interactive reading and research assignments. Courses also feature links to relevant materials, including data sheets, application notes, Knowledge Base, and WEBENCH design-simulation tools. Students move through the self-paced coursework and finish each lesson with an interactive, multiple-choice, computer-graded quiz. If a student misses a question, he or she will be directed to related reading resources. Once a student passes the quizzes, he or she will receive an online certificate for completing the course.
In conjunction with the university's launch, National has introduced the Knowledge Base (knowledgebase.national.com). This online tool was designed to work closely with Analog University. It claims to have the industry's most powerful natural-language search engine.
The Knowledge Base offers instant access to 1820 data sheets, 750 application notes, 350 frequently asked questions (FAQs), and The National Edge online monthly magazine. It also boasts a unique feature: "This Week's Peek Into the Mind of Bob Pease." This section highlights the well-known analog guru's humorous quote of the week, his articles, and links to seminars (see photo).
The Knowledge Base search engine is powered by iPhrase technology. It enables users to type concept-driven questions in natural conversational language. The system then interprets the request, retrieves the most pertinent data from multiple sources, and generates a results page that's tailored to the user's query. The system even recognizes abbreviations, variations in spelling, or different language usages. Analog University and the Knowledge Base are available 24 hours a day from any PC that's equipped with a Web browser.