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 Blackboard
On 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 week
- One or more links to a narrated PowerPoint lesson on how to write a paper
- Links to web pages for the week
- A drop box for the week's writing
- A grammar quiz
What you won't see on Blackboard
- Specific 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 folder for the week when they were assigned, so you will have to go back there and look—or you could look at the printed copy I gave you—or you could look in the "Essay Assignments" folder in the "Start Here" item in the menu on the left.)
What you need to do each week
- Show up for your weekly face-to-face meeting of your cohort.
- Begin the week (especially the Wednesday and Friday cohorts) by looking over the whole week to get an idea of what you must do.
- Plan on spending at least eight hours of "homework" time on the course each week.
- It would really help you to make a schedule for yourself—perhaps one day for grammar things and another day for writing, etc.
- You should take a look daily at your AU email and the course blog to see any announcements.
- Every week, some sort of writing is due and normally a grammar quiz is due as well. Make sure you get them in by Friday. (NOTE: The one in Week 1 is due on Wednesday because of a regulation from the Registrar's office.)
- Four Writing Center sessions are required during the semester (and the syllabus lists the due dates), but there is nothing wrong with scheduling more.
- (Do I really need to say this?) Keep up with the reading: America Now, Writer's Reference, and the web pages linked on Blackboard.
A note about computer problems
Some of you have computers and/or Internet connections which are less than wonderful. And sometimes Blackboard just won't cooperate. Here are some ideas to help you cope.
- If Blackboard simply won't open, this link takes you to our syllabus and major paper assignments.
- When you upload a paper to Blackboard, you should get an email telling you that it went in. If Blackboard doesn't cooperate, send the paper as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The "Talking Head" Face-to-Face video isn't really essential, so if the system doesn't want to load it, don't panic.
- I'm not in love with Zoom or other video conference software, so we probably won't do anything with it.
- As always, you should keep a copy of anything you write. Don't assume that your upload to Blackboard should be your only copy.
Danger points for you
- You will be tempted to slam all the week's course work into one marathon session on Friday night. Don't do it!
- For one thing, you simply will not succeed in working on English from 4 PM to midnight. Your brain will wear out and you'll abandon the project.
- For another, you will probably be tired at the end of the week and find endless excuses to avoid English completely.
- And if that wasn't enough, we all know that the best writing is done gradually, with several drafts and thinking sessions spread over at least a couple of days.
- Most of the time, you will have two different writing assignments to think about: a short reading response, and a longer full essay. Do not forget either one.
- Don't fall into the trap of telling yourself, "I only have to go to school for one hour per week in English 100." That's a recipe for failing the course. Distance Education of any kind requires the student to have a lot of self-discipline and maturity. Your essential job description is "student." You need to be putting in a total of nine hours on this course every week.
One more thing…
I am actually writing this on August 19, and it's anybody's guess how the virus will affect our campus. Keep watching your email and be ready to adjust if we need to change the course.