English 330-80, Reynolds

Welcome Letter for Critical Writing 1

Professor:    Rhoda Reynolds
Email:    reynoldsr@wpunj.edu
Department:    English
Course No. & Section:    ENG 330-80
Phone:    973 - 720 - 3800 ext. 1133
Office Hours:    

Hello and welcome to Critical Writing 1!

Hi everyone! If you're reading this letter, then you are enrolled in English 330-80 (Critical Writing I), an online course for the Fall 2010 semester. The course itself won't begin until school starts on September 1, 2010, but I hope you're reading this letter before the semester begins to give you a sense of how my course will work, and so that you feel comfortable with what you need to know before we get started. I will be using a mix of streaming media, such as online movies, advertising, and social networking sites, and online literature as examples for critical reviews, discussion questions, and your own published blogs. I hope this is what you were looking forward to when you signed up for this critical writing course practical and useful commercial as well as literary writing skills relevant in real world applications. So, let's get started!

HOW IS AN ONLINE COURSE DIFFERENT FROM A TRADITIONAL ONGROUND COURSE? If you haven't taken an online course before, you may be wondering about the experience. Online learning is different from a traditional, on ground course, and it requires some different skills sets and attitudes. For instance, the advantage of taking a traditional course is that there is (or should be) a lot of spontaneous discussion and dialogue where your instructor can immediately respond to any of your questions.

ANSWERING QUESTIONS. Online your questions are answered via e-mail. The turnaround time to answer an e-mail may take 24 to 48 hours since I am not available 24/7. However, I do try and respond to my students as quickly as possible! I know you can get nervous at times about assignments. Normally, I review and answer student e-mails once in the morning and once in the evening Mondays through Fridays. Please note that I do not use a Blackberry or have a Twitter account. If you use mobile devices, feel free to use them to contact other students in class and our Blackboard class. And, since I do need some downtime, I am not available on weekends. If you have a dire emergency, send me a voicemail, talk to your group, or contact the Help Desk.

FLEXIBILITY. An online course that gives you a lot more flexibility to work at your own pace becomes more like an independent study. There are still deadlines each week, but if you want to do the coursework at two in the morning, you can. Yes, you do lose some of the back and forth that you'd get in a traditional classroom, but what you gain is time to think about other people's comments and to decide on your own.

PARTICIPATION AND TONE. Remember, everything in an online environment is written, not oral, and, as the saying goes, "everything can and will be held against you" if your responses are inappropriate. Unlike the onground classroom, where people's responses are verbally immediate and never thought through carefully, an online classroom response is different. In an online class discussion, your responses must be more thoughtful, more in-depth, and written in a tone that is not perceived as offensive. Since you have to actively participate by responding to discussion questions I've posted, and to things that your classmates have written, my suggestion is that you review a response BEFORE hitting that send button!

COURSE METHODOLOGY. There are no objective tests given in my course! However, I'll be asking you to do a lot of writing  "no surprise" in both Bb and on the World Wide Web. Sometimes that writing will come as a response to a discussion question that I have posted or sometimes it will be a response to writing that has been posted by a classmate. I will post a minimum length requirement--from 200 to 1250+ words--it's for a reason, and I will insist that you respect that minimum length in order to receive credit for the piece. In addition, for certain assignments, I use rubrics to assess your writing skills. These rubrics are available for viewing on the class website.

CONCLUSION. So even though we won't meet face to face during the semester, this online course is quite different from a correspondence course; that is to say, it's not a course that you can do over whatever time period you want at whatever pace that you want. It's not a set of ready-made material and questions for you to answer. Instead, an online course is quite interactive--probably more interactive than most traditional courses. It requires you to log on regularly and to participate in a discussion of the material with other students.

Your first assignment is to read and review our online syllabus and class policies. Once you log onto Blackboard (Bb), there is a sidebar listing all the links needed to complete this course successfully. Also, you will want to review our other online site http://www.theprof4you.com that I write and maintain outside the Bb environment. My commercial site is available 24/7 worldwide without login identification or periodic downtime. Here you will find the syllabus, major reading assignments, and Powerpoint lectures that supplement the textbook, online discussion questions, and assigned chat sessions that require the Bb environment for group activities and grading.


We should have some clear, measurable objectives for this course. At the end of this semester, students should have:

1. Gained experience with the practice of "close reading." To practice reading that moves beyond passively comprehending the surface details of a text and into actively questioning and scrutinizing both what a text means and how it is put together.

2. Practiced important reading strategies such as annotating, outlining, paraphrasing, analyzing, and summarizing.

3. Demonstrated, in written analysis of specific texts, an awareness of the significance of figurative language in literature. For example, how metaphor, irony, and symbol are used in a text to carry and convey meaning.

4. Interpreted literature through a process that involves reading, re-reading, and exploring. More specifically, to interpret literature through a process that involves reading, observing, analyzing, posing ideas, and testing ideas against the text.

5. Showed an understanding of the organizing structures and patterns of a literary piece. For example, to understand technical considerations such as narration, plot, or setting in a work of fiction; to comprehend sound and meter in poetry; to comprehend character and conflict in drama.

6. Analyzed the organization or structure of a work of literature. To comprehend plot and theme in fiction and drama; to comprehend the literal and imagined elements of poetry.

7. Written about what you read by developing a research question that leads to a coherent, well-focused thesis statement. To develop evidence that supports the thesis through organized coherent, developed paragraphs and conclusion.

8. Integrated, with some degree of fluidity, quotes from a primary text, along with your own writing on the text.

9. Participated in e-mail conferences and Web-based forums with fellow students. This will help you to see how literary analysis and interpretation can be affected by entering into a discourse community.


Browne, M. Neil, and Stuart M. Keeley. Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2010.(Optional text)

Petracca, Michael and Madeleine Sarapure. Common Culture: Reading and Writing About American Popular Culture. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2009.

Solove, Daniel J. The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet. New Haven: Yale UP, 2007. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS AN E-BOOK AND IS AVAILABLE ONLINE WHEN THIS COURSE SHELL OPENS.


LATE PAPERS AND POSTINGS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED! The discussion boards and exercise/paper have clear and non-negotiable deadlines. Early postings and papers are welcome but late ones will not be accepted. Please BE SURE to follow the grading rubric, when you write your posts. and CAREFULLY PROOFREAD YOUR PAPERS AND POSTINGS BEFORE YOU SUBMIT THEM. As the rubric indicates, GRAMMATICAL AND SPELLING ERRORS WILL RESULT IN SUBSTANTIALLY LOWER GRADES!

30% -- One (1) critical book review 30% -- Four (4) online blog reviews 20% -- Five (5) discussion questions 20% -- Active participation (Includes responding to blog forums, group participation, online conferencing, meeting deadlines)

How to Access Blackboard:
To log on to Bb point your web browser to http://bb.wpunj.edu and click the Login button in the upper left. Then enter your username and password in the spaces provided and click login again -- you'll find your course Bb sites listed on the right.

Some things to be aware of as you work with Blackboard:

   1. You probably won't find all your courses listed; the only ones that will appear are those that have been activated by the professor teaching the course. Professors who don't use Blackboard will not activate their courses.
   2. Your username is comprised of your lastname and firstinitial, usually appended with a numeral. If you don't know your WPUNJ system username password you can use the Username lookup link at http://bb.wpunj.edu, or go to it directly at: https://www.wpunj.edu/username/
   3. If you are already logged in to the WPUNJ system through WPConnect you won't have to re-enter your username and password -- just click the first login button.
   4. Blackboard documentation can be found in two places: at Bb Home, http://bb.wpunj.edu, before one logs in, and in the Blackboard Support tab after one has logged on.
   5. You can always obtain Bb help by using the Problem Report form at http://bb.wpunj.edu , or by going to it directly at: https://liberty.wpunj.edu/bb/support-center/

WPUNJ Student Email:
To access WPUNJ Student Email point your web browser to http://wpconnect.wpunj.edu, enter your username and password, then select the Mail tab.  If you are logging on for the first time you'll be asked to set your time zone and language.

Blackboard courses will use student email; third-party email addresses will not work on Bb

Good luck and have fun in the course! Rhoda Reynolds