Spring 2015 Syllabus: English 116, online sections 507 & 508

with Professor Tracy Schaelen

I took this photo at Devil's Bridge in Sedona . . . and then I hiked to the top.

Course Description

English 116 is a four-unit course designed to make students stronger readers, thinkers, and writers. The course will emphasize critical thinking, logical analysis, and effective argumentation through reading, analyzing, and writing about literature.

Student Learning Outcomes

As detailed in the English 116 course outline, students who successfully complete this course will be able to . . .

  • identify, describe, and question writing strategies found in a professional text and apply similar writing strategies in a well-developed essay.
  • construct well-developed essays with clear claims, sufficient evidence, and purposeful organization.
  • utilize skills of inference and analytical reading to assess rhetorical writing and speaking techniques, producing oral or written critiques of texts.
  • compose analytical interpretations of literary works, formulating insightful thesis statements and supporting them with textual evidence and literary analysis.
  • evaluate the role of the social, historical, and cultural context that influences a text and a reader’s analysis of a text.

Preparing for Success

Required prerequisite:  Grade of C or better in English 115

Recommended preparation:  English 220

Required Materials:  

1. textbooks, available at SWC Bookstore and online:

2. reliable, high-speed Internet access on a desktop or laptop computer, ideally with webcam and microphone

3. software to save documents in Microsoft Word (.docx)

Instructor Role & Contact Info

I am looking forward to working closely with you this semester, and you can expect me to play an active role in the course. I will post announcements every week, join you in class discussions to help you understand course concepts, answer questions in the Lounge forum in Blackboard, and provide detailed feedback on major assignments. Blackboard questions are best handled by the Online Learning Center, although I will try to assist you with technical questions when needed. Please reach out to me if you need help—that’s why I’m here!

Office Hours

  • on campus: See "Instructor Info" in Blackboard for times and locations.
  • online (via email or Skype): Thursdays, 12:00-1:45 p.m.
  • Questions outside of office hours? I will respond to your email within 24 hours, Monday through Friday.

This four-unit course requires a commitment of approximately 12-15 hours per week. Much of this time will be spent reading texts, analyzing what you have read, and presenting your ideas about it in writing. You will also take regular quizzes, participate in critical-thinking activities, and work with classmates using Blackboard’s discussion board, VoiceThread, and perhaps other tools. Major written assignments include two analytical essays and a research paper.

Reading and Taking Notes

In a traditional lecture classroom, the instructor delivers information and the students receive it. In contrast, the online classroom puts the student in charge of learning. Instead of lecturing, I will be providing you with the materials you need to learn for yourself. Rather than passively taking notes, you will be the one creating meaning; it will be up to you to read actively, learn from the texts, and apply that knowledge to class discussions, activities, and essays. This is liberating and exciting for many people, but it can be disastrous if you are not motivated, disciplined, and organized.

I recommend that you go beyond simply highlighting the text to actively taking notes, both in the margins and on separate paper or in a digital file. This is especially important when reading our works of literature; the goal is to have a record of your insights into each story, which will be valuable when posting to the discussion board and writing essays.


Most weeks, we will have a ten-point quiz on critical thinking and/or works of literature from that week’s reading. These short quizzes will emphasize important elements of the week’s reading, and your score and feedback will let you know how well you are grasping these concepts. Questions will be multiple choice, short answer, fill in the blank, etc. Quizzes will be due by 11:59 p.m. each Tuesday. They cannot be taken late.


As you have probably already discovered in English 115 and 220, talking and writing about a topic helps you better understand it. This is especially true when you are dealing with works of literature, which usually have several layers of meaning. To get the most out of each week’s assigned readings, you will participate in a discussion of them, just as you would in a traditional classroom. This conversation will often be on Blackboard’s discussion board, although some weeks we will use VoiceThread. For most weeks, you will contribute one primary post and two responses to your classmates’ contributions.

Because Blackboard’s Discussion Board will be our most common discussion tool, here is an in-depth look at how we will use it. Our discussions via VoiceThread will be based on this model in terms of goals and points, and specific instructions will be provided.

1.  First, when you are reading our textbook and stories, record your reactions and insights through independent note-taking during or immediately after reading.

2.  Next, join one or more forums (discussions on specific topics), contributing a total of one primary post and two responses for the week. Most weeks will have three or four forums to choose from. Each primary post will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • It has been completed on time: 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
  • It is approximately 250-350 words in length (using Microsoft Word’s Word Count) and well written. Don't forget to spell-check and proofread!
  • It presents a focused, supported, logically sound insight that directly addresses the forum topic and has not been written about yet. Quotations will often be used to explain and support ideas.

3.  To gain additional insight into the assigned works, read through other students’ posts as they appear during the week. You may want to take notes on these ideas, too. Alternatively, you could print out a particular discussion thread or an entire forum. As you read the ideas of others, respond to at least two. Responses should attempt to take an idea further or approach a topic from a new direction. They may be shorter than primary posts (around 100-150 words), but avoid simply agreeing or saying “Good job”—these types of responses do not deepen the discussion and will not receive credit.

Primary posts are worth up to 10 points each, and each week’s set of responses will also be worth up to 10 points, for a total of 20 points each week. All primary posts must be completed by 11:59 p.m. each Thursday; all responses must be completed by 11:59 p.m. each Saturday. Note:Bonus points may be awarded to students who make valuable contributions to the Lounge forum, such as helping other students or sharing relevant websites, events, etc. with the class.


Writing insightful, organized, logically sound essays is the primary goal of this course. We will work on honing these skills throughout the semester. Each essay needs your absolute best effort, so be sure to plan enough time into your schedule to work hard on each essay. I will give you suggestions and feedback throughout the semester to help you improve.

If you are still making substantial grammar and punctuation mistakes in your writing, you will need to budget extra time to edit your papers, as these issues were studied in previous writing courses but not at this level. (You will probably also want to schedule weekly visits to the Writing Center to help you catch up in these areas.)

Skill Builders

During this semester we will complete three “skill builders” that will help you hone skills vital to your success in the course. We will go beyond our textbooks for these activities, which will give you the opportunity to apply what you have learned to new situations. More details will be provided when we reach the weeks of these assignments.

Putting it All Together

Detailed schedules of assignments will be available in the Schedules area of Blackboard as we move through the semester. You will want to print these out for easy reference.  For now, it might be useful to envision what your typical week will look like.  For most weeks, this will be your work flow:

  1. Following the published schedule, begin reading (and taking notes) for the new week as soon as you are finished with the previous week (for most people, this is Saturday or Sunday).
  2. Read any new announcements and then head to the Weekly Materials area. Click on this week’s folder for information and materials related to our new topic, readings, and activities. (Note: these materials will be made available Friday evening for early access.)
  3. Take the quiz by Tuesday and contribute your primary post or VoiceThread comment to the week’s discussion by Thursday. Discussion responses (or second VT comment) are due by Saturday.
  4. If applicable, work on your skill builder, essay, or other special assignment throughout the week, completing it by the published due date.  

After a few weeks, you will fall into the rhythm of Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday deadlines.  This should make it easier to schedule your time and reduce the chance that a deadline will sneak past you.

Warning about "Mature Content"

This course will challenge you to objectively analyze subjects about which you may have strong opinions, the goal of which is not to change those opinions, but rather to fully understand the issue and achieve insight. Some of the literature we will be reading and discussing contains “mature content” such as profanity and racism. In fact, many readers would agree that Flannery O’Connor has created some of the most offensive characters in American literature, but she does this for an important reason. If you do not wish to read about and analyze such subjects, it is recommended that you enroll in another section of English 116. Please contact me to discuss any concerns.


Regular attendance and class participation is as vital in an online class as it is in a traditional classroom. Your presence will be counted not by taking roll but by your regular contributions to discussions and activities. Participation in this online course involves regularly logging into the course (at least 3-4 times per week if not daily) and checking email, completing assignments, and contributing regular posts to the discussion board.

As in an on-ground class, any student who has missed more than two weeks may be dropped from the class by the instructor. However, if you choose to drop the course you will need to do so officially through Admissions and then notify your instructor.

Professional Conduct

Both in the readings and in discussions, you will likely encounter ideas and values that differ from your own. These are good opportunities to learn more about different perspectives and where you stand. You are encouraged to contribute your ideas about our readings freely, but please remember to show respect for others and their opinions. Anyone who violates this conduct policy may be locked out of the discussion board for the week and/or face student misconduct charges.

As this is an academic environment, please note that all written communication should use standard English. While abbreviations, slang, and other shortcuts are common in texting, they are not clear communication for everyone and thus are inappropriate for the classroom. Also, please remember to spell-check and proofread before posting to Blackboard!

Academic Integrity

Warning: Any academic dishonesty such as plagiarism or cheating will result in severe penalties. Plagiarism is the act of using another person's words or ideas as if they were your own. Sources of quotations, paraphrases, and summaries must be properly documented according to MLA format. This applies to all writing, including discussions.

Plagiarism is considered academic theft because it is stealing someone else’s words or ideas, but the plagiarizer robs himself or herself as well. This course will provide you with the opportunity to improve your reading, thinking, and writing skills—don’t rob yourself of that chance.

Late Work

All assignments for this course must be completed on time. Quizzes and surveys will be automatically locked when the due date passes. While discussions will remain accessible, only posts submitted on time will receive credit.

In emergency situations and with instructor approval, essays and other major assignments may be accepted late with a penalty of 10% of the total points per calendar day the assignment is late. To avoid such a situation, I strongly recommend that you do not wait until an assignment is due to submit it—early is a wise plan in an online class.

Each student's final grade is calculated by the percentage of total points possible earned by that student, using a standard scale: 90-100%=A, 80-89%=B, 70-79=C, 60-69%=D, 0-59%=F. The instructor reserves the right to add/change/delete points during the semester.

Writing Resources

It is assumed that students entering English 116 are able to write college-level essays and possess college-level grammar and punctuation skills. If any aspect of your writing is not yet at this level, it is your responsibility to bridge the gap through the use of helpful, free resources such as the following:

  • When you are on campus, I highly recommend that you visit the SWC Writing Center, located in room 420D in the Academic Success Center. Tutoring, free handouts, and a weekly workshop series are all available to you. The Writing Center also offers free online tutoring—see their website for details.
  • You will find a wealth of online resources at Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL).
  • Also remember that I will be happy to meet with you on campus, answer emails, and respond to your concerns in the Discussion Board’s “Lounge” forum if you are having trouble with a reading assignment, a critical-thinking concept, etc.—I'm here to help!

Students with Special Needs

If you have a learning disability, physical disability, or any other circumstance that needs special accommodation, please discuss it with your instructor. I want you to be successful and am happy to work with you! Here is additional information provided by our college’s DSS office:

Southwestern College recommends that students with disabilities or specific learning needs contact their professors during the first two weeks of class to discuss academic accommodations. If a student believes that they may have a disability and would like more information, they are encouraged to contact Disability Support Services (DSS) at (619) 482-6512 (voice), (619) 207-4480 (video phone), or email at DSS@swccd.edu. Alternate forms of this syllabus and other course materials are available upon request.

Online Learning Resources

Course Map

Take a tour of our digital classroom through the course menu, found on the left side of the entry page for our course. Here is an overview of the key areas of the course, each of which has a button on the course menu:

  • Syllabus & General Info contains documents and information that you will use throughout the course. Help with Blackboard can also be found here.
  • Contact Instructor contains your instructor’s contact information and office hours.
  • Schedules is the place to find our printable schedules of assignments, which include reading assignments and due dates.
  • Weekly Materials contains the content of our course—"lectures," booklets, Internet field trips, and information about assignments—organized into weekly folders.
  • Quizzes & Surveys is the place to go for—you guessed it—weekly quizzes and occasional surveys.
  • Discussion Board is where most of our class discussions will take place. A forum is a specific topic posted by the instructor; you will have several to choose from each week.
  • Essays is the place to find printable essay assignments and submit your work.
  • Skill Builders contains the assignments for each of our skill builders.
  • Journal houses your collection of journal entries.
  • Course Grades lists your score and the points possible for all assignments. Quiz grades are posted immediately after completion, while other assignments requiring instructor grading will be posted several days later. You can access your graded work and my feedback by clicking on the item or rubric. To calculate your current course grade, divide your total points by the total points possible so far; this percentage can be translated into a letter grade using a standard scale (see "Grading" section above).
  • Announcements houses announcements that have been posted by your instructor. This is your default start page.
  • Helpful Websites is a collection of web links useful to the study of literature.
  • Bb User Tools houses links to common tools and several optional ones.
  • Online Learning Center is a direct link to the Online Learning Center, where you will find tutorials, FAQs, orientation info, important downloads, and more.
  • Bb Help connects you to Blackboard’s online help center.

English 116 Course Syllabus by Tracy Schaelen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.