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Showing posts from August, 2020

When You Can't Get Into Blackboard

Blackboard is the Ashland University Learning Management System (LMS) which we will be using to deliver a LOT of the content in this course. Here is a direct link to Blackboard. Your Username is the part of your campus email address before the @ sign. Your Password is the same password you use to get into your email. If your name is not on the official roster for our course, you cannot get into our part of Blackboard. If you are registered for our course and cannot get in, the Registrar's office and/or the Information Technology people in Patterson Hall should be able to help. Blackboard sometimes has trouble, especially in the first week because of the enormous amount of traffic. If you cannot get in, our course has an alternate web site, where you can find the syllabus (with all of the reading assignments) and assignments for all of the essays. Some adviceBe patient. If Blackboard or your Internet connection don't work too well, take a deep breath, take a sip o…

How to Student

When I teach this course in normal times¹ (not worrying about Covid-19), I usually begin each class session with a brief "How to Student" slide show. We don't have time for that now, so look for a continuing series of "How to Student" blog entries. Some of them won't apply to you, but I hope several turn out to be helpful.College is a totally different culture from what you are used to, and in my avuncular² mode, I would like to help you succeed. So look for the "How to Student" items, using the "Labels" menu in the pop-up at the top of the screen. A lot of student distress and downright failure has nothing to do with either basic brainpower or academic ability—student success has a LOT to do with assuming the role of a young adult and being able to manage the "stuff" of being in college.I like to find an Internet illustration for each of these blog posts. I wanted something showing "good college student," but it was …

What if we must shut down?

A fair question. If you read the news, several large universities (UNC and Notre Dame come to mind) opened early this fall, then immediately closed down again because they had so many virus cases.I hope that doesn't happen at Ashland, but if it does, English 100 can keep rolling along. I've designed a number of distance courses (several of them for prisons, where things are really shut down!) and I had the possibility of a quarantine in the back of my mind when I put this course together.Nearly all of the actual instruction in the course comes through Blackboard or your textbooks. That would stay the same. The Writing Lab appointments were going to be virtual, online events anyhow, so those won't change either. What we would lose (or need to work around) is the loss of in-class writing exercises and time for you to ask questions. I am old-school enough that I still like to mark papers by hand and return them in class, so that won't work either. I expect that any shut-d…

What to bring to class on the first day

Don't overdo it. I often see students laboring around campus with little suitcases on wheels. I assume they are carrying their computer, their notebooks, and every textbook they were asked to buy this semester. Maybe a few library books and their lunch. Here's what you need to bring to class that first day: A copy of your class schedule, just to remind you where to go. (Sometimes campus computers make mistakes and send you to classes that don't exist or put you in places where you don't belong. A printout of your schedule will solve a lot of problems if you have to ask questions.)A campus map would not be a bad idea either.Pen or pencil. You do need to bring your own. Only annoying fools think everyone else should supply them with writing tools. We need to disinfect everything we touch, including the pens that we share around. Bring your own. I will not loan you one.
Spiral notebook. On that first day, someone is certain to say something you will need to remember. (It w…

How to Take Our Hybrid Course

English 100 will be a bit like Harry Potter's hippogriff—neither horse nor eagle. It's neither a 100% distance education course nor 100% face-to-face, so we will need some special strategies to make it go. What you will see when you open BlackboardOn the left of the Blackboard screen, you will see folders, one for each week. When you open a folder, you will see: A link which takes you to the assignment schedule for the week (really just a section of the syllabus) A link to a "Face-to-Face" video of me introducing the weekOne or more links to a narrated PowerPoint lesson on how to write a paperLinks to web pages for the weekA drop box for the week's writingA grammar quizWhat you won't see on BlackboardSpecific reading assignments in America Now or Writer's Reference (You will have to open the assignment schedule link or look at your printed syllabus for those.) The assignment for the longer paper you are working on (I put the assignments in the f…

Personal Interaction - What we lost

I guess the whole point of all these Covid-19 regulations is to minimize (or eliminate) personal interaction so we don't infect one another. I understand that and I support it, but we humans were not built to live isolated in caves (or in bedrooms, looking at computer screens). College education, at its best, had a lot of personal interaction: professor/student and student/student. Here are some ideas for working around the restrictions:Weekly cohort meetings. Yes, they are required. The group will be you plus me plus four or five other students, and I will come in with an agenda, but this is also a time when we can chat as a small group (wearing masks and sitting six feet apart) about what you are doing.Office hours. My office is so incredibly tiny that there is no way for us to maintain social distancing, so I put "by appointment" in the syllabus. That's because I don't know yet where we can meet, but there is sure to be some place. I'll be on campus Monday…

English 100 First Day

August 31 is the first day of classes at Ashland University. You have already received an email telling you which day-group (or "cohort") is yours.
Monday cohort. Come to our classroom in Dauch at your assigned time. (Don't forget your face mask.) This is your only face-to-face class meeting this week. You will spend the rest of the week working through the Blackboard Learning Management website.
Wednesday and Friday cohorts. Begin your week on the Blackboard Learning Management website, then show up on your appointed day (wearing your face mask, of course).
SPECIAL NOTE: If you show up on the wrong day, I will simply turn you away and invite you to return on the correct day.

The Basic Set-up of Our Course

This Fall, English 100 will be a hybrid course. This means that about 1/3 of our instruction time will be on campus in a classroom and 2/3 will be online. We are doing this to minimize the risks of transmitting the Covid-19 virus, while still giving you the advantage of a college campus course. Dividing the class into groupsDuring the last week before class, you will receive an email telling you which group (cohort) you are in. Each cohort will have five or six students.The class meets in Dauch, where the classrooms have a normal capacity of 20-25 students, so you should have no trouble maintaining social distancing.Each cohort is assigned a day (Monday, Wednesday, or Friday) for your on‑campus session. Your class schedule should give you the room number and time. Attendance at these sessions is required. Important Note #1: These are assigned days! I don't want the entire crowd from one day drifting in on another day because you forgot or overslept. The idea is to keep the total …

Internet Woes

Yesterday was a bad day on the Internet. My connection went down in the middle of the day and stayed that way for about an hour. It's been doing that, off and on, for some time now. You can imagine the result: no email (thank goodness!), no Facebook (a plus for my productivity), and no searching the Internet for cool items like that logo above. The real problem, though, was that some applications (like Microsoft Word) wouldn't open because they need to verify with headquarters that they are not pirate copies. (OK—I know that I could use a copy on a phone because it can get Internet even if the local WiFi is down. But have you ever tried editing a large piece of writing on a smartphone?)
Well that just threw a wrench into my machinery.We might have similar problems when school opens because EVERYONE on campus is trying to use the same electronic resources at the same time. (And some of you who live in rural areas with your parents never did have good Internet.) So here are my re…

Handling Textbooks

In a lot of ways, the college attitude toward textbooks is totally opposite to the attitude in high school. When you were in high school, the school district owned the books, and marking them was a very serious offense; in college, you own the book, and marking it is a good strategy for learning.When you were in high school, you did the reading assignments after the class session; in college, you are expected to do the reading before you show up.In high school, relatively few people actually read things because the teacher would tell you everything that the book contained. (That might have been due to the teacher's frustration with students who refused to read anything.) In college, nobody babies you like that. You have to do the reading. Housekeeping details for textbooks Each teacher/section has a unique book list. If you are taking an English course from Allen and your roommate is taking a the same course from someone else, you will have different books. (Note: When you buy the …

Leveling the Playing Field

When you think about it, most of us have disabilities of some sort or another. I've worn glasses since I was eight years old, and this summer was the time for my cataract surgery. (My pre-surgery view of the world looked like a Monet painting.) Like you, I'm no stranger to physical problems with a classroom.

Dealing with your issuesFirst of all, nobody is going to chase you down and demand that you find help. They probably don't know that you are having trouble reading or hearing, so you must take initiative to deal with your issues. What you can doFirst, you need to figure out what kind of problem you have and how severe it is. Did you have an IEP in high school? Have you always had trouble seeing things from a distance? Here are some places to begin: Get an eye exam. There's nothing shameful or nerdy about wearing glasses. (Harry Potter wore them, and he saved the world.)Get your hearing checked. A family doctor can recommend specialists who do this.Get the computer to …

Late Preparations

During this last month 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. 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.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.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 sched…

Paper Textbook or E-book?

I have to admit that my mind is not settled on this question. I own a Barnes & Noble nook and love to read murder mysteries on it, but my apartment is also filled with paper books. Ultimately, the choice is up to you. Here are some things to think about as you decide which format to buy. Paper hard copy Advantages You can use it when the power goes out. You don't need a great computer or Internet connection to read the book. (My home Internet connection, through CenturyLink, has days when it simply stops working—several times for half an hour or so. I could still be reading a paper book when that happens.)
You can underline things and write in the margins.1It's yours forever (unless you have rented it).A paper book just feels more like reading to some people.Disadvantages Paper books do cost more.If you tend to lose things or leave them lying around for people to steal, books are vulnerable.E-book Advantages CheaperYou can search the text electronically.The computer can read the …