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Syllabus

Fall 2011 | Eastern Michigan University

Professor: Steven D. Krause

Email: skrause@emich.edu (by far the best way to get a hold of me)

Office: TBA

Office hours: Wednesdays Noon to 3 pm; Thursdays 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm, and by appointment. (I prefer meeting by appointment, and I am also able to “meet” virtually by Skype.)

Phone: TBA

Class web site: http://engl328.stevendkrause.com

Course description

In this course, we will explore the ways in which the concepts of “style” and “technology” interact with each other and affect writing in a variety of different contexts: traditional essays, writing inventions, and short videos. Along the way, you will keep a blog and you will learn a lot about various “Web 2.0” technologies.

Textbooks, required readings, online services

While these books should be available at the usual textbook outlets near EMU, these books are also all widely available online and in trade bookstores.  The links below are to the books on amazon.com, but there are obviously other resources out there.

White, E.B. and William Strunk. The Elements of Style. New York: Longman, 2000 (See below)

Williams, Joseph. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995 (See below)

Note that Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is often available in used book stores. If it’s available, feel free to purchase the third edition; we’ll actually be studying some of the differences between the third and fourth editions of this book. If you are curious, feel free to select the version that is delightfully illustrated by Maira Kalman. However, do stick with the version co-written by Strunk and White and not one written by Strunk alone.

Williams’ Style: Toward Clarity and Grace is not the same book as a popular textbook that Williams wrote called Style: Ten Lessons Toward Clarity and Grace. For one thing, Style: Toward Clarity and Grace is considerably cheaper. Make sure you get the right book.

There will also be many readings available only online or via eReserves. Also, I will ask you to sign up for a variety of online services to complete various assignments– Google, WordPress, YouTube, perhaps some others. These services are all free and many of you may already be registered users with some of them. You will need to agree to their terms of service and rules.

Online Participation=200 points

English 328 is an online class, but it is not a self-paced/self-study online class.  This is a class that works because of the ongoing interaction between all participants because writing in particular and learning in general is a social process. Learning about writing does not work well if you are alone.   So, English 328 is a class where you will be expected to “attend” electronically and asynchronously during the course of the week.  See the schedule for the details of this, but basically, I expect everyone to participate in the class at a minimum of twice a week, generally between Monday and Wednesday, and between Wednesday and Friday.

The implications of this online attendance requirement are significant. If you do not participate at all during the class at a given point in the schedule, I will count you as “absent” from that portion of the class.  If you are absent from the class three times, I will dock your participation grade by 30%, or a total of one letter grade for the course.  If you are absent from the class more than three times, I will dock your participation grade by 150% and you will probably not be able to pass the course.

There are no excused absences, so do not bother to email me some sort of note.  Excuses that will most certainly not be tolerated include problems with with your computer or travel where you will not have Internet access.  If something serious happens and we need to make arrangements for health/medical reasons, we can; but generally speaking, there are no exceptions to this policy.

Here are the major ways you will be participating this term:

Threaded Discussions. The bulk of our class discussions will take place via threaded discussion here on the class web site/blog. I am confident that you will get the hang of this as it goes along; essentially, the threaded discussions replace most of the kind of discussion we might have in a traditional “face-to-face” class.

To start off each discussion within units, I will write a post which offers introductory comments and frames the discussion. Your responses will take the form of new comments or responses to other comments from your classmates or from me. The number of comments you’ll be required to make vary from unit to unit, but I assume everyone will actively participate in all of the class discussions.

The style/form of these threaded discussion posts should be conversational and relatively informal; however:

  • Your comments should be in the form of a “discussion:”  that is, questions, comments, thoughts, reactions, etc. as if we were having a class discussion.  While you want your discussion to indicate that you have read and thought about the topic at hand, don’t write “mini-reports” that fail to engage others.
  • Certainly you don’t need to write long responses– in fact, posts that are more than 150 or so words are often too long– but responses that merely say “I agree” or “I think what Joan says is correct” aren’t useful.
  • Even though these responses are conversational and don’t need to be excessively “word-smithed,” it probably is a good idea to at least spell-check, write in complete sentences, use conventional punctuation, etc.
  • The most important part for this aspect of the class is that you do it and you do it in a timely fashion: that is, that you read each others’ posts, write posts of your own for others to read and that you participate according to the schedule. After all, since this is an online class, the only way I really know if you are present and involved is if you are engaging in these discussions.

Also, keep in mind that this conversation will be taking place on the internet, meaning that anyone could potentially see it.  See my section below on “Privacy.”

Group work. Among other things, “group work” will include collaborating on part of the last major writing project for the term (see below), and peer review and peer grading of each others essays and projects. Some of the peer review work this term will be experiments on my part, so your willing and diligent participation will be appreciated.

Learning about and engaging in the use of computer technology. We will be doing a fair amount of work on computers and on the internet this term, work that is above and beyond the emuonline course shell– things like blogs, Google documents, YouTube, and multimedia tools. For some of you, this may represent an additional “challenge” because you don’t feel comfortable with the technology, while others will find this part of the class “easy.” In either case, that’s okay. If you are less than comfortable using computers, look at this as an opportunity to learn something new and valuable. If you are more experienced with computers, look at this as an opportunity to share with me and your colleagues something you already know. In either case, you need to be willing to learn or willing to teach others about using the computers for our various class activities.

Grading participation.  I divide the participation grade into two parts, and I will give you a grade for the first part of participation at the middle of the term and the second part at the end.  Along the way I will try to give you regular feedback on your participation.

Blogs=150 points

Each of you will keep an ongoing blog this term. Many of you have probably heard of blogs before as spaces where writers keep diaries, write about politics, report news, etc. Some of you may read such blogs, and a few of you might even keep one of your own. The blog you keep for the class will be slightly different from these sorts of blogs in that you will be using your class work blog space write answers to assigned questions and prompts based on the reading and class activities.

The details of this will become clear as the term goes along, but a few basics for now: We will be using WordPress.com to facilitate this. WordPress.com is a free and easy to use service. If you keep a blog of your own, either with WordPress.com or another service, you will need to set up a specific blog for this class. Generally, these writing prompts will be fairly short– around 200 words– and informal, which is fitting into the style of blog writing. Some of these prompts will ask you to respond to each others’ blog postings as well.

The most important part of these blog posts is that you complete them on time. Blog posts that are “not perfect” but that are posted by the due date are far far better than blog posts that are perfect but late. By the end of the first few days of class (hopefully!), each of you will have a blog. Some time during this time, you will email me a link to your WordPress.com blog, and I will list this link on the class web site.

Again, keep in mind that your blogs will be on the internet, meaning that anyone could potentially see it.  See my section below on “Privacy.”

Grading Blogs. I will assign two grades to this work, each of which will be worth 75 points. One grade will be for your blog work for the first half of the term, and the other grade will be for your blogs for the second half of the term.

Major writing projects=600 points

The bulk of the grade and work this term is comprised of four major writing projects, each of which are worth a total of 150 points. Rest assured, I will provide plenty of detail and guidance about each of these projects. But in brief, they are:

  • A project where you “invent” your own writing technology and then write an essay about that technology based on your experiences and class readings.
  • An essay that examines the style of a YouTube commercial based on class readings and discussions about “style.”
  • A revision of either of the first two projects, along with a short analysis of that project based on readings on style and writing from Strunk and White and Williams.
  • A parody/imitation/remake of style rules based on class readings and discussions.
  • A project where, working collaboratively with others, you will create a short video and where you will also individually write an essay exploring the relationship between multimedia and words.

For each of the essay portions of these assignments, you will post your drafts for peer feedback and revised versions for me to Google Docs.  You will also use Google Docs for any revisions you complete this term.  Google Docs is an interesting and easy to use writing tool that is free and easy to use.  Don’t worry– we’ll be discussing the details of that soon.

Generally speaking, all of the essay portion of these projects must adhere to the style guidelines of the Modern Language Association in terms of formats for citing sources within the text, a works cited page, etc. Given that this is a 300-level writing class, I am working from the assumption that you are already familiar with MLA style. If you’re not, you might want to purchase The MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (available at just about any book store).

I don’t accept late writing projects. If you do not turn in a project on time, then I will deduct a letter grade and I will continue deducting letter grades every 72 hours until the project is handed in. There is one exception to this: if you tell me BEFORE the class in which a project is due that you are having problems finishing a project in a timely fashion, I will generally offer an extension.

Once again, keep in mind that your essays, which will be published on your blogs, will be on the internet, meaning that anyone could potentially see it.  See my section below on “Privacy.”

Revisions

When it comes to writing, I am a big believer in revision. In fact, I would go so far as to say that there is absolutely no such thing as a “polished” and/or “good” piece of writing anywhere that has not been revised in some sense. This is especially true with published writing. I guarantee you that every article you have ever read in a major newspaper or magazine and every book you have bought at Barnes and Noble or Amazon was significantly revised before it made it to print. Real writers do not simply pulls their thoughts out of their head, slaps them down on paper (or on a computer screen), and publishes it as a best seller. Now, while you might not be trying to turn your college writing projects into best sellers, I think the same rules apply: the best writing that students do is the result of rewriting and revision.

Sometimes students are able to do these revisions themselves through the process of writing the assignment. Of course, one of the basic goals of the course is to help you become a better writer, so the process of the class should in and of itself help you become a better reviser. Often, students are able to help each make revisions. Many students have success showing their writing to other friends, parents, someone whose judgment they trust, the writing center, etc. This is why we do peer review exercises in the first place, and it’s why one of the required assignments this term will be revised version of your first or second project this term. And again, this is, in the nutshell, the same process that professional writers go through too.

Okay, enough pep talk.

Here are the specific rules about revising major writing projects for a better grade:

  • You can revise any and all of the major writing projects for the term, but you can only revise each one of them once. This includes the assignment where you have to revise one of the previous assignments, though I suppose that is a bit of a “revision of a revision.”
  • It is not possible to get a worse grade on a revision; however, the extent to which the grade increases depends entirely on the success of the revision.
  • In order to complete a revision on a project, you must speak with me about it. This is a critical step. I want to talk with you to make sure you understand the comments/suggestions, and I also want you to explain what you are planning to do with your revision. Ideally, the best way to talk about revisions is in person. Since most of you live in the area (and many of you are taking regular “face to face” courses at EMU in addition to this online course), we should be able to facilitate this with a meeting during my office hours or by appointment. For those of you who are out of the area, we will find a way to chat via Skype or over the phone.
  • Revisions are due at the time of the final, (or, as I will discuss it throughout the term, the end of time).
  • Finally, I recommend revising strategically. I appreciate and respect the fact that many of you may want to revise everything to get the best possible grade you can get, or perhaps you want to revise something just because it bugs you how it turned out. However, I also think you want to use your time effectively. Revising everything is probably not practical (unless this is the only class you are taking and you don’t have a job or something), and revising one essay just because it bugs you (even though that revision won’t have any impact on your grade) probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, either.

Final=50 points

The final, which we will discuss in some detail initially at the beginning of the term, asks you to write a reflective essay about the other assignments you did in the class.

It isn’t a “test” in the traditional sense. Of course, everyone needs to complete this assignment, regardless of your major or minor. But this final essay is especially important for those of you who are an “English Ed” major (Language, Literature, and Writing for Teachers) and hoping to be accredited as a secondary school teacher. This essay is part of the accreditation process set forth by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). In addition to handing it in for for the course at the emuonline site, you will also need to submit it to the LiveText system. The final will be due electronically at the time of the final scheduled by the university, which, as I will discuss it throughout the term, will be the end of time.

In order to pass the course, you MUST complete ALL of the Major Writing Projects AND the Final, regardless of your grades for any of the other components of the course and regardless of your grade with the missing component(s).

Grading

Given all this, the formula for calculating grades in the course is pretty straight-forward:

Participation = 200 points

Blogs = 150 points

Major writing projects = 600 points

Final = 50 points

Course total = 1000 points

A=1000-930; A-=929-900; B+=899-870; B=869-840; B-=839-800; C+=799-770; C=769-740; C-=739-700; D+=699-670; D=669-640; D-=639-600; E=599-0

Privacy

As I have noted in a few different places in this syllabus, everything other than grade information and the final will be on the internet, either on the class web site/blog, your own blog, or your classmates’ blogs.  I take this approach with the class materials because I think it is a much better option than emuonline (and over the years, I have found the majority of my students agree with this). It also has the advantage of making the writing that we do for the class “real” in that it is not merely a closed conversation between you and me.  “Real people” might indeed be reading this.

This approach also requires an extra step of diligence on all of our parts regarding your online privacy.  Now, I honestly don’t think this arrangement will impact your privacy in any significant way.  Just because real people might read your blog or the class blog doesn’t mean that they will, and if you have a Facebook or Myspace account (not to mention a credit card or a cell phone), you are probably already aware of the fact that all of us lead somewhat “non-private” lives.  Personally, I have had lots of stuff about me on the internet for years and have never had any problems.  However, I do think privacy is something you need to keep in mind as you participate in class.

There are a couple of things I promise to do (or not do, as the case may be) to help protect your privacy. First, I will never post grade information online. That would be bad and probably against the law. Instead, I will post all grade information on emuonline, which is behind a firewall and requires you to log in.  Second, when I post stuff about you on the site (e.g., link to your blogs, set up groups, etc., etc.), I will always reference you by your first name and last initial (so I would be “Steve K.”) and not by your last name. Third, at the end of the term, I will eventually delete your comments and links to your blogs, and you can delete your work if you don’t want to leave it online (though I would strongly encourage you to at least save a copy of it for future use and other projects).

You will need to make some personal choices about your privacy online with class activities, too.  For example, while I want everyone to select an avatar image for themselves (as we will discuss early in the term), you don’t necessarily have to use a driver license photo. You might also want to set up some kind of alias for your blog (though I will still refer to you by your first name and last initial), especially if you intend to continue using your blog.

Really, the easiest way to protect your privacy online is to use a little common sense. For example, it’s probably not a good idea to post your phone number, address, social security number, credit card account, etc., etc. on a web site that you are uncertain about.

Of course, if you have questions or concerns about this, just be sure to ask.

The fine print

Here are two issues I like to include on any syllabus.

Access Services. If you have a documented disability that affects your work in this (or any other) class, Access Services can provide support for you. Call them, or let me know and I can help you to call them, at 734-487-2470 to make necessary arrangements to ensure you success in this course.

Plagiarism. As the Council of Writing Program Administrators puts it, “Plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately passes off another’s words or ideas without acknowledging their source. For example, turning another’s work as your own is plagiarism.” Don’t do this. If you plagiarize in this class, you will likely fail the class and your case may be passed to the university for additional disciplinary action.


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