Olivier Lévêque

Prize in the Communication Systems section 2015 and 2016

Olivier Lévêque’s goal is to leave no one behind. Professor Lévêque has been teaching since 2002 and runs an introductory course on computer and communication sciences. The best part of his job is the contact with students and passing along what he knows, regardless of his students’ level. “I try to teach everyone in a given class: students who aren’t studying computer science appreciate the fact that my teaching isn’t geared to those in the know,” he said.

In class, new technologies sit comfortably alongside traditional teaching approaches. “It’s still common to have 200 students in a lecture hall – because it works,” he added. Lévêque didn’t think twice before adding video to his repertoire, and he believes that there is a place for MOOCs. But for him, new doesn’t necessarily mean better. And it’s not a question of taking the easy way out, he says, given the time required to prepare a lesson plan the good old fashioned way.

In the same vein, he prefers writing on the chalkboard rather than using transparencies “because that way we can’t get ahead of ourselves.” He insists on only going as fast as the class allows him. “You have to be realistic about what the students really take away from a course. I want to be sure that most of the students understand the fundamentals, and not overload them with information,” he said. This means that interacting with the class is given priority and that there are no stupid questions. “There’s nothing more humiliating than to be put in one’s place by the teacher in front of a hundred people!”

In addition to his teaching and research, Lévêque also supervises a large number of student projects, and one of his PhD students even won the EPFL Doctorate Award. Apart from his first-year course, he developed several advanced Master’s and PhD courses that are also open to students in financial engineering and technology management. Lévêque was awarded the teaching prize in the Communication Systems section thanks to his commitment to his students and the quality of his teaching.