John Boyer is well known around Virginia Tech’s campus as a charismatic, captivating professor of World Regions, whose unique teaching methods are unparalleled. Commonly referred to a the “Plaid Avenger,” the bespectacled man recognized for his Bill Nye the Science Guy attire and passionate demeanor is charged with leading the largest class at Virginia Tech of more than 3,000 students. But this year you won’t find him in the brick-and-mortar building he has called home for the past 15 years. No, this fall Boyer has taken his class act to the seas, literally teaching on a boat.

Semester at Sea, an independent study abroad program that journeys to 16 cities in 14 different countries, offered Boyer the opportunity to be a participating instructor on their epic voyage, which Boyer gladly accepted. But since he doesn’t retain a tenured status yet, the fantastic academic from Virginia Tech is now manning two jobs at once, teaching both a World Regions and Geography of Wine class for the SAS program, as well as the World Regions class for the Blacksburg school.

Pulling double duty means that Boyer’s now venturing across the world to scenic locations while broadcasting his lessons to students back home from location. Utilizing a vast variety of mediums like Skype,, Google Hangout and Spreecast, he’s doing podcasts while docked in Brazil, Ghana, Capetown, you name a place and he has probably taught from there.

His connection to students at Virginia Tech isn’t just limited to lectures, though. Boyer also hosts a series of live, interactive Q&A’s from around the world, just in case he happens to run into Fidel Castro or the president of South Africa. Because, you know … that could happen.

Boyer made a point of sketching out what his course taught entirely online this semester would look like prior to embarking on his voyage, intentionally coordinating his lectures with the locations he was due to visit. For example, he prepared a lecture on D-Day and its importance in European history for the date he would be on a trip to Ohama Beach in northern France. Smart, right? Now students have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the historical places they’re learning about without spending an arm and a leg to get there themselves.

So far Boyer has made quite a splash aboard the barge, but don’t take my word for it. Check out how this bright, innovative, technologically savvy mind is taking advantage of online resources to share his lessons with students back home.


Image via Virginia Tech