quiltlef.gif (8176 bytes)VCCS Litonline Introduction to Literature
English 112 (English Composition II)

Litonline and the VCCS 10 Best Practices

At the 3rd annual VCCS May Symposium on teaching with technology in 2001,  participants elaborated 10 Best Practices for Content Development.  These have been incorporated as major criteria for VCCS LearningWare grants, the successor program to the VCCS Courseware grants that built the Litonline website and many others in the late 1990s. Here's a listing of how the Litonline site embodies those "10 Best Practices."

Regarding the VCCS 10 Best Practices, the Litonline materials--

  • have provided much student-to-student interaction, since about 60% of the webs are discussion forums.  Three of these forums have been used to foster deliberate student interaction across two or three colleges.
    • The Litonline forum for the one-act play "Trifles" shows questions contributed by Ron Carter of Rappahannock CC and Eric Hibbison of J. Sargeant Reynolds CC.  In Spring, 1999, their students participated in the forum with students from Northern Virginia CC who were studying with Cathy Simpson.  Note that the directions for students show the usual steps that groups took, whether from one college, two, or three colleges, whether using a Front Page forum at this Litonline site or using the TCC WebBoard.
    • The Litonline forum for Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach" shows the questions developed by faculty members Eric Hibbison and Donna Reiss for inter-college discussions held by their students on WebBoard that Donna set up at Tidewater Community College.  This Litonline forum resulted when the two syllabi got out of synchronization so that using the WebBoard was no longer practical.


  • involve active learning to an extent.  Of course the discussion forums involve active and substantive learning, since the teachers involved on the design team commonly counted contributions as equivalent to graded quizzes.  The best instructional webs include features such as
  • cause faculty to provide feedback or (in some forums or by email) to have students comment on each other’s analyses.
  • To "acknowledge differences in student backgrounds and learning styles and
    take advantage of multiple options and resources for learners" the Litonline webs 
    • deliberately vary the color scheme from one web to another.  For example, 
      contrast the appearance of the most professionally designed web in Litonline, 
      on The Glass Menagerie with the more utilitarian design of the instructional 
      web on the short story "Hills Like White Elephants."
    • use color, such as the parchment background of this set of introductory pages 
      and the Front Page theme elements, as well as the quilt pieces in the Litonline 
      cover page and headers for the four main sections of the website--
      • introduction
      • poetry
      • fiction
      • drama
    • aimed at including one relevant photo or clipart per page.  
      • For instance, in the introduction to poetry, called Understanding Poetry, the cloud background and the B-17 icon help set the scene and the photos on each page help explain the context of the action in the deceptively simple and short sample poem.

      • At the forum on Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," site users have been asked to select which of four houses pictured seems to be the most like the house in the story.  Click the house at right to see their selections and reasoning.

    • judiciously use animation (“Introduction to Drama”)
    • in the longest instructional web provide background on the basics of poetry 
      (Sonnet 116), as well as advanced considerations of sound. 
  • inspire more learning.  Students extensively tested the Litonline materials during development.  After that, students were invited to comment at the end of a course regarding the pros and cons of online learning.  See the Online Learning forum at http://vccslitonline.cc.va.us/onlinelearningforum/
  • reflect scholarship.  Each web raises major thematic questions and asks students to apply major tools for learning and analyzing literary questions.  Every attempt is made to translate intellectual concepts into plain English; the best examples of this concern

  • were current, and still are in many ways.  English faculty across the Virginia Community College System were polled about their most often assigned works for an introduction to literature class.  In addition, some syllabi were sampled for similar information.  The works selected for the earliest instructional webs and their accompanying forums were based on results of these samplings--
    • "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" in Understanding Poetry and the Gunner 
    • "A Rose for Emily" in Understanding Fiction and the Emily Forum
    • "Trifles" in Understanding Drama and the Trifles Forum.
      In 2002, Eric
      Hibbison (JSRCC) and Rick Dollieslager (TNCC), both from the 
      VCCS Regional Centers for Teaching Excellence, participated in a summer LearningWare grant that included archiving and maintaining the discussion 
      forums and commissioning peer reviewers to consider what contemporary 
      works ought to be included, how to encourage further development of new 
      modules, and the overall composition of the website.  The addition of 3 
      modules on a Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, which is still assigned in 
      many high schools and colleges, will help to increase the amount of fiction 
      treated in the Litonline site.
  • have some objectives.  Overall objectives for an ENG 112 class that includes an introduction to literature (as opposed to research writing) are displayed with this introduction and in a few of the instructional webs.  Statements of directions at forums, when they appear, suggest objectives.
  • have a clear, logical plan to achieve outcomes.  At the moment, each of the sitemaps within instructional webs outlines the content of that web.  In addition, each sitemap has links for collections of all writing tasks for that instructional web. Students usually open the Word or RTF version--or copy the plain text version from the web page displaying it--and paste the questions into their word processing screen; then they type in their answers to the questions as they study the instructional web online.  This file can be saved intermittently and, when finalized, closed and sent to instructors as email attachments, or the file can be copied off the screen and pasted into an email message.   
  • are clearly organized.  The designers of the Litonline website agreed to provide 
    • page turners to allow linear users to follow through each instructional web page by page.  The sample shown at right, from The Hamlet Site, includes first page, previous page, sitemap, next page, and last page links.  It appears at the bottom each page in the web.


    • sitemaps for site users who come back a second time or have other reasons for working out of sequence or on preferred pages first. In a few of the instructional webs, a geophysical map of Earth is used to provide a constant link to a site outline at the bottom of every page, such as to the sitemap for Oedipus the Wreck.


    • The design team also agreed to make all of the questions to be answered throughout the instructional module available as one file on the sitemap in multiple forms—Word, Rich Text Format, and HTML—so that students could easily open or copy the file and respond to each of the questions assigned by their teacher. For instance, the "typing hand" visual at right is linked to the sitemap at Oedipus the Wreck, where the eleven questions asked during that entire web are listed in one place.  

    • The sitemap for all of Litonline provides easy access to each of the 31 current webs, sorted into fiction, poetry, and drama analyses, with a different emblem for each of these three kinds of writing.  The quilt piece and heading link at the top of each page in Litonline links to the site's cover.


    • The entire site is built on the metaphor of the quilt, so that each emblem is a piece of the cover art for the site and appears at the top of each page in each web—except for the instructional web on writing an essay about The Glass Menagerie. 

Click the purple quilt piece on
each root page to go to the Litonline sitemap.