Ask Joe Ben Hoyle, associate professor of accounting, about his most memorable teacher and he can't come up with one name. Ask nearly any Robins School of Business student from the past 30 years to name their favorite college professor, and the response is likely to be, “Joe Ben Hoyle.”

“I was so frustrated by not having any great teachers and that was probably the biggest influence on me,” Hoyle says. “… I missed that so badly. I always wanted that. Now, nothing pleases me more than when a student sits [in my office] and we chat for hours.”

It’s not unusual to find a student — or two — stopping by Hoyle’s eclectically decorated office for a chat. Former students keep in touch from all over the world, catching up with Hoyle to discuss business, or simply to talk about what is going on in their lives.

Unlike some who lecture from the same notes year after year, Hoyle keeps things fresh by teaching with the challenging question-and-answer Socratic method more typical to law schools.

In January 2010, Hoyle will bring his teaching style to a wider audience, with the radically different, free textbook “Financial Accounting” published online by Flat World Knowledge.

“I literally want to change how textbooks are done,” Hoyle says. “My goal is to do whatever it takes to get people to pay attention to this book."

This “textbook for the 21st century” is entirely Socratic. Each of the book’s interactive chapters is broken into 40 to 50 questions and answers. Each chapter is preceded and followed by a 10-minute video in which Holye introduces and reinforces the concepts taught in each chapter.

“What I had envisioned was bringing a very sharp student into my office,” he explains, “and basically we are having a conversation, with the student asking questions and I am providing the answer. [The Socratic format] allows you to make better transitions and connections.”

Hoyle will start using the textbook with his introductory financial accounting class in the 2010 spring semester.

While a free textbook is a radical idea, Hoyle is generous about sharing his knowledge. His short book, “Tips and Thoughts on Improving the Teaching Process in College,” is available free through his Website. He speaks about teaching at colleges and universities across the country and will not accept a speaker’s fee. And despite teaching a lucrative and highly successful CPA-review class for 24 years, he now offers a free, online review course, CPA Review for Free. The site has received more than 7.4 million page views to date.

Hoyle feels a deep responsibility to pass on his knowledge of teaching to others who can benefit. “I don’t like to make money from helping people to become better teachers,” he says. “I don’t want it to be a mercenary project. … I think that’s something you should be willing to share with people.”

Hoyle’s dedication to teaching has been recognized with many prestigious awards. In 2009, Accounting Today named him one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting” for his influence in the classroom. He was the Virginia winner in the U.S. Professors of the Year Competition in 2007 and has received numerous University of Richmond Distinguished Educator awards. In spring 2008, the seniors at the Robins School of Business named him “The Person I Would Choose If I Could Only Have One Professor.” In 2009 he was chosen by students to present the university’s first  “last lecture,” which he delivered to an overflow audience of students, faculty and alumni.

Hoyle exhibits no false modesty about his accomplishments — he is proud to list his accolades. But at this point in his career, he says there is only one award that matters: “At my age,” he jokes, “I want people to say, ‘He’s still a good teacher.’”