Nevine Kamal An Online Writing Unit Argumentative Essay CEP 820 Developer’s Notebook April, 2010My project is a writing online unit for ESL college students. This unit is purely online. I intend touse this unit in a normal traditional face to face class. I decided to teach this unit online because Iwould like to give students the opportunity to experience an online unit within the course. At thesame time, the security and stability of a normal class is maintained for the other units during thecourse. In addition, students can call or meet me in my office if they feel they need to discussurgent or pressing issues. The students – intended audience- in this course have not experiencedan online class before. I wanted them to be familiar with online learning, while having traditionalclass for the other units.I thought of developing the online writing unit and pilot it after the board of trustees and the topmanagement levels expressed their concerns regarding the low enrollment in the summersessions for the university requirements. This online unit could be the basis for developing acomplete online course or a hybrid course later on.The unit is purely online for several reasons: to answer some of the top management worried andto offer other options (offer online course in summer), to overcome time and space constraintoption, and to exploit the opportunities for reading and writing by the web and by CMS. I believethat the main advantage of this online unit for students is learning how to use the discussionboard, the chat room and reflective peer review.For this online unit, I tried to use the social constructivist approach. The unit focused on peercollaboration, discussion, and feedback. One of the major advantages of offering an online classis the communication level between the teacher and the students. The online environment allowsgreater opportunities for teachers to provide guidance, assistance, and feedback to individualstudents. Such environment also entails group interaction. This is achieved when the instructorfind ways to alleviate the pressure to respond to every student message by encouraging studentsto become more autonomous and to reply to one another by working in pairs or groups.In this unit, there are several opportunities where students can investigate other websites andwork on group projects to create personalized learning experience. This unit allows students toinvestigate different learning options-YouTube links, PowerPoint presentations, online activities,and other reading and listening activities. By the end of this unit, students should be able toidentify aspects of an argument and write an argument that supports a particular idea.This unit is structured so that it takes 5 weeks. Students are given a set of tasks to fulfill eachweek. It might seem a long period to work on argumentative essays, but with ESL learners wehave to be aware that it takes more time to digest concepts and writing techniques. Studentslisten to online lectures and view PowerPoint presentations. They also listen to currentcontroversial topics and answer relevant questions. The aim of such activities is to provide
background information that would help them to develop a well constructed writtenargument. Students have to do a set of activities every week to master and develop their writingabilities. In addition, bringing up controversial topics for students to discuss and reflect onbroadens their horizons and knowledge, which is necessary for college students. In this unit,several grammar topics are highlighted to ensure language accuracy. Students are directed toseveral links and are instructed to do online exercises to grasp particular grammar issues.Throughout the unit, students use various online learning tools like discussion forum and virtualhall on blackboard, podcasts, and PowerPoint presentations. In this unit, students were engagedin an extended online project that includes group writing and presentation. They must create aPowerPoint present and submit a written report. There is no final exam at the end of the unit, butall the tasks and activities comprise the points earned. Formative and summative assessments areused to monitor students’ progress and development. Students are encouraged to contact theteacher when they need a closer help. They have to call the teacher or send an e-mail to set atime either face to face, via the phone or Skype.The material used to develop this unit is free. I have explored many similar units and tailored thisone to suit my context and setting. I would like to use this unit as a model for other types ofwriting genres.Students are engaged in this online unit because of the benefits underlie such courses. The mostimportant one is that it meets the needs of diverse group of students. Since not all students learnat the same pace, students in an online learning environment can work at their own speed. Inaddition, I believe that this online experience could enrich the learning opportunities for thestudents. Technology was used as a tool in this unit. I did not want to overwhelm students withdifferent tech. projects. I would prefer to stage the use of technology gradually throughout thecourse. For this unit, students would use blackboard, PPT, YouTube, and podcasts. Later on,they might be instructed to use other tools such as Jing, Animoto, or Voice Thread.The aim of the collaborative tasks in this unit is to provide lifelong experiences that would helpstudents in college and in workplace. In this unit, students are given opportunities to developtheir social skills by engaging them in pair and group projects. Students are asked to workcollaboratively to produce podcasts, PPT, and a writing assignment. In addition, they wereinstructed to respond to different posts and voice their views and beliefs. Finally, students wereasked to evaluate their participation and input in the group project. This aim of peer evaluation isto help them reflect on such an experience and identify the advantages and disadvantages.Online learning as well as blended learning provide teachers, students and parents with differentkinds of feedback based on formative and summative assessments. Online learning allowsparents to see their children’s progress and development. This unit is available all the time on theinternet, parents and students have access to the learning material anytime and this in turnincreases the parents and students’ involvement in the learning process. All the assignments aregraded against different assessment rubrics that are available to students all the time; this allowsstudents to work towards a particular target as they know the expectations for each and everyassignment. Furthermore, providing the assessment criteria for students helps in developingautonomous learners.
Students have to reflect on and analyze their work thoroughly to meet specific requirements. Atthe college level, parents are not very much in their children learning, yet students become moreconscious of their performance and tend to do better on each assignment. What is more, thecomments that I would give student after each assignment are very helpful as they would serveas a communication channel. The main focus of this unit is developing well structuredargumentative essay, therefore, the rubrics I chose reflect that. In addition, in order to ensure thatlearning is taking place, I focused on developing varied activities to help students grasp thedifferent aspects of this type of writing.In this unit, students will be engaged in listening and reading comprehension activities aboutdifferent controversial topics. They have to develop a range of activities such as PowerPointpresentations, podcasts, discussion board forums, individual writing assignments, and groupproject.Formative and summative assessment will be implemented to monitor students’ progress andwork of areas of weaknesses. Different rubrics will be implemented for each type of activity. Asmentioned before, coming up with different rubrics could be overwhelming, but they givestructure to the learning process and guide students along the unit.Students will be engaged in the assessment process as they have to fill in self-evaluation andpeer- evaluation forms. The aim of these forms is to help them reflect on their learning as well asfind out areas of strengths and weaknesses. Not only this, students will be given an opportunityto air their concerns and worries throughout the unit. They could do this by e-mailing the teacher.Furthermore, towards the end of the unit, they have to fill in a feedback survey and write areflection about what they liked and disliked in this online unit.The rubrics I chose are quite detailed and attain to the activities and assignments they have tocomplete. Rubrics provide transparency and could be used as references students have to refer toas they work on their tasks.The assessment procedure should be clear from the beginning to the stakeholders- the topmanagement, other colleagues, and students. Students have to be aware of the grading criteriaand the expectations from the first day. Knowing this, allows them to know the amount of effortthey have to put into the course.Since I have not piloted this unit yet, I am somehow worried about the overall structure of theunit-activities, assignments, reading tasks, and group/pair projects. Nevertheless, I investigatedmany resources and tried to tailor them to meet the body of students I teach.The assessment rubrics adopted here reflect what students are expected to produce when workingon their projects. The marks will be adjusted to fit pointed allocated for this unit. E-mails will besent to students with the grading rubrics and a comment from the teacher informing them abouttheir overall performance- potentials and weaknesses.I have created assessment rubrics for podcasts students have to create using Google forms:http://spreadsheets.google.com/gform?key=tBNegD4QNknCDgHSGSekrPw&hl=en
Online learning encourages collaboration and communication between teachers and educators.This document is an example of communication between teachers via the intent. Publishing thisdocument allows teachers all over the world to view it. They could customize this unit to theirown needs and setting.Finally, this online unit has provided students with new learning experiences that they wouldbenefit from in their college studies as well as their workplace. The unit has exposed them todifferent learning styles that cater for audio and visual students. It also helps students developsense of responsibility by engaging them in collaborative projects. Finally, students are given anopportunity to reflect on their own learning experience by asking them to fill in an online surveyto evaluate the course, learning outcome, personal preferences. In addition, they have to write ashort essay to take about the experience as a whole the advantages and disadvantages of theonline unit. This reflection will is part of their online participation but will not be graded againstspecific rubrics. This information will be valuable for the teacher if she decides to replicate thesame course in future. I think I will share this will my fellow colleagues.To conclude, my online unit will provide students with an experience that they would like toshare with others. In addition, the online skills that they have mastered will transfer to otheracademic and personal life. What is more important, I hope that students get an opportunity tohave a rich inquiry based learning experience.Having briefly indicated the overall objective of this online unit, I believe it is necessary tohighlight some of the challenges and guidelines I used to help me structure my course. Inaddition, a detailed outlined of the course is provided for further explanation of the procedure.ChallengesI am aware of the fact that developing an online course is a challenging task for me as well as mystudents due to several factors:1- Students’ Motivation: Students in my setting have low motivation. They feel that TOEFLexam is enforced on them by the ministry of education to make them suffer. In addition, they feelthat there is not relation between passing the TOEFL and succeeding in their academic life. It isvery hard to convince them that passing the TOEFL will help them manage their academicstudies especially when they have to deal with English texts.2- Technical Competency: Some students are not comfortable with technology and this is afactor that I have to take into consideration. To deal with this issue, I can give an orientationsession and a step by step guidance when necessary.3- Evaluation: I have to construct effective assessment measures to assess students’ performanceand participation. Bearing Bloom’s Taxonomy in mind, I have to construct evaluative criteriatouching on such principles. Since I have not done that before, I have to read on this issue andkeep in mind that it will take me thoughts for class interaction for both teacher and studentsThere are three models of online language learning: distributive, tutorial, and co-operative.
In the distributive form, materials and handouts are posted online for the learner to studyindependently. This is a one-way communication from the teacher/instructor to the leaner. Thismodel may include reading, listening, and grammar handouts and links to exercises.In the tutorial form, there is two-way communication. Students and teachers interactasynchronously or synchronously (e-mail/ voice mail, chat rooms, or internet phone).In the co-operative model, students interact with each other as well as with the teacher. This isachieved by engaging students in pair and group activities and interacting with the teacher at thesame time. As mentioned, the communication could be synchronously or asynchronously.In this online unit, I will include two models of online language learning: distributive and co-operative. The distributive form will be dedicated for grammar and listening. The co-operativeform, on the other hand, will be for reading and writing.I decided to include the co-operative model because it the most beneficial for the learner asVygotsky stresses. Co-operative learning provides excellent opportunities for students toparticipate in task-based activities.Unit MaterialNo textbook is required. You will be provided with online resources and other materials in placeof a textbook. Because the course work is done on a computer, students must have reliableinternet access, be comfortable using a computer, have keyboarding skills, and some experienceusing Internet Explorer, email, and wordprocessing.The class is WebCT supportedAll assignments will be posted on Blackboard.Unit DescriptionIn Academic 2, students are introduced to the basic expectations of university –level writing.They will write in multiple genres -argumentative writing- for this unit. Instruction in criticalreading is an important part of this unit. In the context of the writing process, attention is paid togrammar/mechanics, sentence structure, and paragraph development. They will complete aminimum of five writing assignments.One of the best ways to learn to write is by writing, and for that reason students will be asked todo a lot of brainstorming, drafting, revising- and that is what writing is. In addition, sharingwork with others promotes learning about writing by widening the response writers to get theirown work, and to draft writing assignments. Finally, they will also spend time reviewinggrammar and usage. Grammar and mechanics are taught in the context of a writing assignmentand along with abstract exercises or worksheets.Major Essay assignments: During the course of this unit, you will be writing five essays.Detailed essay assignments will be posted on Blackboard. Engagement in the discussion board
helps you brainstorm, broaden your view about a topic before you actually submit your writingassignments. Please stay organized and look ahead to the next class’s assignment.This unit outline/description is adapted from various and tailored toward specific context- Arabstudents studying Academic English 2 at the University of Sharjah.Extra HelpThere is a lot to get done on this unit-argumentative essay. If students are having problems, theyhave to e-mail me as soon as possible I will do my best to foresee any writing issues that theymay have so that students have enough time to work on them before you submit the nextassignment. However, if the students are aware of a particular writing problem and I have notdiscussed with them, they have to take the initiative to address it with me so that I can make surethey can improve in this area.Teaching and Learning Strategies for this unit Varying academic levels: use of different reading materials Visual learners: students will use graphic organizers to help them comprehend different controversial topics. In addition, PowerPoint presentations, will be also used to aid your comprehension Auditory learners: students will be exposed to YouTube links and audio podcasts to help them gain more depth into the topic.Learning Goals for this unitGeneral learning outcomes o To improve and develop language skills and knowledge within academic contexts- argumentation in particular o To improve and develop critical thinking skills o To develop interest in and knowledge of a wide range of academic controversial topics o To improve and develop English language skills and knowledge within a debatable issues o To develop an autonomous and self-directed approach to learning o To develop skills in exploiting computers as a study reference as well as a tool for producing presentable workSpecific learning goalsIn this unit, students will address the following skills and will be able to: Vocabulary: understand the appropriate use of signal words related to argumentative essays Reading: analyze reading texts and identify arguments and counter-arguments Writing: understand the question and how to analyze
Discover the basic terminology of arguments Learn strategies for reliably distinguishing between premises and conclusion Explore the differences between arguments and explanations Understand and address the task in essay writing Learn American academic essay writing Support your thesis and develop well structured essay Organize essay and add coherence and unityLearning outcomes for this unitGeneral learning outcomesOn successful completion of this unit, all students will have developed knowledge andunderstanding of: The importance and value of independent learning English grammar structure, function, and discourse pattern English vocabulary, particularly specific to controversial and debatable topics Extended academic text in controversial issues, presentation, discussion, and online articlesOn successful completion of this unit, all students will have developed their skill in: Handling online texts, scanning for information and grasping the main ideas and details, formulating arguments. Making relevant notes capturing facts, concepts, arguments, and relationship with controversial ideas. Asking reasonably detailed questions, evaluate, and express arguments and counter arguments. Planning and writing argumentative essay in an appropriate format in smooth way which provides no difficulty for the reader to grasp the points being discussed. Give clear presentation on argumentative topics, and showing the ability to formulate the presentations and writings in a clear presentable way. Fulfill the writing requirements of the course, writing at least 600 words. Complete short writing assignments, listening and reading assignments, threaded posted, PowerPoint presentations, talk about debatable topics, and other activities to strengthen thinking and writing skills. Apply concepts they have learned in their writing assignments.
On successful completion of this unit, all students will have developed their appreciation ofand respect for values and attitudes regarding: o Academic honesty o Active participation o Collaboration o Independent learningAdapted from http://www.alte.org/can_do/alte_cando.pdfStandardsThis online unit is aligned with the following standards: 1- ISTE’s Education Technology Standards for students: http://tiny.cc/OCyVc 2- Michigan’s Educational Technology Standards and Expectations http://www.michigan.gov/documents/9-12_150927_7.pdf 3- Standards for English Language Arts: http://www.readwritethink.org/standards/ 4- ESL Standards- TESOL: http://tiny.cc/rpdRMPlagiarism Plagiarism is an unethical issue. It is common among ESL learners because they have to dealwith two problems the subject matter and the foreign language. So copying or plagiarism givesthem an escape from the language difficulty and allow them to focus more on the subject matter. By learning appropriate research and writing strategies at the foundation level, students will beable to encounter academic challenges with respect to subject matter and foreign language.Students have to become aware of the fact the as they practice they will develop their languageskills and build up their vocabulary that will help them in their academic reading assignments.Students will be referred to online links at the beginning of the course to teach them thatcopyright should be respected and emphasize the importance of citing electronic information. Toinform students of copyright issues, I will refer them to the following link:http://www.coollessons.org/For this unit, students will be told that plagiarism will not be tolerated. Penalties range from awritten warning to failing the course. Students will be informed to consider the disciplinaryactions with regard to plagiarism implemented at the University of Sharjah. Students will also beinstructed to view the Maricopa Districts policy on Academic Misconduct, including cheating,plagiarism, and excessive absences, athttp://www.dist.maricopa.edu/gvpolicy/adminregs/students/2_3.htmHow to organize and submit workStudents are given some guidelines on how to organize and submit their work, projects, andassignments.Essays:
Format in Microsoft word Use 12pt. Times New Roman font One-inch margins around Number each page by placing you last name and an Arabic numeral in the upper right hand corner of the page. Place your name, my name, course number, and date aligned at the left margin and double spaced. Each essay need to be a minimum of 500- 600 words Before you submit your final draft make sure you post your ideas and thoughts about the topic in the discussion forum. You are expected to read other posts and respond to some of them.Submitting papers on Blackboard: Log in Click on Course Find the assignment in the list Browse to find the assignment on your computer Click submitTypes of activities for this unit: Real time discussions in virtual Hall Discussion Board Team Project: the team project component of this unit requires that you collaborate with other students over the duration of this unit. I have already assigned you to your groups. You can check Discussion forum to know your group members. Individual assignments (reading, writing, and listening)While a reasonable amount of flexibility is necessary in hybrid courses, it is important to stay ontrack and turn in assignments on time. Additionally, class discussions are related to currentwriting assignments. Students need to be current with their assignments to be able to participateand contribute to the class activities.
Students will take part in regularly scheduled threaded discussions to share ideas with each other.These threaded discussions are designed to replace in-class activities due to time limits. Thethreaded discussions have start and end dates. The instructor participates in each discussion.Reading responseStudents are asked to respond to the reading assignments on the discussion forum. Then, theyhave to submit your final essay related to the assignment.Unit structure and weekly planEach weekly plan comprises of the following: Online handouts Listening assignments Reading assignments Grammar activities Writing assignments Discussion board Group projectTentative Schedule of Instruction for the UnitBelow is a tentative schedule students have to follow for 5 weeks. The online unit is expected tofinish by the second week of April, 2010.Week 15/3/2010Unit Begins: Introduction, discussion board, listening assignment, writing1 assignmentWeek 22/3/2010Vocabulary and text organization2 Reading assignment, connecting words assignment, writing assignment, group project, discussion boardWeek 29/3/2010Grammar and text organization3 Reading assignment Guided writing Podcast Group project
Week 5/4/2010 Review and further practice4 Writing assignment Virtual Hall Group projectWeek 12/4/2010Finalize projects and assignments5 Writing assignment Discussion board Group projectAssessment and Grading Teaching strategiesStudents have to do from 3-4 assignments each week. Team project is a major assignment andstudents have to do it in stages. Each stage lasts for a week. As the same time, they have to dothe other assignments. Feed back on writing assignments will be given using two differentrubrics. Copies of the rubrics are posted in the Course Documents on Blackboard. All essays willbe scored according to these rubrics. Students are advised to revise the rubrics before submittingtheir assignments.In this unit, the teacher acts as a facilitator who intervenes when necessary and when help isneeded. Students have to work on their own to investigate the topic and complete theirassignments. The teacher’s role is to monitor that students stay on task and do not drift away.Unit evaluation detailsActive participation in discussion board, virtual hall, and team project is mandatory along withother assignments is necessary to get a high score. This unit comprises of 30 % of your totalscore for this course. No final exam for this unit, as mentioned before, students will be engagedin several assignments. Assignments and posted are to be completed before we start a new week.Students are given one week for the completion of all assignments within that week. Teamproject is the only extended assignment that has to be completed within 5 weeks. Discussion participation: 10% Other writing and reading assignments: 18% Team project: 12%Grading CriteriaA 90- 100 Exceptionally fine work, superior in mechanics, styles, and content
B 80- 89 Above average work, superior in one or two areas- mechanics, style, contentC 70- 79 Average quality work, good enough, unexceptionalD 60- 69 Below average work, noticeable weak in mechanics, style, or contentF 0- 59 Failing work: clearly deficient in mechanics, style, and content (incomplete work or 59 plagiarism)Adopted from http://www.alte.org/can_do/alte_cando.pdfTypes of assessment for this unitAssessmentStandard assessment is important to monitor the learning and development of students. Rubrics,therefore, give students relevant and timely feedback without belittling their efforts whenpreparing for an assignment.Rubrics allow teachers to align bench marks/standards of proficiency based on the skill sets theyhave already taught. By aligning their instruction to match assessment criteria, students know inadvance how they can get a good grade. Developing rubrics can be tricky to some extent butusing them to evaluate students’ work becomes a breeze. Rubrics could be a learning tool or areference for students to ensure that their work meets the necessary standards and requirements.Adding a comment could be used to enhance the process of using rubrics. Comments areindispensable as they add personal touch that caters to enhance students’ learning. In addition,providing rubrics for self and peer evaluation enhances and engages students in the learningprocess. Self and peer evaluative rubrics allow students to reflect on their own learning and helpthem identify their potentials and areas of weaknesses.Types of assessment to be used throughout the unitTwo types of assessment will be used for this unit, formative and summative.Formative assessment:Formative assessment will be used to monitor students’ progress and development throughoutthe unit. The discussions and assignments students post on Blackboard will help the teacherobserve the students’ needs and strengths.Summative assessmentA summative assessment is typically given to students after a specific point in instruction tomeasure their understanding of a subject. Some examples of summative assessments includehigh stakes tests, standardized state exams, district or interim tests, midterms and final exams.Summative assessments can also be used to check students mastery of a subject every few weeksor months. The knowledge gleaned from assessment should be used to reach individual students
and support them in their learning process. Summative assessment: is used with your writingassignments that you have to produce every week as well as you team project.Evaluation of the unitSurvey instrument for this unitIt is important to know what students think about the online course. This will be achieved in twophases: 1- Students will be asked to fill in a survey to get their feedback on the course. 2- They will have to write a short paragraph answering the following questions: What did you expect from this class? What are you taking away in terms of what you have learned? Compare this class to other writing classes you have taken. Where did you do most of the work for this class (e.g. dorm, home, library)? Did you have any difficulties accessing materials for the class? If there are two versions of this unit- face to face and on-line, would you have preferred the other mode from the one you took? Why/why not? Is there anything else you would like to tell as about this class? What did you expect from this being engaged in this online unit?The aim of the survey and self-reflect is to help the teacher to improve the online learningopportunities for students and at the same time acknowledge the strengths of online learning andwork on developing engaging tasks and learning opportunities.