Video: Professor Goes ‘Viral’ With Help From Snoop Dogg

Last month, Professor Benny Ng was looking for material to welcome his new students to Chem 60 at Los Angeles Pierce College. Ng had recently started ACUE’s course in Effective Online Teaching Practices and completed the first module, Welcoming Student to Online Learning. He wanted to create a lighthearted welcome video to assuage his students’ fears about online learning—and encourage them to read the syllabus.

That’s when he stumbled upon a short video of Snoop Dogg circulating on social media. A network of colleagues across the continent had each kicked in money to have the legendary rapper record a message on Cameo urging students to read their syllabus. After securing permission, Ng used the clip to create a welcome video that caught his students’ attention and went viral:

“Students often tell me that online learning feels like they are working alone in the dark,” said Ng, whose video has racked up over 10 million views. “They see a bunch of names of classmates without seeing their faces. I want to create a safe and inclusive online learning environment so that students become more willing to participate in class.”

We asked him about the video and his work as a teacher in the interview below.

Why did you become a teacher and what do you love most about it? 

I’m a first-generation college graduate from an immigrant family, so I wanted to become a teacher and mentor to provide students with the confidence and skills they need to be successful in their future endeavors.

The best reward for being a teacher is hearing from my former students. It’s when they tell me that they excelled in organic chemistry, or transferred to their dream four-year university, professional school. Sometimes, they did not believe they could do it and I get to see the transformation process unfolding right in front of my eyes.

What motivated you to participate in ACUE’s course this year? 

I am participating in ACUE’s Effective Online Teaching Practices course this year because I want to learn and implement more research-based practices into own teaching. All of us need to have a growth mindset and, as an instructor, I want to lead by example.

What inspired your approach to creating your welcome video?

Students often tell me that online learning feels like they are working alone in the dark. They see a bunch of names of classmates without seeing their faces. I want to create a safe and inclusive online learning environment so that students become more willing to participate in class.

Therefore, I wanted to create a welcome video that would also give students the feeling that, “this is going to be a different kind of class.” I thought that giving them a snippet of my personality and having Snoop Dogg appear could do that—and set the stage for us to have a successful teaching and learning journey together.

Why did you focus on having students read the syllabus?

The syllabus is often the first document students receive from teachers, but it’s also the most overlooked. As a first-gen immigrant college graduate myself, I did not know what syllabus was about. They usually ended up crumbled at the bottom of my backpack.

When I became a professor, I realized the syllabus is about more than what students will learn and do in the class. It’s an opportunity to welcome my students and give them an idea of who I am and how I teach. A welcoming and inclusive syllabus helps set the tone for the class.

What has the response been like from your students? 

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. My students are all excited and motivated to learn chemistry. I think the video helps ease some of the anxiety about this course because they think chemistry is a difficult subject.


Dr. Benny Ng is currently a Professor of Chemistry at Los Angeles Pierce College and an adjunct Chemistry Lecturer in California State University Channel Islands.

 The Cameo video of Snoop Dogg was originally purchased by a network of colleagues, led by Ryan Briggs.

Making a Difference at Mizzou

by: Amy Lannin, PhD, Director, Campus Writing Program & Associate Professor in English Education, Missouri

Amy Lannin, Director, Campus Writing Program & Associate Professor in English Education, Missouri

At a large university, it may seem unlikely to see direct results of the teaching that we do. But in the spring and summer of 2018, thanks to work with our first ACUE cohort at the University of Missouri (Mizzou), I was able to witness results of professional learning that was impacting students, even to the point of influencing a student’s choice in college majors.

Headshot of Eric Parsons

Eric Parsons, Associate Teaching Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Missouri

Meet Dr. Eric Parsons, associate teaching professor in the Economics Department and instructor of a large introductory economics course. Dr. Parsons was involved in the first ACUE cohort at the Mizzou, and I was one of three campus facilitators. Each week I would read the modules, read entries in the online discussion boards as participants would share questions, concerns, implementation plans, and reflections. Several of the instructors shared concerns that the modules did not address how to adapt these hands-on, active learning, and discussion-based strategies to a large class. However, one professor stood out to me as being open to trying these things, Dr. Parsons.

The irony was that my son, a first-year student, was enrolled in Dr. Parson’s large-enrollment economics course. It seemed as if I had a front row seat and a backstage pass in a teaching and learning performance. My son was enjoying this class, and when he was home visiting, he described several times how effective the instructor was. It took me a little while to realize that the instructor my son talked about was the same ACUE participant who shared the challenges and successes of his lecture-based course with our ACUE learning community.

After the semester, and with permission from both my son and the instructor, I started culling discussion board posts to see the script that had played out during the semester. Dr. Parsons would have faced plenty of challenges, as he was teaching 500 students in back-to-back lectures. Through the ACUE discussions, we can see some of his own implementation and reflection on teaching.

Early in the semester, after the ACUE module on “Leading the First Day,” Dr. Parsons posted this in the discussion board:

Tying into the first unit, I’m planning to implement a group goal-setting/class buddy activity on the first day of class, which should work to enhance both the community-building and goal-setting outcomes in the course. I already include mutual introductions (aided by REEF polling) on the first day, but I plan to enhance this somewhat to allow for more of a reciprocal interview.

After the module on “Planning an Effective Class Session,” Dr. Parson described using small group strategies to engage learners, trying this despite the challenge of teaching in a large lecture hall and trying to still facilitate groups:

At the end of my class today, I had students break into small groups, work together on a one-sentence summary, and then each respond to a REEF polling question with the summary. After class, I looked through the responses (with the help of my head TA), picked the best ones, and posted them as an announcement to Canvas. This seemed to work pretty well, and there were some good responses. I would say it took roughly five minutes to implement.

The module on “Active Learning Techniques” provided further explanation of how Dr. Parson used these strategies:

The primary active learning activity I use in my large lectures is to present frequent questions over the material that are interspersed throughout the lecture and which students answer using the REEF polling system. These questions count for 5% of the student’s overall course grade and are graded on a completion basis. I feel these are valuable for the students because they help to break up the lecture and allow the students to both test their understanding and compare themselves anonymously to the rest of the class. They also provide a nice study aid for the students to refer to as they prepare for exams. I find the questions useful because it allows me to see how well students are understanding the concepts as we go along. They also help to boost attendance.

Midway through the ACUE course, Dr. Parson was reflecting on use of visuals and graphic organizers, and he concluded a lengthy discussion board post with these comments about helping students develop deeper conceptual understanding:

Another thing I try to emphasize in class is that the course is called Principles of Microeconomics, not Memorize a bunch of stuff about economics. Along these lines, I am always trying to link the concepts from the various chapters together so students can see when we’re simply re-applying an old concept to a new problem with perhaps a slight twist, variation, or addition. This module has got me thinking that it might be useful to put together a master concept map for the course that students could refer to, possibly in conjunction with producing their own for comparison. With enough post-it notes and red yarn, I could make my office look like the apartment of a half-crazed investigator in a crime show who is obsessed with tracking down the suspect.

As noted in Dr. Parson’s discussion board posts, students were learning through a variety of strategies to help them engage with the course content and build a community. My son, Justin, often commented about how engaging the course was, especially with these virtual questions and use of small discussion groups during class. In fact, at the end of the semester, Justin, a chemical engineering major, went to his adviser to pick up economics as a second major. Not only did he learn about economics in Dr. Parson’s class, but Justin became passionate about the discipline.

As university professors, we may not feel there is time for additional learning. However, I have seen in my own experiences, with colleagues, and now through a student’s experience, that when we prioritize our own professional learning, and then apply and reflect upon the newfound practices, the benefits are well worth the time and effort. And, quite often the changes we implement do not take more time or negatively impact the amount of content covered—but do provide depth of content, deeper learning and engagement for our students.