D2L class to supplement freshman English courses

Ben Korta

Move over, freshmen English classes. A new online course is getting ready to share the limelight.

A team of librarians and software programmers at the Undergraduate Services Office in the library is currently developing an online information literacy course that is set to accompany English composition classes.

Funded with a TRIF (Technology Research Infrastructure Fund) grant – which is awarded to projects that propose to improve education through technological means – the D2L-administered course will be introduced as a one-credit supplement to the three-credit composition classes offered by the English department.

The new course will undergo a pilot phase during the Fall and is expected to be fully up and going by the Spring semester, when it will be taken by an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 freshmen.

The library’s project to promote information literacy also includes the opening of a new research lab in the Manuel T. Pacheco Integrated Learning Center, where any student may come in to request advice or assistance for their research.

The online course is intended to prepare students for the challenges that research often poses. It will work in tandem with English composition classes to allow students the opportunity to apply their developed research skills to the paper writing process, said Michael Brewer, team leader of undergraduate services.

The course “”will have assignments and quizzes and a module a week that deals with a different topic, such as plagiarism, scholarly versus popular information, citing sources, databases and how to search a web page,”” Brewer said.

A student’s performance on an information literacy test, taken prior to the course, will determine how much time and engagement the course will require.

Brewer said that the advantage of online courses is that they are more flexible and efficient in meeting the particular needs and skill level of each student.

“”The grading will be based on competence, not number of hours. A student may or may not need a full semester to complete the class,”” Brewer said. “”It is easier to do this in an efficient way in an online environment.””

In addition to an emphasis on practical research know-how, the course will also explore the nature of information itself, with the intention of fostering in students a greater awareness of its complex and always-evolving impact on society.

“”The course helps improve students’ information literacy skills. In developing this project, we ask, ‘What tools do students need to locate information?'”” said Yvonne Mery, undergraduate services librarian. “”But it will not just apply to English composition. It will extend to skills beyond the English program.””

Mery emphasizes that the development team focused on student interaction as a top priority. Students can develop their own avatars, participate in discussion groups and will be guided by a pair of virtual students, Annie and Samir.

Even with these options, Mery still recognizes that the online environment limits to some degree the level of direct student contact with library services. To remedy this, the team has also planned to launch a research lab that will be staffed by graduate assistants.

“”We want to have as much contact with students as possible, but D2L is not really face-to-face. We know that students do not get help when they need it,”” Mery said. “”We think that by broadening the scope of the project to include an actual center, and by good marketing, we could get students to come in for help.””

Mery also added that the research lab “”will be open to all students, not just those taking the D2L class.””