Campus Life

Teaching high tech

Mark Pijl-Zieber (BN '93) doesn't consider himself a technological wizard, but he does say the technology he utilizes works magic with his students.

Pijl-Zieber earned his graduate degree from UBC in 1999 and was employed there until 2002 when he was hired as an instructor with the Faculty of Health Sciences at the U of L. While he has had a long-term fascination with technology and its multitude of applications (he produced a recruitment video for the U of L while still a student here), he has found particular usefulness for technology in his approach to teaching.

Initially, the only technology Pijl-Zieber relied on rested in the palm of his hand – a PDA which he used to help remember significant student achievements and incidents. He would record them as dictated audio clips and written notes, and he also used the PDA extensively as a portable knowledge and text-book database.

But since 2005, he has used the Internet more extensively as a teaching tool, structuring his classes in a way that blends online forums with in-class lectures. The approach has proven extraordinarily successful. Not only are his students well prepared and motivated when they come to class, attendance numbers tend to be higher as well – upward of 95 per cent at every lecture.

"The balance between online and in-class work is what students really respond to," Pijl-Zieber notes. "They like the flexibility of doing much of their learning online, and they tend to interact and contribute more freely in that forum than they do in person."

Up to 50 per cent of course content can be done online in any of Pijl-Zieber's classes – a ratio that he has no plans to decrease. He creates a page for each of his courses where students gather information and access reading material. Group work can also be done online, and a discussion board allows class members to contribute thoughts and ideas about the material.

The feedback that Pijl-Zieber has received indicates that students really connect with this teaching approach.

"This method is one of the best approaches I've ever found to delivering our curriculum, and it makes teaching a pleasure."