The technology enhanced learning team’s Will Goodyear recently ‘sat down’ for a virtual chat with Professor Thomas Prellberg where they discussed his work and role within the university, how it relates to E-learning and to highlight some of his current work and projects within the school.
Professor Thomas Prellberg is a researcher within the School of Mathematical Sciences, where he also serves as the Director of Learning Environment. Whilst not a learning technologist, he is much more than just an academic colleague who knows his way around a PC, having been involved in projects and work which support the delivery of Mathematics teaching at Queen Mary. He has been with the University since 2004 and previously served as the Director of Taught Programmes within the School of Mathematical Sciences alongside his research and teaching.
Thomas’s involvement with E-learning at QM stretches back many years, but one of the earliest and most enduring projects was the spearheading of the adoption of My Math Lab into teaching at QM, an interactive study tool created by Pearson Education which helps support teaching and learning of Maths. Introduced to QM in 2008 the system is still used in the School for teaching today, a level of longevity for an e-learning tool which is most uncommon.
Thomas identifies the success of this project as potentially being responsible for his being identified as something of an e-learning expert within the school which, after his period as Director of Taught Education ended, led to a new role supporting learning technology and his teaching colleagues issues relating to QMplus and e-learning more generally.
Fast forward a few years and with the pandemic hitting, Thomas found himself much more involved with supporting the delivery of teaching online and all the practicalities around it. His focus was ensuring that throughout the pandemic the school was able to deliver Maths-appropriate teaching, utilising document cams, tablets and other technology and applications so that as much of what makes the classroom experience of learning mathematics unique was preserved through online learning.
Building on this and moving back into the ‘new normal’ for teaching and learning, Thomas has also been involved in the transition into mixed mode education with the School, looking to realign the positive outcomes from online delivery with what can be done in classrooms so that students can participate fully in teaching regardless of their personal circumstances. His work here has involved a mix of guidance and support activities but also preparing and troubleshooting in-class issues with equipment resulting in the establishment of a ‘SWAT team’ for supporting the Maths-specific learning environment for MME teaching.
It was in the wake of the challenges of the pandemic and returning to MME which led to Thomas’ taking up the role of Director of Learning Environment, which he holds now.
Whilst committed to teaching and helping the school delivering Maths education as best as it can, Thomas is also keen to stress he is a academic and researcher first, not a learning technologist. In his own words, he “likes counting”, with his research interests centred around statistical mechanics which involves understanding the physics of large systems, building on his training as a physicist. You can find out more about his research interests and background on his staff profile.