Meeting the Challenge
You can pass this course; those who do usually earn an A or a B.
Unfortunately, I've only had one class during one semester earn grades of A,
B, C, or W only, no D or F grades for the course. Staying organized,
staying positive, and keeping fit can give you an edge (and filing for a W
grade instead of just drifting away. W's don't hurt grade averages; F's
require A's in other courses to keep an average above 2.0).
My job is to get as many
students to meet the standards of the course as possible. I do that
- Keeping in touch:
calling before each class meeting to get students ready
- Flexing deadlines:
Usually, about half of the students in a section send in essays on time,
more at midterm and final. Usually, at least half of the class submits
responses to online discussion forums during the prescribed week on the
course calendar--some do longer and more frequent responses and gain extra
points (and extra reflection on course content).
extra-credit and alternative assignments: The same
link is on the
- Encouraging revising
for a higher grade: Some of my colleagues require all of
their students to revise before grading; I offer my students the
opportunity to revise after an initial grading of what the students
believed was their best effort. Either way, we offer our students
editorial commentary to help guide them in improving the substance and
style of the writing.
- Demanding minimal
performance but rewarding excellence: High-quality essays
and forum responses--that have a clear thesis, that quote relevant phrases
from assigned works and sometimes other students' ideas, that show a
varied writing style with few grammatical glitches--get high grades,
occasionally over 100%. In addition, I occasionally ask permission to
keep for possible publication truly exceptional essays and make-up tapes.
(Permission is the student's prerogative; the reward and recognition of
exceptional excellence is in the asking.) Literacy: For the past two
semesters, one or two students have turned in very poorly edited work--as
many as one grammatical or spelling mistake per line of writing. For any
work that is not collegiate, I usually withhold a grade until it is
revised and edited up to college standards (the average I have observed is
not more than one or two sentence errors, if any, in an essay, and not
more than a handful of spelling errors, and those usually not more than
one letter off). FREE help
is available in the campus Academic Support Center (DTC, 1st floor; PRC,
across from the open computer lab in the Learning Resources Center, Bldg.
A); there volunteer faculty and trained tutors will work with any student
on getting an idea for writing, fleshing it out with details, and editing
hints. I'm also available during office hours and by appointment; many
students email ideas or thesis statements ("How's this?"), rough drafts,
and questions before sending me their work to be graded.
Your job, as I see it, is
to get the most education you can during the time you have.
Previous students have done that by--
- Keeping in touch:
If you aren't emailing or phoning me at least once every month, you're
probably missing something. When students ask questions, I often pass on
the answers to everyone (never revealing who asked the question, of
- Meeting deadlines:
Students who stay up with the work and even do extra or work ahead are
getting more out of the course than students who keep avoiding the
deadlines on the grade roster. Students who get behind may or may not get their best
value from the course, depending on how they can "clump" together enough
time rather than sustaining a steady pace through the course.
- Contacting classmates:
Most students have not done this in prior semesters, but the perspectives
of peers can be quite valuable, since the ability to balance conflicting
perspectives on a work of literature is one of the major skills of this
course. Contact is best made at the on-campus session where you can
see classmates face-to-face, but the Blackboard email system lets you find
"users," students in the same section and click beside their names to send
an email to their VCCS email.
- Thinking analytically:
One way to understand what thinking analytically means is to look through
course objectives. Another is below:
- You should be able to "see"
(tolerate, understand) more than one way of looking at a work--and
yet reason through for yourself the most sensible, a view most in
line with the evidence in the work itself and your knowledge of the
world. For instance, in researching a controversial issue, such as
abortion or immigration, you should be able to detect bias in an article
about the topic and ask what's missing or overstated--and find a
counter-perspective to help you arrive at more balanced thinking than
the distortions and conflict-promoting misinformation and half-truths
available in popular media.
- Based on your writing experiences in ENG 111 and high school, as
well as your own interests, you should be able
to select topics from a
menu of challenging options, gather evidence from reading,
formulate and put forth your
view of an issue and
support it by citing and explaining relevant information from
your source readings.
- Varied sentence structure
emphasizes important ideas. So does
varied sentence length.
Novice writers tend to write sentences that are all 2 - 2 1/2 lines
long. High quality essays
are made excellent by revising--usually. Most students do a draft of an
essay before I see it to evaluate it--and then revise according to my
guidelines, as much as possible, to earn a higher grade.
Of course, all of this is very demanding--but
ENG 112 is like that in any
format. That's why it's a required
course for transfer curricula--because
of its academic rigor, its focus on analytical reasoning, and its emphasis
on insightful, stylish written and oral expression.
All students who enter the course can succeed with it, but many need more
time on task than others. In an online course, nearly all decisions about
time are yours.