Instructor Stories

Tales from the front lines. Stories from professors using zyBooks in their classroom.

Increasing competency in C

Even to the most seasoned instructor, when 450 students take their seats on the first day of class, the landscape can feel intimidating. Confident achievers sit down in the lecture hall beside curious learners and annoyed students. Some arrive with years of coding experience, whereas others are just starting out. How can an instructor possibly meet the needs of such a disparate array of students and offer each a path to success? For Dr. Robert Gysel, a professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Davis, the solution is zyBooks. “I use zyBooks mainly for one of our lower-division core computer science courses, which is taught using C,” Dr. Gysel explains. Since C is considered a general purpose language, it is a prerequisite not only for computer science majors, but for engineers as well. Consequently, students with diverse backgrounds and skill sets are required to enroll in Dr. Gysel’ more ››

A better way to promote active learning in a MATLAB course

One of the more challenging courses to teach in an engineering discipline is computer programming. Focusing only on algorithms and programming blocks leaves little time to build a connection to daily engineering problems. On the other hand, teaching based on problem solving does not allow for a deeper comprehension of algorithm development. “Finding the right balance between these approaches was the issue that we had faced in the Cal Poly Pomona Aerospace Engineering Department for teaching MATLAB,” Dr. Nakhjiri explains. “I decided to try a different approach.” A traditional textbook cannot adequately engage the students in the process of learning. “No textbook could provide the level of student interaction I was hoping for, until I found the MATLAB zyBook,” he notes. The zyBook platform not only encourages the student to become an active learner; it also challenges the traditional learning environment with a focus on hands-on experience. “Cal Poly more ››

Discrete Math: out with the tome, in with the zyBook

Dr. Sandy Irani is a longtime Professor of Computer Science at UC Irvine. And like any good professor, she constantly looks for ways to improve the classroom experience. But over the years, Dr. Irani has kept running into the same issue; the classic textbook for her Discrete Mathematics course (considered the “standard” across universities) was just not as effective as she had hoped. At 800 pages, the textbook was large, heavy, and had a $230 price tag to match. Students balked at the price, and many did not buy the book. Instead, they tried to get 100% of the class’s content from lectures alone. This frustrated Dr. Irani since “a key component of the learning process — preparation and reinforcement via text — was missing.” Of the students who did spend $230 on the book, even fewer actually used it. “I struggled with how to convey the crucial information more ››

User spotlight: Dr. Nelly Cardinale, Eastern Florida State College

The year was 1979, the screen was black and the text was orange. This was the year Dr. Nelly Cardinale purchased her first computer, an Apple II.  It came with four textbooks on programming and nothing else.  “If you wanted to do anything on the computer back then, you had to do it yourself,” Cardinale explains. “There were no apps or programs.  You had to write your own.” She taught herself the Applesoft Basic Programming language, and Nelly’s passion for programming was borne. In January 1994, shortly after the Internet was available to the general public, Dr. Cardinale began teaching the Pascal programming language. Later that year, a second version of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) was released. At that time, the college where she taught did not even have a website. She collaborated with a former college professor, who opened up the first Internet Service Provider (ISP) in her area, more ››

Success in learning and teaching

Wendy Hankes has taught high school classes for 24 years and is an expert at picking up new things fast. But when the principal of Big Spring High School in Pennsylvania asked her to teach a brand new Intro to Java course the next school year, even Ms. Hankes was overwhelmed. “I was going to be teaching Java and I did not know anything about Java,” Hankes remembers. With only a few months at her disposal, Hankes rushed to sign up for a popular online Java course, but it was not helpful. “I did not get much out of it,” Hankes says. Then Hankes heard about zyBooks from a fellow instructor. She sat down with the Programming in Java zyBook and, in the span of one summer, taught herself how to program in Java well enough so that she could teach it. With the school year rapidly approaching, Big more ››