Reflective Comments for the September 2018 Session at DeVry University

Continuing a practice I most recently iterated at the end of the July 2018 session at DeVry University, and following closely the patterns established in previous practice, comments below offer impressions of class performance among students enrolled in my section of ENGL 135: Advanced Composition during the September 2018 session at that institution. After a brief outline of the course and selected statistics about it, impressions and implications for further teaching are discussed.

Students enrolled in ENGL 135 during the September 2018 session were asked to complete a number of assignments in quick succession. Many, and the weightiest, related to the overall course project; others were homework meant to practice skills used in the workplace and in later stages of the course project. Those assignments and their prescribed point-values are below, with relative weights shown in the figure below:

Grade Breakdown

  • Course Project
    • Topic Selection, 50 points
    • Research Proposal, 50 points
    • Annotated Bibliography, 100 points
    • First Draft, 70 points
    • Second Draft, 80 points
    • Presentation, 100 points
    • Final Draft, 170 points
    • Career Planning, 50 points
  • Discussions, 280 points
  • Homework, 50 points
  • Total, 1000 points

As before, most assignments were assessed by means of rubrics provided by the institution. Some few were assessed on a percentile basis from standardized testing conducted as part of University-wide course requirements.

The section met online, with office hours generally taking place Monday evenings at 6pm Central time. Its overall data includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 13
  • Average class score: 796.154/1000 (C)
    • Standard deviation: 90.997
  • Students earning a grade of A (900/1000 points or more): 3
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 600/1000 points): 0

Numbers of students receiving each of the traditional letter grades are indicated below:

September 2018 ENGL 135 Grade Breakdown

I was pleased to note that none of the students who completed the class failed it. It’s not been something that’s happened often in my teaching career–but I think it has more to do with students withdrawing from the class before a failing grade could be recorded than with my improving quality of teaching, more’s the pity. Still, close to a quarter of the students earned A grades, which was a pleasure to see.

During the session, albeit later than ought to have been the case, I returned to an old teaching practice of mine: doing the exercises assigned to my students. I hadn’t done so in some time, my attenuated connection to academe (about which I’ve written at some length) interfering with my doing so. Writing what my students are asked to write after a while of not doing so was illuminating; it reminded me of the struggles my students face in getting their own work done amid their lives, and it reminded me that I am somewhat out of practice doing the kind of writing expected of academics. (That I am is sensible, since I’m not a “real” academic anymore and have, in effect, given up on the idea of being one. Still, to have had a skill-set and to be aware of its diminishing is vexatious.) As such, it was useful, and I am likely to continue along the practice in the November 2018 session. I will likely focus my efforts in that regard on ENGL 112 rather than on ENGL 135, however, since the latter has a recent example, and I’ve not previously taught the former. (Indeed, I never sat for first-semester college composition, which has some implications that I may explore later.)

At the end, though, I am glad once again to have had once again the chance to teach, and I look forward to having it at least one more time as I move forward.

Class Report: ENGL 135, 22 October 2018

Continuing on from the previous week, students were asked in discussion to consider their future prospects. They were also asked to connect their efforts in the current class and other courses to job prospects, working in part from the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

The course roster showed 13 students enrolled, a decline of one from last week; all participated in online discussions during the week. An online office hour was held on Monday, 15 October 2018; no students attended.

Students are reminded that the next office hour will be today, Monday, 22 October 2018, at 6pm Central Daylight Time. Students are also reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Daylight Time) on 27 October 2018:

  • Discussion Thread: Looking Ahead
  • Course Project: Career Connections (due online as an APA-formatted Word document)

Class Report: ENGL 135, 15 October 2018

Continuing on from the previous week, students were asked in discussion to present a draft of their presentation for peer review. They were asked to revise the previously submitted second drafts in light of instructor and peer comments, as well, improving upon the earlier materials and generating said presentation.

The course roster showed 14 students enrolled, a decline of four from last week; 13 participated in online discussions during the week. An online office hour was held on Tuesday, 9 October 2018; two students attended, albeit briefly.

Students are reminded that the next office hour will be today, Monday, 15 October 2018, at 6pm Central Daylight Time. Students are also reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Daylight Time) on 20 October 2018:

  • Discussion Thread: APA Workshop (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Discussion Thread: Project Design (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Course Project: Final Draft (due online as an APA-formatted Word document)

Class Report: ENGL 135, 8 October 2018

Continuing on from the previous week, students were asked in discussion to present a draft of their course project for peer review. They were asked to revise the previously submitted first drafts in light of instructor and peer comments, as well, improving upon the earlier materials.

The course roster showed 18 students enrolled, a decline of one from last week; fifteen participated in online discussions during the week. An online office hour was held on Monday, 1 October 2018; no students attended.

Students are reminded that the next office hour will be tomorrow, Tuesday, 9 October 2018, at 6pm Central Daylight Time. Students are also reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Daylight Time) on 14 October 2018:

  • Discussion Thread: Presentation Peer Review (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Course Project: Presentation (due as a narrated PowerPoint or similarly accessible presentation)

Class Report: ENGL 135, 1 October 2018

Continuing on from the previous week, students were asked in discussion to present the first paragraphs of their first drafts for student critique and to analyze sample arguments. They were also asked to draft and submit first drafts of their papers for instructor review.

The course roster showed 19 students enrolled, a decline of two from last week; all but one participated in one or more online discussions during the week. An online office hour was held on Monday, 24 September 2018; no students attended.

Students are reminded that the third office hour will be tonight, Monday, 1 October 2018, at 6pm Central Daylight Time. Students are also reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Daylight Time) on 7 October 2018:

  • Discussion Threads: Course Project Peer Review (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Course Project: Second Draft (due as a Word document in APA format)

Class Report: ENGL 135, 24 September 2018

Continuing on from the previous week, students were asked in discussion to practice annotated bibliography entries and to discuss presentations of ideas. They were also asked to produce a brief annotated bibliography and to submit a final pulse-check.

The course roster showed 21 students enrolled, a decline of six from last week; all but two participated in one or more online discussions during the week. An online office hour was held on Monday, 17 September 2018; no students attended.

Students are reminded that the third office hour will be tonight, Monday, 24 September 2018, at 6pm Central Daylight Time. Students are also reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Daylight Time) on 30 September 2018:

  • Discussion Threads: The First Draft and Analyzing a Sample Argument (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Course Project: First Draft (due as a Word document in APA format)

Class Report: ENGL 135, 17 September 2018

Continuing on from the previous week, students were asked in discussion to work through summarizing a source and investigate reliability of online sources. They were also asked to sit for an online APA quiz, to complete a “pulse check,” and to draft a topic proposal and tentative outline for their course project.

The course roster showed 27 students enrolled, a net gain of one from last week; most participated in one or more online discussions during the week. An online office hour was held on Monday, 10 September 2018; no students attended.

Students are reminded that the third office hour will be tonight, Monday, 17 September 2018, at 6pm Central Daylight Time. Students are also reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Daylight Time) on 23 September 2018:

  • Discussion Threads: Presenting Ideas and Annotated Bibliography Practice (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Course Project: Annotated Bibliography (due as a Word document in APA format)
  • Week 3 Pulse Check (due online)

Class Report: ENGL 135, 10 September 2018

While it might seem somewhat odd to offer a report of activities for a class that does not actually meet, some running commentary seems in order for even a wholly online class. To that end, the following:

During the first week of the session, students were asked to introduce themselves and to work through developing a topic for the session-long course project. Instructor comments on the latter were offered in the hopes of prompting deeper consideration and more engaged, authentic work.

The course roster showed 26 students enrolled; 19 participated in online discussion during the week. An online office hour was held on Tuesday, 4 September 2018, adjusted from the normal Monday meeting due to a holiday; one student attended.

Students are reminded that the second office hour will be tonight, Monday, 10 September 2018, at 6pm Central Daylight Time. Students are also reminded that the following assignments are due before the end of day (Mountain Daylight Time) on 16 September 2018:

  • Discussion Threads: Summarizing Sources and Internet Reliability (3 posts/thread, rubric online)
  • Course Project: Research Proposal and Outline (due as a Word document in APA format)
  • Information Literacy and APA Format Quiz (due online)
  • Week 2 Pulse Check (due online)

Initial Comments for the September 2018 Session at DeVry University in San Antonio

I have been offered a section of ENGL 135: Advanced Composition for the September 2018 session at DeVry University in San Antonio–and I’ve signed my contract for it. The course will run from 2 September through 27 October 2018, and it will meet wholly online. I admit to preferring hybrid or on-site courses to fully online work, but I also admit to preferring having income to not, so I was pleased to accept the course.

Ah, to see such a thing…
The image comes from DeVry University. It seems to fit, given the topic here.

I note, also, that there have been some adjustments to the assignment sequence in the course. As such, I’ll need to adjust my teaching materials somewhat from those I’ve been using for the past couple of years. It’s not a bad thing; updates need to happen as more research is done into what best practices are (even if that research tends to focus on traditional undergraduates, who are not the students DeVry tends to teach), and there were things in the previous assignment sequences that flatly did not work well.

Whether or not I assign a topic for consideration is still undetermined. I did not have great success with it the last time I did so, as I believe I noted. My concerns about it remain in place–the more so with a wholly online class, where students are typically even more pressured to cleave to assignments as prescribed and less inclined to range out from their expectations. (It’s not my first wholly online course, and my own mother completed a wholly online degree. I’ll admit my experience is limited, but it is still what I have to work with.) If I do, I do not think I will restrict myself to the previously assigned topic; again, few of the students I taught felt as if they could meaningfully address it. (I wonder if it derives from their having been underserved by their previous academic experiences.) Perhaps if I prescribe a topic, I will work with humor once again–although the circumstances of the class are not such as admit of jocularity easily.

In any event, I have it to do one more time, at least. Even if I do confine myself to the “standard” offerings this time around–and I might, that I might better negotiate the changes to the course sequence since the last time I taught it–I will be glad to have the opportunity to work with students yet again, hopefully to help them move beyond the idea of research as compiling and reporting information only and into the notion of research being the revelation or creation of new knowledge. Students in first-year writing classes do not necessarily often make such breakthroughs, but when they do, it is quite a joy to see; every time I am able to help it happen, I am pleased with myself.

Every time it happens, whether I am responsible for it or not, the world is that much better off than it was before. And more of that needs to happen.