English 101 | Introduction

Introduction | English 101

Intro | Overview of English 101

Communication: Rhetoric, Genre, and Multimodality

For English 101, we’ll be covering concepts not just of writing, but of communication. Through this course, you’ll learn key concepts to help you more effectively use language, images, and online tools to share information, express your ideas, and persuade others. In this course, there are three major concepts that we will return to quite often:

  • Rhetoric is the term we use to describe all forms of communication, whether via writing, speech, or other modes.

  • Genre refers to the categories of communication that are similar to each other. For example, tweets are a short genre because Twitter only allows short messages, whereas resumes as a genre are usually be a page long because that’s what employers expect.

  • Multimodality refers to the fact that communication can be shared through sounds, images, gestures, spatial arrangement, and language.

General Outline of Each Unit

Our main focus will be academic writing and research, but we’ll also be comparing academic writing to the forms of communication you may find more “enjoyable” like movies, social media, and conversations with friends. Also, you’ll choose your own topics for all the research papers, and I encourage you to choose topics that you personally enjoy — trust me when I say that you can write a research paper about almost anything.

Here’s a quick overview of what each unit will look like:

  • Overview of Unit Objectives

  • Lecture on Concepts with Readings and Videos

  • Application Discussion with Real-World Example of “I Have a Dream”

  • Activity to Reinforce Writing and Research Skills

  • Discussion About Your Project Plans

  • Assignment for Your Project

Types of Learning Expected

In preparing this course, I center many of the activities to fit Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning. Under Bloom’s Taxonomy, there are different levels of knowledge acquisition — the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching has produced a very helpful image to illustrate the stages (available under Creative Commons License with Attribution):

For this course, you’ll have concepts to remember and understand, such as genre and rhetoric. You’ll apply these concepts to our Application discussions and the Activities, and then use these terms as you analyze ideas related to our examples and your research. For your projects, you’ll evaluate sources and ideas to make judgements about your topics, and then create writing and presentations to share your findings.

Example Unit

Overview with Unit Objectives

Each week, you’ll have a list of key concepts to learn for the week and a brief description of the assignments that will be due.

Lecture on Concepts with Readings and Videos

Each unit will go in-depth into a variety of core concepts related to communication. The lecture will provide more details of the information you need to learn, as well as links to outside readings and videos to help explain these concepts.

Application Discussion with Real-World Example of “I Have a Dream”

As we go through the course, I’ll use the example of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” to illustrate the layers of meaning to be found in any topic. For each unit, we’ll have a short lecture with readings and videos to teaching the rhetorical concepts, and these will be followed with application to “I Have a Dream.” I’ve chosen this example because everyone is familiar with aspects of Dr. King’s life and “I Have a Dream,” but there are many more layers of information to examine if we are to fully understand the production and impact of this single speech. One of the most difficult aspects of academic writing is sorting through enough information to take a “simple” topic and examine it in a new light — through “I Have a Dream,” we’ll do this together as a class, and then each of you individually will choose your own topics to research for your projects.

After the application exercises, you’ll engage in discussions with your classmates about your project ideas, and the discussions you post can then be revised into your research assignments.

Activity to Reinforce Writing and Research Skills

Each unit will also include core writing and research skills related to the concepts of communication. For example, when we look at primary sources such as interviews, we’ll also talk about how to cite a YouTube video in your paper. These activities may include a quiz or worksheet to give you practice with the skills, and many of these will also check that you’ve completed the main readings from the lecture.

Project Discussion

In the Project Discussion, you’ll share your ideas for your project, and then respond to three of your classmates with your thoughts. Since revision is a key habit for good writing, I encourage you to use the materials from your initial discussion posts as you prepare your Project Assignment for the end of the unit. The feedback you receive from myself and your classmates can help you submit a better assignment at the end of each unit.

Project Assignment

The Project Assignment will contribute to one of the two research projects. For English 101, you are required to complete two research projects of 2,500 words each, and you will also incorporate additional multimodal components (such as images, videos, or websites) beyond the word count. In Project 1, you’ll be writing a series of articles on the topic of your choice, and then tying these together in a single website-type product. For Project 2, you’ll use the research skills developed in Project 1 to write a single academic paper of 2,500 words.


Intro | Welcome Video

Welcome to English 101!

Would you like a longer welcome video that includes more of the course concepts? You might like the Optional 10-Minute Welcome Video.

They say that first impressions are lasting. Alas, first impressions in an online course are constrained by technology. As I prepared my welcome video for you, I realized that Canvas chose a rather unflattering image of myself. Rather than appearing cool and collected for you, my students, I look as if I've just discovered pizza rat living on my color printer.

Rhetorically, this is an important lesson: we don't always have full control over our communication. We are limited by our own levels of expertise. As a writer, I can share all kinds of information with words — as an amateur maker of videos, I still have a lot to learn.

This is part of why I love English 101 — in this course, we're able to discuss these issues of communication, peering into the relationships between speakers, words, and audiences. In the video below, I talk a bit about these concepts, let you know more about who I am and what I write, and then invite all of you to contact me with any questions or comments about the course.

If you'd like, I also have the somewhat longer welcome video. In the longer video, I briefly introduce concepts of composition, rhetoric, and genre — concepts that we'll be covering in greater detail in the early weeks of the course. Please feel free to watch either video, or both.

I'm looking forward to meeting all of you!


Intro | Optional Longer Welcome Video

For a Video, How Long Is Too Long?

Looking for a shorter welcome? Here's a link to the Short Welcome Video.

For teachers, the standard wisdom is that a video lecture should last no more than 4 to 7 minutes. This video, alas, is ten minutes long. It's an eternity. No one would watch a movie this long. This is why Avengers: Endgame was so hard to critique: everyone left the theater right after the opening credits.

Oh...wait. Apparently, people sit through two hour movies. Just not instructor videos. And why? Because it's hard making an teaching video that is both fun and educational. As a teacher, I'm not a cinematographer. I may write science fiction, but I have no idea how to fit a cool sci-fi storyline into a brief talk about English 101.

However, I can talk about concepts like composition, rhetoric, and genre for hours at a time. Here, I've introduced these terms in a way that I hope is helpful. But don't worry if you prefer the shorter welcome video — we'll be covering these concepts at length during the early weeks of the course.


Intro | Discussion: Your Thoughts and Experiences

Goals of the Introductions Discussion

Again, Welcome to English 101!

I hope that the Welcome Video (or Optional Longer Welcome Video) have given you a sense of my approach to teaching. But to have a true learning experience, I find it helps to get to know each of you, and then to help you all get to know each other.

In the discussion boards, I never grade for grammar or syntax or spelling. With the questions and responses, it's more important for me that you're giving your honest thoughts — we'll save the proofreading and the revisions for the major projects.

And, as always, please Be Respectful and Follow Common Rules of Netiquette.

Discussion Assignment: one Main Post and three Response Posts

Main Post: 300 Words

For your opening discussion, you'll post a Main Post where you answer the following questions. Here, provide as much detail as you can — let us see how you use writing in your life, whether it's everyday conversation, messages at work, or academic assignments.

Here are the three main questions to answer. If you like, feel free to copy these into your post so you can answer each one individually. Or if you prefer, you can post an audio recording or a video for your response.

  1. What is something that you care about? Anything at all — during your free time or those stolen minutes from schoolwork, what do you find yourself doing? This could be hobbies, interests, favorite books and movies — anything at all.

  2. What are your academic and career plans? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years? What got you interested in your major?

  3. What's something surprising about you? Something that others may or may not know about you?

Three Response Posts: 50-100 Words Each

After you've posted your introduction, please post responses to at least three of your classmates. And if you like, feel free to respond to more — the more you talk with your classmates, the better. Here are some things you might address in your response:

  • Do you also share some of the same experiences your classmate described?

  • Is there anything surprising in what your classmate said? Are your experiences different?

At a minimum, each of your responses should do the following:

  • Directly Reference something your classmate mentioned. Show us that you've read the thoughts from your classmate.

  • Share Something about your own experiences and how they compare with your classmate's.

  • Be understanding! We all have unique goals and experiences.