{ENG 215W rev 5.19.07}


Welcome to this section of English 215W, Research and Argumentative Writing, which is taught completely online. At this point, I'm sure you have many questions. Here are a few that are frequently asked.


"Will I be required to attend any in-person classes?" or "Will I be required to participate in live chat sessions?"


No. I strongly believe that real-time or synchronous sessions defeat the primary advantage of online learning—its virtual dimension. By virtual, I mean the ability to participate in class activities 24-7. The direct result of this virtuality is a tremendous amount of freedom for the student and the instructor. As an online student, you can log on when you choose, as often as you want to. You're no longer tied to a real-time schedule of classes on Monday and Wednesday from 9:00 to 10:15 a.m. in classroom 110. You can log on at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday or 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday.


"How does an online class differ from a F2F (face-to-face) class?" or "What are the unique demands or advantages of an online class?"


Information overload. The potential for being overwhelmed is ever present, especially at the beginning of the semester (or summer session). Because most of the course information is available all at once, some students are tempted to (or believe that they need to) master it all at once. Just as you can't learn everything a course offers in one class period, you shouldn't expect to master the contents of an entire online class in one or two sessions. Keep in mind that you have weeks and months to do so. Thus, the key to success in an online class is awareness and pacing. Via the assignment calendar, become aware of what you need to learn and when you need to have that information or knowledge. Next, pace yourself. Just as you wouldn't try to complete a marathon by sprinting at your top speed, you shouldn't try to learn everything in one sitting. Divide the learning task into smaller manageable chunks that you can master in 30-60 minute intervals, and spread them out over two or more sessions -- or days or weeks if the material is especially complex.


Flexibility and freedom. You're free to log on at a time of your choosing as well as from a location of your choice. For example, you can take a trip to Las Vegas and still complete your classwork via a laptop with Internet connection in your hotel room. If you're not feeling well, you can still participate in class activities through the Web from the comfort of your bedroom. I can attend a conference in Miami and still run my classes electronically. In all cases, the others in class wouldn't know that we were off island or at home with a cold. This freedom is ideal for those with jobs that conflict with traditional class schedules. I've had students who worked until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. and couldn't log on until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. It's great for mothers with young children or infants; they're able to log on when their children are asleep or at school. It's also practical for students who live on the other side of the island; they can avoid the long drive to Kapi`olani Community College and the desperate hunt for a parking space.


Discipline. Along with this tremendous freedom, however, is the need for discipline. In short, you're free to work when and from where you want to, but you must still meet deadlines. Without this discipline, an online class simply can't function. Thus, perhaps the most difficult aspect of online learning is the need to balance freedom with discipline. Not everyone can manage his/her own time efficiently. Some need the rigid structure of a traditional class schedule to motivate them to complete work on time. If you're self-motivated and mature enough to take personal responsibility for meeting deadlines, you'll thrive in the online classroom. If you're not very good at managing your own time and routinely forget or need others to remind you of deadlines, the online class may not be a good idea. If you do register for this class, you should do so with your eyes wide open. Yes, there is tremendous freedom. However, this freedom must be balanced with self-discipline.


Reading ability. Far more than in a F2F class, your ability to read and understand written instructions and information is critical in an online class. If you have great difficulty understanding what's expected (e.g., directions, guidelines, articles, web references and resources, sections in the required text) or have a constant need for clarification from the instructor or classmates, you may not be ready for an online class.


"What kinds of papers do you assign?"


I select topics that I think students can get their teeth into—real issues such as the role of women in today's world, the impact of advertising on the quality of our lives, the value of honesty in a world where lying seems to be increasingly acceptable, the First Amendment right to publish plans for building dangerous weapons. I also try to keep options open for topical subjects. For example, while the debate on whether or not the coalition forces should launch an attack on Iraq was raging, the ENG 215 students worked on a paper that weighed the evidence for and against the attack. Last semester, when a group of Catholic school girls beat up a pervert who was exposing himself to students, the class worked on a paper attacking or defending vigilantism. Also, while the controversy was ongoing, the class addressed the following proposition in a class debate and in their papers: The Kamehameha Schools trustees and U.S. District Judge David Ezra are correct in deciding to allow twelve-year-old Brayden Mohica-Cummings, a non-Hawaiian, to remain at Kamehameha Schools.


"What, specifically, am I going to learn in this advanced writing class?"


You'll learn how to develop arguments via logic, evidence, proof, authoritative testimony, and persuasive style—and you'll learn how to document this supporting material via the MLA style guide. Another important objective is learning how to apply an effective and efficient writing process in developing argumentative and research papers. We'll be learning the process by actually doing it. For each paper, we'll be using variations of the same process. Thus, by the end of the semester, you'll have a step-by-step strategy for college-level academic writing assignments.


An important element of the writing process we'll be using is peer feedback. For selected phases in each assignment, I'll be asking you to provide classmates with assessments. For example, you'll be asked to review classmates' papers to determine if they've met the assignment criteria and succeeded in avoiding specific errors that we're targeting. In papers that require analyses of pro and con arguments, you'll be asked to provide arguments for or against positions taken by classmates. In some instances, you may be asked to comment on the suitability of classmates' topics: Are they appropriate for the assignment?


"Will I be interacting with and getting to know my classmates?"


Yes! I'll expect you to interact between and among yourselves via email or other means. Many of the learning activities are designed to encourage you to collaborate, to work together as a team. These activities are often presented in the form of problems, e.g., how to assure that each person in a group receives the required number of reviews for her draft. The members in the group will need to organize themselves and come up with a strategy. If they don't, they won't be able to complete the exercise.


"Jim, why do I need to develop persuasive and research writing skills?"


Strong argumentative and documentation skills are essential for academic and professional success. Furthermore, I think of writing as a powerful tool to help us understand where we stand on the key issues that define us as individuals, as citizens of Hawai`i and the U.S., and as human beings on planet Earth. In a very real sense, our points of view define who we are, and it is my hope that a course such as this will give us all the tools to discover positions that are as fair and objective as possible.



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If you decide to register for this class or if you've already registered, I look forward to working with and getting to know you.


Prior to the start of our class—if you've already registered, please take the time to review "How to Get Started." Click on the icon toward the top of the navigation frame on the left. If you're registered for the coming semester, keep in mind that the information on the webpage—including the syllabus, assignments, and announcements—are geared for the current semester. I'll be posting the information for your semester in the interim between the semesters. In the meantime, if you have any questions, email me at jamess@hawaii.edu. (Don't leave messages in WebCT mail/discussions.) If I don't answer my office phone, email me -- don't leave a recorded message.





{revised 1.8.06}