Picture of a teacher's desk


Welcome to our online course. :)


Course
English 80
Academic Reading and Writing
Section 0311
Fall 2014


Instructor
Riba Taylor


Office hours
Mondays 11am to 2pm by phone (details below).


Students already enrolled in my courses are also welcome to try to reach me at home by phone between 11am and 2pm (Pacific time) weekdays at 760.327.9759. (I am only committing to being available on Mondays during these hours, but I am often available during these times and you are welcome to try me.) Since this is my home phone, please call me only during the proffered times. Thanks.


We can arrange for phone or private online meetings at any other time if you'd like my input or help regarding your work in the course or if you have any concerns you need to address. Or, if you'd just like to talk a bit informally about writing or reading in general, class texts in particular (or ??), I'd be happy to meet you in the Chat Room of our course site or make arrangements to speak on the phone. If the above times don't work for you, please send me a private message in our course site and include your preference. If you'd like to arrange a phone meeting, please include your phone number and three good times to call you. Thanks.


If you are not yet enrolled in one of my courses, please use only the Monday office hour times to call me, or send me an email anytime.


picture of a letter

Email
rtaylor@mendocino.edu


The best way to reach me electronically is by Private Message in our online classroom. I will check these often, and it's easier for me to help you when I am actually inside our online classroom at the time. But my email address is above if you need it for any reason.

Description
This course is designed to enhance your reading, writing and thinking abilities. You will work hard and learn to be a more active reader, a more proficient writer and a more versatile thinker. During the course of the semester you will practice: evaluating text for bias and credibility; "engaging" with the ideas of the authors and your classmates; developing and refining topics for your own writing; writing short, spontaneous pieces as well as longer, more prepared essays; revising and proofreading your written work; offering constructive feedback on the writing of your peers; participating in small groups; and presenting your work and ideas to the class as a whole.


crab with a hammer


Student learning outcomes
Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:


1) Practice active reading skills to comprehend, critically address and respond to college-level text (as demonstrated through discussions, journal entries, quizzes and timed essays).


2) Read a college-level essay and respond spontaneously to a writing prompt (about the work) in a clear, organized manner, including in their discussions of the piece specific examples from the text and their own original ideas.


3) Produce timed essays on a variety of topics. These essays will have solid structure and organization, meet all of the requirements of the assignment, include specific details to support their ideas and contain no more than a few minor technical errors.


Picture of books


Required texts
Note, in addition to the required reader and handbook, you'll be asked to read one additional full-length book. Here is the current list of these extra book choices.


1) Reader for Riba Taylor's course [a McGraw-Hill customized PRIMIS reader]


2) Handbook for Riba's course [custom duplication available in the college bookstore]


3) A dictionary


Recommended texts (optional)
1) The Least You Should Know about English Writing Skills


2) Style guide/writing manual


All texts are available at the bookstore on the Ukiah campus. If you'd like to buy yours at one of the centers, please call them first to make arrangements for the books to be transferred there.


students holding work with grades on it


Grading
10 to 20 "formal" discussion posts or response pieces = 500 to 1000
10 or more reflections = 500 (+/-)
2 summaries (100 and 300 points each, 2nd one is part of "The Top Two") = 400
3 practice timed essays = 300
1 "for real" timed essay (part of "The Top Two") = 400
Project = 400
Other writing, quizzes, etc. = 500 (+/-) Final objective exam = 300


Total points possible (+/-) 3100 to 3600
(Be sure to read details for "The Top Two" below.)


Passing this course will be tied to "The Top Two" tasks (see below---this is very important to understand). In addition to passing "The Top Two" requirement, final grades are calculated on a straight percentage basis (90% and up = A, 80% = B, 70% = C, 60% = D, below 60% = F). To calculate your grade at any point simply divide your total points by the total points possible to date, and this will give you your percentage. I recommend doing the math periodically throughout the term.


IMPORTANT!
Passing this course is tied directly to the grades you earn on specific writing assignments. Please read about "The Top Two" below.


pig with blue ribbon


Your letter grade and "The Top Two"
You must complete Summary 2 and Timed Essay 4 in order to pass this course. We'll call these two assignments "The Top Two." Think of "The Top Two" as a hoop you have to be able to jump through in order to successfully complete this course. To earn a "C" or better in this course, you must earn a "C" or better for your grade for these two assignments. Timed Essay 4 counts as 400 points for the Top Two and Summary 2 counts for 300 points. So, to earn a passing score on the Top Two you need to earn 70% of these 700 points (70% = 490 = the lowest C).


You must complete both the Top Two tasks and earn at least 490 points in order to be "eligible" for a chance to pass this course. You will also need to have earned the corresponding number of total points for all work during the semester in order to receive a passing score (i.e. earning a passing score for The Top Two is not enough to pass the course). For example, if you pass "The Top Two" requirement, you will also need to earn at least 90% overall for the term in order to receive a final letter grade of "A." Also, if your cumulative points earn you an 85% overall but your score on "The Top Two" falls below 70%, then you will receive a final letter grade of a "D" (and NOT a "B"). You cannot pass the course without passing the Top Two requirement.


It's crucial you understand this from the get go, and it can be confusing. Please reread the information here and then post any questions you may have in the Questions forum. You are responsible for understanding this information as we begin the semester.


Every chance
Even though there is a hoop, I try to give you every chance to successfully jump through it. I allow you to revise and resubmit Summary 2 if needed. If you don't do well on Essay 4, you will also be able to take a fifth timed essay if needed in order to try to earn a passing Top Two score. But you must complete both Top Two tasks during the natural course of the semester. (In other words, you can't come to me at the end and expect me to allow you to make them up so you will be eligible for a passing grade.) If you don't earn a passing score on the first practice timed essays, be sure to contact me right away to get extra help and extra practice in order to prepare for Essay 4.


Again, it is your responsibility to be sure you complete the work and seek help if need be in the first part of the term, but I am available and eager to help you in every way I can.


Girl working at computer at night


Attendance
Because you are not attending a traditional face-to-face class, there are no exact requirements for attendance. However, I expect you to "show up" in our virtual classroom often. I recommend daily login for checking messages and keeping abreast of any changes.


In my experience as an online student, checking in more than once a day during the week---even if only for a few minutes---has been the most effective way for me to keep up with the discussion messages without becoming overwhelmed. Plus, the more often I check in, the more engaged I feel, and the more I enjoy the class. Then I plan larger chunks of time for completing the rest of my coursework.


For this class, I'll ask you to develop the habit of checking the following every time you log in:


Recent announcements (on the home page)
All new posts in the Questions forum
Private messages (in our course site)


My time commitments to you
I'll visit our online classroom at least once every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday to answer any questions posted in the Questions forum and reply to private messages. If I'll be unavailable during any of these days, I'll always try to let you know by posting a note in the Questions forum. My bottom-line commitment is to be sure to check in once on each of these days, though I often check a number of times throughout the day and evening. I won't be visiting the course site on Wednesdays, weekends or school holidays, except for the first weekend while folks are still becoming oriented and getting their feet on the ground.


If you "see" me in our online classroom but I don't respond to a question or private message, it probably means I'm grading and not currently checking for newly posted messages. I do try to always respond to any waiting messages whenever I visit the course site, but on occasion I'll need to pop in to address an administrative issue and won't have time to check for questions. If my time is limited, I always respond to questions in the Questions forum before answering any private messages since the forum posts affect the class as a whole.


Note, you may indeed see me in the course site on some Wednesdays and Saturdays, but please don't count on this being the case. Plan to look your work over early and get your questions asked with time to spare. The best scenario would be to review your work for the upcoming week over the weekend and post any questions you may have in the Questions forum by Monday or Tuesday. Ideally, we'll then have time for any sort of needed back and forth to get things clarified by Friday. (You'll note each Monday both the current week's module and the following week's module will be open, so you'll have plenty of flexibility in terms of looking over your work ahead of time. If you are really on top of things, you can be asking questions about the following week's work on that prior Monday. ;-)


Teacher working with a student


Open communication
I encourage you to bring me any questions or concerns that may come up for you during the term. If you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, worried or bored---tell me about it. I am happy to schedule a time to talk over the phone, and you can send me a private message whenever you like or call me at home during the hours stated at the beginning of the syllabus. If you don't understand my comments on your work, please ask me. If you think I missed something or the grade you received doesn't adequately represent the quality of your work, tell me about it. (It never hurts to ask. There have been occasions when I've changed someone's grade because of an oversight on my part of a good argument on the student's part.)


I can't stress enough the importance of keeping me informed. I try to be both fair and reasonable, but if I don't know what's going on with you, there is very little chance I'm going to be able to address your issues or concerns, much less help resolve them.


If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable for any reason about a particular message posted by one of your peers in the discussions or the manner in which it was written, by all means address it directly and kindly within the discussion thread. If you feel unsure about doing this, do please send me a private message about it. (Because the discussions are primarily for you, I won't always stay current with them. So, I'll appreciate a timely heads-up if something "untoward" seems to be happening.)


On a lighter note, I enjoy communicating with my students one-on-one, and it doesn't need to happen only when something has gone awry. Please feel free to send me a private message to let me know when you've enjoyed a particular task or learned something valuable or felt good about a specific comment I made in my feedback or just got a chuckle out of something in our online classroom. Small connections like this are important for all of us, I think. So please don't ever worry about "bugging" me, whether it's good or bad, large or small. I like hearing from you.


girl reading


Attitude and academics
Plagiarism or other forms of cheating are (of course!) unacceptable. When copying something word for word, or when rephrasing ideas from someone else's text, you must cite your source. If you use someone else's words or ideas without citing them (even only a couple), you are committing plagiarism and may receive an "F." Other disciplinary action may also be taken.


Equally unacceptable is any "behavior" that is disruptive or has a negative impact on the class. I expect everyone to treat each other with respect and as much kindness as we can muster. In the online environment, this should be easier to do because we have the advantage of being able to think about our words before we send or "speak" them. (I talk about this more in the Netiquette section of the Getting Started module. It's important to me.) If I feel your behavior is unacceptable, I may need to step in to "correct" you, or I may need to "speak" with you privately before you can continue to participate in the class. I don't anticipate this needing to happen, but I feel I need to warn you that it could.


Dropping the class
If for any reason you stop attending class, please remember it is your responsibility to drop the course. I would also recommend you follow up a week or two later by requesting a printout of your schedule from Admissions and Records to verify the drop has been implemented. If you don't drop the course, you'll automatically receive an "F." If you don't drop, your name appears on the final grade sheet, and I have no other option at that point but to complete the "bubble" for an "F." No one is happy in this situation (not me, not you, not Admissions and Records), so please take the time and be responsible for your own transcripts. Even if you've only attended the first couple of weeks of a course, don't assume the instructor is going to "take care of it" for you. You might luck out once or twice, but eventually it will catch up with you.


woman at table with a book


Other college support services
We have marvelous student support at Mendocino College, and I urge you to make the effort to benefit from what is offered. We have an extensive and amazing program for students with disabilities (including testing and support for students with learning disabilities), a terrific group of academic advisors in the counseling office (including special, qualified counselors who provide free personal counseling to students to help with mental/emotional/growth issues) and a wonderful library and learning center (with face-to-face and online tutors and study groups). These are just some of the student services offered, so please be sure to check these student services out on campus or via the college website. Or check with me or with the Instruction Office for more information.


If you are registered with the Disabilities Resource Center (DRC), they will let me know what sorts of accommodations you'll need for my course, and I'll be happy to discuss these with you, as well. If you want them to be able to freely discuss your specific issues and needs with me, please let them know. (I believe there's a form for this permission.) Remember, too, the DRC can also offer wonderful support in a number of ways.


Encouraging a fair and safe experience
This college and this classroom are dedicated to providing an atmosphere that affords everyone, regardless of race, ethnic background, gender, disability, age or sexual preference, the sense of feeling safe and of being treated fairly so each student will have the best opportunity to learn. If you feel you have been treated unjustly, or are having an experience that in some way impedes your ability to feel safe in the academic environment, please let us know so we can do what we can to help. I've already encouraged you to bring any problems you might be having in my class to me, and I echo that again here. (If need be, we can get assistance from other campus support services to help us resolve any concerns.) For issues you are unable to resolve directly with an instructor, you can contact the Dean of Instruction in the Instruction Office, and for any other concerns, please contact the Dean of Student Services in the Counseling Office.


The most important thing to all of us who work here at the college is that you have a good experience and are motivated to continue your education. We really are here to help. Please give us every chance we can to do just that.


A demanding but rewarding class
This is a demanding class, and I am an ogre about sticking to the requirements and deadlines. It's demanding, but it can be a fun, challenging, rewarding, heartwarming, eye-opening, entertaining and growth-filled experience for all of us. I'm glad you're here. I look forward to working with you throughout the term.


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