About me

I am an Associate Professor of Teaching at the University of British Columbia. I work in two units: Department of Physics & Astronomy and Vantage College. You can contact me by e-mail: rieger(AT)phas.ubc.ca

Vantage College aka Vantage One is a first-year program for academically strong students who do not quite meet the English Language requirement for direct entry. This 11-month program combines first-year coursework with academic mentorship and English language resources to enhance overall student performance.

I teach mostly first-year undergraduate physics courses and I engage extensively in course development. My research interests are closely related to my teaching. My current interests are (a) supporting students’ self-regulated learning, (b) open-educational resources, (c) blended/hybrid learning and (d) assessment.

My own education took place in Germany and I received a Dipl. Phys. (diploma) from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in 1990 and a Dr. rer. nat. (Ph.D.) in physics also from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in 1993. After that I went to France and spent two years at the Université de Caen, working as a postdoc in atomic spectroscopy. I then moved to Canada to continue my work in atomic spectroscopy with Eric Pinnington at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. In 1999, still at the U of A, I joined Bob Fedosejev’s group in Electrical Engineering, working on laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS).

In 2000, my wife Caroline got a tenure-track position at the University of British Columbia and we moved to Vancouver, where we have been ever since. I first taught a few lab sections and shortly after also large first-year lecture sections. At the same time, I joined Jeff Young’s group as a research associate where I worked on the optical characterization of photonic crystals. Over time, I became increasingly more interested in teaching and learning and finally switched to full-time teaching and physics education research in 2012.

My teaching and my educational research are strongly influenced by Carl Wieman and the Carl Wieman Education Initiative (CWSEI). I joined the CWSEI in 2007 and served as its departmental director in physics  from 2011 – 2015. The interactions with Carl and the members of the group have led my to an evidence-based approach to my teaching. I am now in the habit of critically evaluating any innovation that I implement in my courses and I actively seek evidence that something has really worked. Often times, I can’t find clear evidence, but I usually learn something from it. Occasionally a new approach does seem to work better and then I write it all up and you can hear about it at a conference and (if all goes well) read it in one of my publications.

In my teaching, I am particularly interested in active learning methods to engage all students in such large classes. I use a worksheet-based approach and small-group work, supported by clicker questions. The active learning approach in class is matched by using two-stage exams, where part two of the exam is written collaboratively in small groups. The two-stage format and its implementation in large physics courses is described in two of my publications and a book chapter. I am actively engaged in blended learning where I have explored the use of an edX edge (edge.edx.org) platform to support student learning outside of class. At this point, the three courses that I am usually involved in are all hosted on edX.edge. What I particularly like about edX is that it allows the close integration chapters from an open textbook (openstax), worksheet questions, homework sets and tests, all on one website.