Mark Wolters changing teaching game with media

If students are lucky enough, they’ll look back on their education and remember at least one teacher who stands out in their memory — the teacher who took the time to get to know them, went beyond their job description and made minutes spent in class fly by. For students taking Dr. Mark Wolters’ class, there’s a chance that “Wolters” will be a name stuck in their memories for years to come.

Wolters, visiting assistant professor in the College of Business, is single-handedly changing the teaching game at the University, and his students are willingly along for the ride. Between Twitter feeds during class to uploading 700 videos to his teaching-related YouTube account, it seems as though Wolters will stop at nothing to accomplish his goal of getting students to get the most out of learning.

After receiving his undergraduate degree from the University, Wolters didn’t waste any time when it came to discovering the world. Wolters has teaching experience in both Lithuania and Portugal. Some of the places that he has called home over the years are Australia, Finland, Vienna, Argentina, Germany and Brazil.

Travel is a passion of Wolters’ and has become a family affair — his wife and two children have accompanied him on his adventures. After finding that travel books were not helpful enough, he decided to put the travel information he learned through his own experiences to good use through his YouTube account, “Wolters World – Travel, Languages & Life Abroad.”

“I started making all these videos, such as five things you’ll love about going to Portugal or Italy,” Wolters said. “Next thing you know, we’ve got 700 videos for language learning, travel stuff and just all kinds of information.”

With over 2,500 subscribers and over 1,550,000 video views, it’s apparent Wolters’ travel advice has been taken in by a wide audience ­— but his use of video doesn’t stop there.

“He plays his videos in lecture, which makes class more interesting and really gives us as students a sense of the world in a bigger way,” said Kaitlin Fanning, junior in Business.

Wolters started making videos because, as a former student himself, he knew that studying doesn’t always happen when it should.

“I started making the videos actually to help my students study for exams in case the TA’s weren’t there,” Wolters said. “You know, students don’t always study at 4 in the afternoon — it could be at 3 in the morning.”

Creating videos is just one of the many ways Wolters ensures that his students will have an enjoyable learning experience. Between cracking jokes and incorporating social media into lectures, Wolters’ class is not one students choose to nap in.

“I always found that if you believe in your course work, you believe in what you’re doing, and you’re very passionate about it, then it’s easy to put humor into it,” Wolters said. “You remember jokes, you remember funny things.”

Wolters does his best to accommodate students, especially in classes that have a few hundred people in them. By putting a Twitter feed up in front of the class, students can tweet at Wolters’ account during class about any answers or questions they may have — a perfect solution for the student who is too shy to speak in front of a 300-person lecture.

“I like having the Twitter feed up during class because it gives me an opportunity to comment or ask about things that I normally wouldn’t,” said Linda Dunne, junior in Media.

When asked how he makes himself stand out to students, Wolters gave a very simple reply: “I say hi.”

For many students, the transition from high school teachers to college professors can be a difficult one. It’s much harder to create a personal connection with a teacher in college considering there is less time in class and larger class sizes.

However, Wolters makes a point of walking through hallways before class starts, asking students how they’re doing, and writing personal emails to students about things they’ve accomplished.

Wolters prides himself in knowing that he tries to prepare students as much as possible.

“My main point is that I want to prepare them for the moment they walk out to go get a job,” Wolters said. “I don’t want to teach them definitions because that will never help them in the real world. Practical experience is what they need.”

It’s obvious that Wolters has true concern for his students because even though he’s a man with an excellent education in business, he knows that students have to do what’s right for them.

“Some students get on a path and say ‘my dad really wants me to do this’ or ‘my mom really wants me to do this,’” Wolters said. “I’m like, that’s great but you’re looking yourself in the mirror, so do what makes you happy.”

In fact, Wolters has followed his own advice throughout his life, even though he also felt pressure from his dad to become something he didn’t want to be. By following and accomplishing his own dream, Wolters is able to work every day with the people who mean the world to him — his students.

“I don’t go to class for the paycheck and I don’t go to class to sit in my office with no windows,” Wolters said. “I go to work because I love seeing the students. I think that goes in with the humor and enthusiasm because I love being here.”

After settling back into living in the United States, Dr. Wolters admits that even though living in a European capital is a bit more interesting than living in Champaign, his ultimate love of teaching lies at the University.

“I’ve loved teaching here the most. The students have been the most challenging in terms of the stuff they ask, what they do and how much they want to learn,” Wolters said.

Ultimately, Wolters is a person who has followed his two passions, travel and teaching, to the highest level. Happiness is Wolters’ specialty, which is shown through the simple advice he gives.

“Just do what makes you happy,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”

_Taylor can be reached at [email protected]_