Ben Pingel, a faculty member at Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, is the winner of the 2021 Oaks Academic Technology Award. The annual award is sponsored by Academic Outreach & Innovation.

The Oaks award, named in honor of WSU Dean Emeritus Muriel Oaks, recognizes a faculty member’s innovative application of an existing technology to transform teaching and learning in their classroom.

“The use of new and innovative technology in higher education is very important, and the need to advance in this area is only growing as we look to the future,” said Jon Manwaring, assistant director of Learning Innovations. “All of the faculty members nominated for this award have shown a forward-looking focus when it comes to their classroom techniques, and that’s something we want to recognize and reward.”

Ben Pingel portrait
Ben Pingel

Pingel is being awarded in recognition of his innovative use of multiple software tools to allow students to get online assistance with highly involved software programs required for communication coursework. He will receive $3,000 in faculty development funds and a trophy in recognition of this achievement.

For his Multimedia Content Creation (COM 210) course, Pingel implemented the use of software tools including Zoom, Google Forms, Microsoft Bookings, and Microsoft Teams to enable virtual peer-to-peer and instructor-to-student mentoring and tutoring.

“I feel it’s my responsibility to help students understand and use the latest technology, so they’re prepared for their careers. But it’s also about using technology to enhance learning experience,” he said.

The COM 210 requires working with highly involved communication software including the Adobe Creative Suite. These advanced software skills can sometimes be difficult to convey using common online teaching methods like text tutorials and pre-recorded videos. Pingel’s work with new technology tools is meant to increase accessibility and effectiveness of virtual mentoring and tutoring sessions, allowing for a more interactive and hands-on learning experience for students who need it.

We’ve seen a huge increase in the quality of our students’ work,” said Pingel. “Our virtual lab is seeing higher numbers this semester than we’ve ever had, and every peer-mentoring appointment is getting booked up. It’s a relief for me to know that our students have this level of support available to them.”

WSU faculty members can nominate themselves or their colleagues for the Oaks award. The winner of the award is selected by a committee of members from each WSU campus, the provost’s office, the faculty senate, and Academic Outreach & Innovation.

“I’m honored and grateful to be selected for the Oaks Award,” said Pingel. “It’s incredible to teach at a place where my work and effort is recognized and appreciated.”

Oaks served as a pioneer and visionary for WSU from 1979 to 2010. Best known for her work in distance education, she saw the growing variety of learning technologies as an opportunity to support the land-grant mission, increase access to WSU programs, and improve the quality of the student experience.  Under her leadership, WSU was one of the first universities in the country to deliver video‑based distance education courses. Committed to making quality education available globally, she also oversaw the transition to fully online program offerings.

“My department chair, Stacey Hust, has been an incredible support through all of this. She has constantly encouraged me to try new things in my courses, and I couldn’t ask for a better department chair,” said Pingel. “I’m hopeful that some of the things I’ve done here can help others in the work they’re doing too.”