Sunday, August 27, 2017

Into the Summer

If you have found this page (perhaps with Google), please be patient. The Spring 2017 semester has just ended, so Fall information is still getting prepared.

This blog is independent of the "official" Ashland University sites. It's really my own unofficial opinions. That means that you do not have to be an official part of my course to read this, and I will not password-protect this site. You don't even have to be an Ashland student to read this. The material here is published to help you get a running start on your first semester.

One of the normal facts about college is that schedules are never set in concrete until about the second week, so if you are signed up for one of my courses now, things might change before we really get rolling. You don't have to stop reading this blog if you change courses. Just be aware that course-specific material (such as textbook title) won't apply to you.

I won't be posting a lot here during the summer.  I have other things to do, and many of my students will not have access to this until August. Expect, at the most, one or two items a week.

By the way, except for this header post, older items are at the bottom of the list, perhaps rolling over to following pages, so you sort of have to read these things backward. By the end of the summer, there will probably be three or four pages.

See you in the Fall.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Late LaunchPad Info

All of the information about buying the book for this course stresses that you will need a version that includes access to a program called "LaunchPad."

I am changing that.

The start of class is about a week away, and LaunchPad has some major technical problems, so I'm backing out of that requirement. You won't see LaunchPad on the syllabus.

The textbook version with the LaunchPad access card costs the same as the one without, so you haven't wasted any money, and if you buy the card separately, you should be able to return it to the bookstore for credit.

Don't throw that card away, though. If the publisher fixes things, we might actually use the program. It has a lot going for it if the students can get to it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Do I really need to buy the books?

The short answer is "Only if you intend to do the work needed to pass the course."

It is true that some teachers forget the cost of books and go overboard on their reading lists. If you have a course that specifies five or six books, it's fair to ask which are required and which are optional. You won't run into that situation for a couple of years though. As a freshman, you are far more likely to get a one-book reading list.

In our course, that one book, A Writer's Reference, is the sort of thing you would keep for years because it is, well, a reference. If you ever need to do any writing after our course, you will want this book.
True story: At a recent faculty seminar, the head of the nursing department commented that correct APA citation format normally counts for 30% of the grade in nursing papers. You don't know what APA format is? That's why you bought the reference book.
I guess it is possible for you and a roommate to share a textbook if you are taking the same course/section, but you will really need to coordinate your reading schedules. If both of you are last-minute readers, the next obvious question is which one of you will get the book. If one of you likes to take the book to the library to make writing easier, the other must tag along too.

Our book comes bundled with a free access code for LaunchPad, an online resource for our course. If you are sharing a book or you bought yours used (or got the wrong one from Amazon), you can still get the access code by itself for $33. Our bookstore has those.

Don't feel like spending the $33 for LaunchPad? That's OK too. You just won't be able to do all the assigned readings (or write the papers associated with those readings), and you won't get credit for doing the skill-building exercises. (That was the path to a D+ for a couple of my students last semester.)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Into the Fall

Here are a few last-minute details you will need to know:


The courses I will teach this Fall are English 100, sections A, B, & C. As I write this (and all things are subject to change), all three sections will meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in Room 106 of the Dauch College of Business & Economics (some maps list it as COBE).
  • Section A: 8 to 8:50 AM
  • Section B: 9 to 9:50 AM
  • Section C: 10 to 10:50 AM

Things to buy

Computers: You do not need a computer to succeed in college because we have computer labs available in several places around campus. Most people do own laptops, but if you're uncertain about which to buy, perhaps you should wait until you get here and try out a few different ones from friends. Tablets (such as iPad) are fun, but you will get frustrated if you try to type a long paper on one.

Textbook: Yes, you do need to own the textbooks for most college courses. The one for this course is a reference book, the kind of thing you will want to keep for a long time (like a dictionary). Most college courses require at least a little writing (and some require a lot), so you will want something to help you. This is the book for this course:
  • Hacker, Diana, and Nancy Sommers. A Writer's Reference with 2016 MLA Update. 8th ed., Macmillan, 2016.
You need to know several things about college textbooks:
  1. Edition number is important. An 8th edition is not the same as a 7th.
  2. The college bookstore has what you need, and the staff know how to help you find it.
  3. Different instructors require different textbooks. Other sections of English 100 may not be using A Writer's Reference.
  4. If you buy a book from the bookstore and do not damage it, you can return it during the first couple of weeks for a refund. (This is useful if you make a mistake or discover you need to change your class schedule.) Keep your receipts.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Learning Laundry

Now, before it's a last-second emergency, learn how to do laundry. (Note: This is probably a more urgent issue for guys!) Ask your mom or someone else who actually knows how to do laundry to show you. (My high school girlfriend walked me through the process and stood over me while I did a couple of loads. I'm endlessly grateful to her for that.)

I am not endorsing a particular laundry product, but here's a website from one of them that should help:

Two hints need extra emphasis:
  • Don't wash your brand-new red sweatshirt with everything else unless you want to go through this year nick-named "Pinky." Dark colors bleed dye onto everything else in the machine. Reds bleed a LOT!
  • If you leave your phone in your pocket, you get to buy a new phone. If you leave a ballpoint pen in your pocket, the dryer will make certain everything has blobs of ink.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Late Preparations

During the last month

  1. Look carefully at your class schedule. Mistakes happen, and you will find it much easier to correct them in the week or two before classes start.
  2. Do a campus walk-through. We are a small campus, but we are still big enough to be confusing. Some buildings are known by more than one name (a great example is the building our class is in: commonly called Dauch, it's also called COBE, which stands for the College of Business and Economics). Your Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule is different from your Tuesday-Thursday schedule. Walk both of them and actually find the rooms.
  3. Get an eye exam. Don't laugh. At least one student in every section I teach sits in the back, squinting and struggling to see the board. If you need glasses, get them. Wear them. They don't look weird.
  4. Go shopping. I assume you'll buy new clothes and such, but don't go overboard. What you wore in high school will probably work in college. Do be aware, though, that your class schedule will probably have you doing ten minutes of power-walking several times a week in November weather. If your aunt wants to buy you clothing, ask for boots, hat, gloves, and a warm coat. Dorm room stuff? Again, don't go overboard. Those rooms are tiny, and you don't know what your roommate will bring. If you are thinking of renting a truck to bring your stuff, you should scale back.

Things to buy before you get here

  • Books? Maybe. Books are very expensive and places like Amazon can save you money, but Amazon can cause trouble too.
    • For one thing, you will probably need your books by the second week of class, and you don't want to wait for Amazon to get around to sending them.
    • For another, the college book market is very confusing. The publisher of our textbook lists no fewer than ten different related titles and options. If you order the wrong one, you will face a delay and extra expense.
    • The campus bookstore has what you need, and they are quite good about getting things before the first day. (They wanted to know my book choices last March!)
  • Computer stuff
    • If you have a rich uncle who wants to buy you a computer, let him. If not, then perhaps you should wait. We have computer labs on campus, and you can get a discount for buying a computer through our IT department (though that will take a little while because they have to order it for you). You might like to try out several kinds before sinking that much money into a computer.
    • Apple/Windows/Chrome? They all work here. If you have a good working computer from high school, just bring that.
    • Tablets (such as iPad) are pretty useless. You cannot take notes on them, and they are difficult and frustrating to use for typing long papers. If you want a tablet for fun, go ahead, but it will not be a useful writing tool.
    • Phone? I assume you already have one. Yes, students try to write papers on their phones, but it is quite slow and difficult. You really have no use whatsoever for a phone in our class. In fact, student use of cell phones in class is the quickest route to a C minus.
    • Do not buy a copy of Microsoft Word. You get it free through the college, and there are other alternatives you might like.
  • Notebooks, pens and paper. Definitely. Try out several pens and buy a couple that work well for you. You will be doing a LOT of writing in college. I recommend a wire-bound notebook for each class you take.
  • Backpack or courier bag. You'll need a portable office, and a good backpack is a great help. I am also a fan of accordion file folders, the kind with several pockets so you can organize things for each class. Teachers will give you loose handouts, and you want them available.
  • Office supplies. Take a trip to a place like Office Max or Staples and stock up. You will want (at least) highlighters, a good stapler, staples, pens, paper, and paper clips. I get a lot of use from a ruler. If you are bringing your own computer printer (not a bad idea), get a package of ink cartridges. All these things are available at the campus bookstore, but the selection is limited and the prices are higher. Besides, if you take your rich uncle with you, he might pay for the supplies.

Monday, July 24, 2017

How much should you obsess over grades?

College grades cause an incredible amount of anxiety. Here are a few kinds of student I have had in my classes:

Laid-back until the last minute

I often have students who drift through the course doing ordinary work (or not quite that good), then at the last second they send me an email saying, "I am on academic probation, and I really need a B in this class. What can I do?" One fellow sent me this email on the first day of Finals Week. The only real answer, though I was too kind-hearted to say it, was "Buy a time machine and go back to the second week of class, then do all the work and hand it in on time." He needed to begin at the start of the semester (especially because he knew he was in trouble) and consistently apply pressure to himself to do better.

Wound too tight

At the other extreme is the student who never got anything under 100% totally perfect A++ in high school and is willing to get into a screaming match over three points in an 675-point course. I have several things to say to that student:
  • Really??? If your high school grades were that high, either you are a genius who doesn't need to obsess OR your high school teachers had low standards and you need to face the real world.
  • Are you here for the points or to learn something? Maybe you lost those three points because you didn't do something right and need to learn how to do it better.
  • College grades are a range. At Ashland the range for an A is 93% to 100%, which means that you can lose as many as 47 points in my English 101 course and still pull an A. (English 100 isn't really a graded course, so if your writing average is above 78%, you are good to go.)
By the way, that screaming match student really existed. The course had a total of 800 points, so she was desperate to grab 0.375% of her final grade. She said she had never lost a single point in her entire school career, and she needed total perfection to get into a good grad school. She was a mediocre student who chattered with her friends all through the class and did not know what I was asking for when I assigned them to write an outline. (I think there was a better route to good grades than screaming at the teacher. And no, grad schools do not require total perfection in freshman English grades.)

Always right

One student informed me that he had learned everything there is to know by the time he was 15. Another had been told by a high school English teacher that you insert a comma every time you take a breath, so the grammar handbook and I were quite wrong when we insisted that this fake rule doesn't work too well. (I could go on about this—do heavy smokers need more commas than Olympic distance runners?) She brought her father in to argue the point with the Dean. Some of these people have picked up the culture's lie that every authority figure is always wrong—and so is everyone who has studied deeply. Some have bought the foolish idea that the way to truth and knowledge is for an adolescent with no experience and education to just think things through. In any case, the "always right" crowd is wasting their time here: they are immune to any new knowledge, so there is no point in attending college.

Willing to cheat

In various forms, I always have at least one student who assumes that the only point of a college education is to get "the piece of paper" that is the key to a high-paying job. I have no respect for this attitude. College instructors are pretty good at catching cheaters, and when we do we have little mercy. At the start of your career, you should assume that total honesty on your part is the standard, and if you have questions about whether something is acceptable (for example, submitting a paper you have already used elsewhere), you must ask the instructor.