Pfeiffer Awarded for Improving Teaching and Learning Through Technology

June 12, 2020

Portrait of Ferris Pfeiffer

Assistant Prof. Ferris Pfeiffer in the Department of Biomedical, Biological & Chemical Engineering.

Ferris Pfeiffer, a professor in the Biological, Biomedical and Chemical Engineering Department, won an Excellence in Teaching with Technology Award from MU Course Design & Technology in May. Pfeiffer won in the Graduate/Professional Teaching category.

The Award recognizes the efforts of those who use technology to “meaningfully improve teaching and learning at Mizzou,” according to their website.

Pfeiffer credits Heather Hunt, Mizzou Engineering associate professor and E-Learning Strategic Initiatives Fellow, and the staff of MU Course Design & Technology, especially Mary Decker, in bringing his course from in-person to online.

“There was a lot more to bringing a class online than I expected. They helped me every step along the way,” Pfeiffer said.

“Choose Your Own Adventure” Course

Pfeiffer is proud how his course, Biological Engineering 8180: Numerical Methods in Engineering Research, transformed from in-person to 100% online. He said his graduate students liked his approach to have more freedom in responses to their assignments.

“I gave students multiple ways to receive the course information (videos, textbook and research articles). Students were also able to choose their own assignment style,” Pfeifer said. “A student could take a quiz, solve problems, or make a video of themselves solving a problem and explaining the solution.”

Students had to submit at least three responses from each category. Some of the videos lasted 15-20 minutes and were similar to a YouTube instructional video.

“A student would use a screen capture function, start at the beginning of the problem, and proceed to explain the solution,” Pfeiffer said.

Diversified Learning

Pfeiffer wanted his students to take risks so they could learn to be more creative and flexible in their assignments. That meant he needed to be flexible in teaching them.

“Not everyone learns the same way. It doesn’t matter to me how my students learn, just as long as they learn. It takes more time to prepare my course, but I allow my students to have some freedom in how they receive information and create assignments,” Pfeiffer said.

According to Pfeiffer, feedback from students was positive and they liked the approach to have more freedom in their responses.

As an award winner, Pfeiffer will receive $750 that can be applied to expenses for educational technology. He will also be invited to showcase his work to the Mizzou community. Most MU faculty members, along with graduate instructors, teaching assistants and select support staff, are eligible for this annual award.