Communication Professor Zach Justus Receives Sony Technology Award

Date: 03-24-2014

Sarah Langford
Public Affairs

California State University, Chico communication professor Zach Justus has received an award from Sony for his use of technology to improve student learning. 

Each year, the Sony Electronics Faculty Award for Innovative Instruction with Technology recognizes four early career CSU faculty members for their use of technology in the classroom. Justus, who teaches speech communication and organizes the semiannual Chico Great Debate, was selected for using technology to enhance student interaction, reduce costs and improve course assessments. He received a robust package of electronics, including a VAIO laptop computer, Xperia tablet and a Cyber-shot digital camera.

Shortly after joining the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences in 2009, Justus worked with the University’s Technology and Learning Program (TLP) to covert the lecture portion of a large public-speaking course from prerecorded to live stream. Used by 95 percent of students enrolled in the course, the new format contains interactive tools allowing real-time response to polls and question prompts.

He also helped drive down the cost of that course by switching to an online textbook and digitizing supplemental materials. The changes have saved each student about $111 per semester.

Most recently, Justus turned to technology to help assess student learning at the Great Chico Debate, an event drawing more than 2,000 students to the city center for a day of discussion and dialogue about a key issue. The event is the cornerstone of the First-Year Experience, a program to help freshmen transition to campus. By using Google forms to collect post-debate feedback, he and others helped identify that more than 40 percent of students see themselves differently after participating.

“Our student population lives with digital technologies,” he said. “As instructors, we must learn how to leverage that experience rather than fight it.”

As an award recipient, Justus has been invited to participate in Sony’s educational online forum and share his practices with others.

He holds a doctorate degree in communication from Arizona State University and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in human communication and speech communication, respectively, from CSU, Chico.

“The Sony award granted to Dr. Justus will elevate further the long and significant achievements of Chico State in our integration of technology and academic excellence through programs like Academy e-Learning/TLP and the public sphere pedagogy in the First-Year Experience,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Belle Wei.