Peter Leong

A photo of Peter Leong

Title: Associate Professor
Department: Learning Design and Technology
College/School: Education
Showcase Course: LTEC 652(D): Authoring E-Learning Env: Virtual Reality

I strive to create learning environments that allow learners to create meaning from what they experience rather than “learning” my understanding as the teacher of that experience or content.

Click to read more about Peter’s Teaching Philosophy

I believe that my role as an educator is to be a facilitator of learning – in essence a “broker” of knowledge. My role is to help students make connections both with each other and the content of the courses I teach. Teaching is not instructing or imparting knowledge to students as if their minds were like empty vessels simply waiting to be filled with information. Rather, I believe that learning can be best facilitated when learners can create linkages between their own experience and learning materials and make sense of them.

I strive to create learning environments that allow learners to create meaning from what they experience rather than “learning” my understanding as the teacher of that experience or content. I encourage collaboration among learners to help them develop new or modify their own understanding of an experience or content by the sharing of the multiple perspectives of their peers. I strongly believe that learning should be set within the “real world” context where learners perform tasks that are as closely related to the real world as possible. My philosophy is to get my students excited about learning through my enthusiasm for the subject I am teaching.

Showcase Video
Teaching Practice

Chickering and Gamson (1987) developed the seven principles of good practice to address quality standards in undergraduate education. These seven principles have been widely used in education: student and faculty contact, cooperation among students, active learning, prompt feedback, time on task, high expectations, and respect for diverse talents and ways of learning. Chickering and Ehrmann (1996) adapted these seven principles of good practice for technology-mediated learning.

This course was developed as a series of scaffolded activities and assessments that are intentionally designed to support principles of good practice for technology-mediated active learning which focuses on student and faculty contact, cooperation among students and prioritizes active learning:

1) Good practice encourages contact between students and faculty using appropriate technology tools

Rationale: Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of class is an important factor in student motivation and involvement. Faculty concern and encouragement helps students get through challenges and keep on working. One of my major concerns about teaching an asynchronous online course is that students often report feeling isolated and disengaged.

Teaching Practice: Leverage technology tools and strategies to engage students in asynchronous online courses. While students can ask questions in the online course discussion boards or via emails, these forms of communication lack the instantaneous response that students often require to complete their course activities/assignments. I have found great success in using instant team text chat messaging apps like Slack and Discord to enhance student-to-instructor and student-to-student interactions. Students can have the app installed on their computers and smartphones and can post questions, collaborate with project group members and chat with classmates in real time at any time. I have found that using Slack or Discord increased student engagement and promoted interaction between students. In addition, I have also found that students made frequent use of these chat apps to ask questions and seek guidance. The Discord team chat app also allows users to “jump” into audio voice channels with screen-sharing capabilities to quickly discuss or troubleshoot issues. One student said that, “Discord was very helpful for quick communication with the instructor and TAs. I felt like the response time in Discord was much faster than standard response times for emails.” Another student commented, “Discord was most valuable to me. It helped to take the place of another synchronous class where we could ask questions. It was nice to see that Dr. Peter, Sarah, and Melissa AND others in the class would answer inquiries. It also took the guesswork out of how to communicate within groups.”

2) Good practice develops reciprocity and cooperation among students using appropriate technology tools

Rationale: As a constructivist educator, I believe that learning is a collaborative and social process, not competitive or isolated. Working with others often increases involvement in learning. I encourage collaboration among students to help them develop new or modify their own understanding of an experience or content by the sharing of the multiple perspectives of their peers. Sharing ideas and responding to peers’ improves thinking and deepens understanding.

Teaching Practice: Many technology tools can aid busy working adult students to communicate and collaborate when they are not physically together. To hold students accountable to completing required weekly course readings and to help them reflect upon their course learning experience, I require students to use FlipGrid to post weekly video reflection blogs (Vlog) of their course readings and learning experience. Students are also required to respond to at least two peers’ Vlog postings as well. These FlipGrid Vlogs essentially simulates a live video chat between students but allows students to create them asynchronously at their own convenience. I also created a FlipGrid Shark Tank! assignment where students could pitch their idea for a VW instructional unit and “sell” it to their classmates in order to form their final design project teams. Through the use of the FlipGrid video discussion platform students report feeling more connected to their classmates and learning from each other as evidenced by the following students’ comments about FlipGrid:

  • “I enjoyed using FlipGrid because I could see everybody else’s responses, and learn from everybody but on my own time.”
  • “I enjoyed using Flipgrid for weekly reflections! It was a unique way to facilitate class discussions. I also felt like I paid attention to other students’ discussion posts more because they were shared through video.”
  • “I like using FlipGrid to post, reflect, and provide feedback. It adds a human component where we get to “interact” to others ideas and to build upon their repertoire or learning.”

3) Good practice uses active learning supported by appropriate technology tools

Rationale: The separation between an instructor and learner is based on more than just distance and learning is not a spectator sport. As I have mentioned students’ minds are not like empty vessels simply waiting to be filled with information. Students do not learn much just by listening to class lectures. They must discuss about what they are learning, reflect about it and apply the knowledge and skill acquired. Active learning has been shown to be most effective when the learner is engaged.

Teaching Practice: Technology, when used appropriately, can support active learning. As students become more involved in their learning, they assume greater responsibility for their learning. The course is offered fully online asynchronously with optional synchronous studio sessions using Zoom and 3D virtual worlds (3D VWs) such as OpenSim, Second Life and Minecraft. 3D VWs provide opportunities for many types of interaction that are not possible in purely text based or 2D environments. The use of 3D VWs has enabled my students to immerse themselves in a virtual environment where they can create, design, learn and collaborate as avatars. I have been able to create immersive learning experiences in 3D VWs that can’t be easily replicated using online audio/video conferencing tools like Zoom. The course provided hands-on experiential learning and was designed to enable students to design, develop, and evaluate instruction in 3D VWs. In addition to leveraging 3D VWs as a distance learning delivery tool, the students researched the various ways that 3D VWs can be leveraged for instructional purposes, such as exploring other 3D VW educational builds by going on virtual field trips and evaluating the design of educational simulations in 3D VWs. The course also covered basic fundamentals of building in 3D VWs with a focus on building simple educational objects (how to deliver content), as well as on how to promote interactivity in 3D VWs. There is a strong research component with students being required to research and compile a list of SL educational resources (both in-world and online) as well as develop an annotated bibliography of research on virtual world teaching and learning. 3D VWs supported active learning in multiple ways as evidenced by the following students’ feedback:

  • “The virtual field trips were really interesting. I liked going as a group to the Particle Laboratory, and I thought EmployAble was a good example of a sim that serves a great purpose.”
  • “As a hands-on learner, I appreciated all of the different building exercises through the synchronous sessions… I had fun going through the different simulations, and learning different things from them. In going through the different simulations, I tried to take notes of what I would be able to use in our final project.”
  • “Second Life, OpenSim, and Minecraft: These were good for in-world sessions. I enjoyed exploring and going through tutorials or build exercises in them. The time we played a game “Primtionary” –– was really cool and fun!”

  • Chickering, A., & Gamson, Z. (1987). Seven principles of good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE (American Association of Higher Education) Bulletin, 39, 3-7.
  • Chickering, A. & Ehrmann, S. (1996), Implementing the seven principles: Technology as lever. AAHE Bulletin, 49(2), 3-6.

The assessment results show that all four final design teams scored above 225 out of 250 points (90%) on the final design document based on the final design document evaluation checklist. This level of achievement is note-worthy especially considering that the majority of the students (80%) in the course reported being not confident using Second Life or Open Sim; 60% self-reported having no experience playing immersive games; and 67% of students self-reported being not confident using Minecraft at the beginning of the course.

The course evaluation survey includes 27 Likert-scale questions (ratings 1=low to 5=high). Overall, on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strong agree), the course evaluation scored 4.4. Students’ comments on course evaluations also revealed challenging learning experiences. A majority of the students (M = 4.8) considered that “this course & instructor have helped me think critically about complex, changing circumstances in the field of educational technology.” Similarly, most students (M = 4.4) agreed that “this course & instructor have challenged me intellectually.” One student’s comment seems to sum up the course, “This entire course was such an awesome and valuable experience for me. The enthusiasm from Dr. Peter and the TAs were also a great motivator. All the readings were helpful, in addition to the video lectures and build/field trip assignments, and seeing example videos and builds of other projects. I loved learning about a topic I knew absolutely nothing about. My brain feels really happy for having had this experience.”

This innovative course, which was first delivered fully online using the virtual world of Second Life, has been featured in a number of UH system publications as well as a television interview with Darryl Huff of KITV4.

One of the unanticipated outcome of my innovative teaching practice using 3D VWs is the use of the 3D VW for our LTEC virtual graduation. Our LTEC department offers both an on-campus and online master’s degree program. In the past, the majority of graduates from our online cohorts were unable to attend the actual commencement ceremony here at UH Manoa due to time and resource constraints. I always felt that all students should be able to celebrate their degree accomplishments regardless of their location. Therefore, in May 2011, I organized our inaugural virtual graduation ceremony in Second Life. This virtual graduation was featured on Hawaii News Now: No Caps and Gowns Needed for first-ever UH virtual graduation.

Hawaii News Now – LTEC Virtual Graduation

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and caused all physical graduation ceremonies to be canceled in spring 2020, LTEC did not have to scramble to look for an alternative virtual graduation ceremony since we have been hosting an annual virtual graduations since 2011. Below is the link to our most recent 2021 LTEC virtual graduation events:

Recordings of LTEC 2021 Virtual Graduation Event

Supplemental Material