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Section 99, Online





Colette Wanless-Sobel

Office:  113b Fine Arts Building

Office hours:  9:00-9:50 AM, MWTh, and by appointment

Phone:   office: 651.554.3790   (voice mail available; leave


                          home:   952.892.0450 (no later than 9:00 PM, please;

                          answering machine available)

E-mail address: colette.wanlesssobel@gmail.com

*When on campus, I am usually in my office or in one of the computerized classrooms where my classes are conducted.  This term, these classrooms are B114 and B142. 



No required texts.



A good desk dictionary, such as Webster’s New Collegiate.   



This course emphasizes expository and persuasive writing skills with attention to rhetorical modes, audience awareness, logical reasoning, critical reading, and research techniques.  This course is part of the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum, and as such it is designed to nurture your skills for future academic work at other educational institutions as well as concurrent course work at Inver Hills.


Upon completing this course, students should have competency in the following areas:


—ability to understand / demonstrate the writing and speaking processes through invention, organization, drafting, revision, editing, and presentation;

—ability to select appropriate communication choices for specific audiences;

—ability to construct logical and coherent arguments;

—ability to gather factual information and apply it to a given problem in a manner that is relevant, clear and conscious of possible bias in the information selected;

—ability to imagine and seek out a variety of possible goals, assumptions, interpretations, or perspectives which can give alternative meanings or solutions to given situations or problems;

—and the ability to analyze the logical connections among the facts, goals, and implicit assumptions relevant to a problem or claim, as well as generate and evaluate implications that follow from them.


I hope you will enjoy our sixteen weeks together.




How does one begin to write about her or his teaching philosophy?  I find it difficult to articulate my teaching philosophy per se; however, there is a consistency in “themes” or perspectives in each of the courses I teach. Let me briefly outline these themes for you here.

Intellectual polyphony.   Readings, Web sites, and class discussions are based on whatever disciplines, knowledge and experiences will best illuminate the subject we are studying.  My goal is to construct a “smorgasbord” of ideas —an intellectual buffet table— from which students can select whatever best helps them to understand the issues and subject material.  So students travel through sociology, psychology, literature, ecology, cultural geography, cultural history, anthropology, philosophy, music, dance, art history, graphic arts, film studies, economics, marketing, Internet culture and popular culture such as advertising.

Critical thinking.   A favorite word of mine is why.  I encourage and nurture students to question, search for cause-effect and relationships, and evaluate inferential reasoning.  Students learn to present their ideas (in oral and written form) and provide the rationale or evidence that underlies their propositions.  Students also use creative, imaginative discovery as well as the scientific method, qualitative and quantitative.  The social and individual impact of thinking, ideas, and decisions is also emphasized.

Textual analysis for political and social encoding.  I suppose my training as an intellectual / cultural historian comes into play here, since I stress the importance of culture, class, gender, and ethnicity in textual analysis, both explicitly and sub-textually.  This approach helps position students for the multi-cultural, global thinking required in the twenty-first century.  Perhaps more importantly, this cultural approach prepares students for the complexity in their social, cultural and political environments in twenty-first century America.

Lifelong learning is modeled.  Every class I teach is an opportunity to model lifelong learning, since I am learning all the time, despite my Ph.D.  Furthermore, I am always seeking new conceptual and practical ideas to apply to class material.  For this reason, there is always experimentation, improvisation, creativity, and passion in the courses I teach, and my courses change and evolve every time I teach or “facilitate” them.  Doing so is risky, of course, because I give up the polish and security of tested material and instead venture into the unknown with students.  
Venturing into
the unknown, and having the intellectual confidence to tackle the unknown, is one life skill a rigorous liberal arts education can provide.  Indeed, a liberal arts education is not so much having the “right answers” but assuming an intellectual, critical posture in your life that will aid you, even provide succor, in all life’s endeavors.

Computer-Internet literacy is developed.
Computer / information literacy is defined as “a new liberal art that extends from knowing how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the nature of information itself, its technical infrastructure, and its social, cultural and even philosophical context and impact” - Shapiro, Jeremy J. and Shelley K. Hughes. Educom Review. 3.2. Mar. / Apr. 1996.   Class work in D2L and the Internet will develop skills in this new liberal art.

Service learning for enrichment.  By service learning, I mean experiential learning that employs service or real life problem applications in some form to government, community, private sector and non-profit agencies.  Service learning enhances the traditional classroom by actively engaging students in their own educations through experiential learning in course-relevant contexts. Furthermore, service learning fosters lifelong connections between students, their communities, and the larger human community —the world outside the classroom.

Here is a list of benefits service learning provides:

increases retention of course material;

increases the relevancy of education to real world applications;

enhances personalized education for students;

empower students as learners and democratic citizens;

invites students to become active members of their own communities; and

teaches job skills and prepares students for careers after college.


Class Tasks / Work

So, what actual work will you perform in this class?  To answer this question, let me first acquaint you with Bloom’s taxonomy.*   Benjamin   Bloom, an American educator, created this taxonomy below for categorizing the level of abstraction in educational settings. The taxonomy provides a useful structure in which to categorize course tasks:


                              Skills Demonstrated


  • observation and recall of information
  • knowledge of dates, events, places
  • knowledge of major ideas
  • mastery of subject matter
  • Question Cues:
    list, define, tell, describe, identify, show, label, collect, examine, tabulate, quote, name, who, when, where, etc.



  • understanding information
  • grasp meaning
  • translate knowledge into new context
  • interpret facts, compare, contrast
  • order, group, infer causes
  • predict consequences
  • Question Cues:
    summarize, describe, interpret, contrast, predict, associate, distinguish, estimate, differentiate, discuss, extend



  • use information
  • use methods, concepts, theories in new situations
  • solve problems using required skills or knowledge
  • Questions Cues:
    apply, demonstrate, calculate, complete, illustrate, show, solve, examine, modify, relate, change, classify, experiment, discover


  • seeing patterns
  • organization of parts
  • recognition of hidden meanings
  • identification of components
  • Question Cues:
    analyze, separate, order, explain, connect, classify, arrange, divide, compare, select, explain, infer


  • use old ideas to create new ones
  • generalize from given facts
  • relate knowledge from several areas
  • predict, draw conclusions
  • Question Cues:
    combine, integrate, modify, rearrange, substitute, plan, create, design, invent, what if?, compose, formulate, prepare, generalize, rewrite


         compare and discriminate between ideas

         assess value of theories, presentations

         make choices based on reasoned argument

         verify value of evidence

         recognize subjectivity

         Question Cues
assess, decide, rank, grade, test, measure, recommend, convince, select, judge, explain, discriminate, support, conclude, compare, summarize

*Adapted from: Bloom, B.S. (Ed.) (1956) Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals: Handbook I, cognitive domain. New York; Toronto: Longmans, Green.

Accordingly, the course will entail the following tasks, mixed and matched throughout the semester:

**Scientific Tasks

What does a scientific task look like? It would include: making hypotheses based on an understanding of background information provided by on- or off-line sources; testing the hypotheses by gathering data from pre-selected sources; and determining whether the hypotheses were supported and describing the results and their implications in the standard form of a “scientific report.”  Scientific tasks also nurture   critical / scientific thinking.

**Judgment Tasks

To evaluate something requires a degree of understanding of that something as well as an understanding of some system of evaluating worth. Judgment tasks present a number of items to the learner and ask her / him to rank or rate them, or to make an informed decision among a limited number of choices.

**Analytical Tasks

Analysis is the thinking process of how things connect together, and how things within a topic relate to each other. An analytical task provides a venue for developing such knowledge. In analytical tasks, a learner is asked to look closely at one or more things and to find similarities and differences, to figure out the implications for those similarities and differences. He / she might look for relationships of cause and effect among variables and be asked to discuss their meaning.

**Journalistic Tasks

This task involves gathering facts and organizing them into an account within the usual genres of news and feature writing. In evaluating student work here, accuracy is important as is fact selection.  A secondary goal for the student is to realize there is the potential for bias in all reporting; that all of us have filters that affect how we see things and what we choose to look at.

**Self-Knowledge Tasks

Self-knowledge tasks will compel the learner to answer questions about him /herself that have no short answers. Such tasks could be developed around long term goals; ethical and moral issues; self-improvement; art appreciation; and personal responses to literature.

**Persuasion Tasks

Persuasion tasks are often combined with consensus building tasks (see below), although not always. The key difference is that with persuasion tasks, the student work on convincing an external audience of a particular point of view, as opposed to the persuasion and accommodation that occurs internally in a consensus building task.

**Consensus-Building Tasks

The essence of a consensus building task is the requirement that differing viewpoints be articulated, considered, and accommodated   where possible. Consensus-building tasks involve learners taking on different perspectives by studying different sets of resources.  Such tasks should be based on authentic differences of opinion that are actually expressed by someone somewhere outside of classroom walls.  In addition, consensus-building tasks should be based on matters of opinion and fact, not just fact.       The result   should be the development of a common report that has a specific audience (real or simulated) and is created in a format that is analogous to one used in the world outside classroom walls.

**Re-Telling Tasks

Sometimes   you will be asked to absorb some information and then demonstrate you have understood it.   Reports like these are bread-and-butter activities that don't break much new ground in educational practice, but they can provide good practice in condensing and summarizing text.  You also differentiate among summary, paraphrase, and quotation.

** Design Tasks

Design is defined in Dictionary.com as "a plan or protocol for carrying out or accomplishing something."  In this class, a design task requires learners to create a product or plan of action that accomplishes a pre-determined goal and works within specified constraints. The key element in a design task is to build in authentic constraints. Asking students to design an ideal X without also requiring them to work within a budget and within a body of legal and other restrictions doesn't really teach much. In fact, an unconstrained design task teaches an illusory "anything goes" attitude that doesn't map well onto the real world.  Creativity and resourcefulness are integral in design tasks.

**Creative Product Tasks

Creative   tasks lead to the production of something within a given format (e.g. painting, play, skit, poster, game, simulated diary or song) but they are much more open-ended and unpredictable than design tasks. The evaluation criteria for these tasks would emphasize creativity and self-expression, as well as criteria specific to the chosen genre. Balanced against the constraints, a task of this type should invite creativity by being somewhat open-ended. There should be enough room in the assignment that a student or group of students will be able to leave a unique stamp on the assignment.

**Compilation Tasks

A simple task for students is to take information from a number of sources and put it into a common format. The resulting compilation might be published on the Web, or it might be some other tangible, such as supporting figures for a research   paper. To make a compilation task qualify as a substantive task, there needs to be some transformation of the information compiled. Simply putting a hot-list of web sites or a collection of web images together arbitrarily isn't enough.

**Discovery/ Exploration Tasks

A well designed discovery / exploration   task requires synthesis of information from a variety of sources.   Such tasks might involve absorbing information from multiple sources; putting information together by making inferences or generalizations across several information sources; and eliminating false trails that might seem to be likely answers at first but which fall apart under closer examination. Discovery tasks can seem somewhat inauthentic because of the fictionalizing they require, though the tradeoff in increased learner interest can make it worthwhile.   Discovery / exploration tasks model the thinking of scientists, scholars, and venture capitalists.

Tasks adapted from WebQuest, San Diego State University    http://webquest.sdsu.edu/


The Instructor

Now a little about me and where I am coming from, personally speaking.


I received my BA degree from Macalester College in Saint Paul, where I majored in humanities and English.  I began my graduate work at Tulane University in New Orleans and then transferred to the University of Minnesota to complete my Ph.D. in American/ cultural studies, concentrating in American intellectual history. My first teaching job was at the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul.  Since 1993, I have been at the University of Minnesota in Distance Education.  I have been teaching part time at Inver Hills Community College since 1999.  Lately, I have been developing online courses for Inver Hills.


Since this profile of me so far might lead you to think I am just a bookworm,  let me add that, I also have a passion for numerous “nonacademic” activities:  farming;  gardening; equestrian riding (dressage); cooking;  friendships with people and my “companion” animals (two dogs, one cat, one blue and gold macaw, and one horse); community work for the city of Lakeville where I reside; and, last but not least, family life with a husband and two young sons.


So where do you   fit in with all of this?


Essentially, for the next sixteen weeks, I shall be your intellectual coach in writing and research.  My job as a professional is to nurture you:  push you to be the best that you can be in terms of the course goals, and I take my job seriously. This does not mean I am a humorless slave driver.  What is does mean, though, is that I shall encourage active, engaged learners, and many students are uncomfortable and hostile to this endeavor, which is understandable, given most students have not been expected to assume the stance of active intellectuals/ thinkers before.  I hope you enjoy our sixteen weeks together.






—Late papers:  Late papers throw me and, most importantly, you off schedule.  Papers are due at the times specified, though, I am willing to allow exceptions when illness or other class assignments intrude.  It is your responsibility, however, to contact me to rearrange work deadlines.   Negotiating work deadlines is an important work /life skill, so practice it. In this class failure to do so will result in a grade reduction for the paper (s).  Once again, I do not like to begin the term by issuing threats.  Not only do threats set a negative tone for the class but they also counteract our relationship as colleagues.  Colleagues do not threaten each other —or at least they shouldn’t. My rules here for papers are mainly to avoid logistical nightmares (papers being turned in at all times) and also establish rules of fairness for all class members.  All of us are busy; all of us are juggling work, family responsibilities, school, and social obligations.  Meeting established deadlines is just common courtesy; however, if the deadlines can not be met, I respectfully request you renegotiate the deadline with me.


—Word processing.  All papers should be word processed, and proofread.


—Submissions.  All assignments may be submitted electronically via the D2L assignment dropbox system, or you may hand in paper submissions; the choice is yours.


—Revision work:  When submitting revision work, please attach a copy of the “first draft,” too. More about this later.


—Plagiarism:  Scholastic honesty is expected.  I am obliged to report academic misconduct to the Dean of Students. See the college handbook for rules and regulations on this matter.


Readings:  You are required to keep up with all the reading in the course.  I shall give ample notice of due dates.  Since I do not depend much on the lecture method, our class sessions greatly depend on your reading the course material and coming to class and discussing it.


—Discussion:  Discussion sessions, online and in-class, will be an integral part of the instruction method employed in class.  Why is discussion so important,” you ask.  Well, let me tell you:


--It helps students explore a diversity of perspectives.

--It increases students’ awareness of and tolerance for ambiguity or complexity

--It helps students recognize and investigate their assumptions.

--It encourages attentive, respectful listening.

--It encourages new appreciations for continuing differences.

--It increases intellectual agility.

--It helps students become connected to a topic.

--It shows respect for students’ voices and experiences.

--It helps students learn the processes and habits of democratic disclosure.

--It affirms students as co-creators of knowledge.

--It develops the capacity for the clear communication of ideas and meaning.

--It develops habits of collaborative learning.

--It increases breadth and makes students more empathic.

--It helps students develop skills of synthesis and integration.

--It leads to transformation. *


*Brookfield,. Stephen D.  and Stephen Preskill.  Discussion as a Way of Teaching (San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999), pp.22-23


—Respect and collegiality:  Small classes at Inver Hills allow class discussions, and class interactions that are difficult to manage in large lecture settings.   I designed “Writing and Research Skills” so as to make the most of our small class setting.   Accordingly, throughout the course we all shall share our ideas and perspectives about research, writing, and critical thinking. In order for our class sessions to run smoothly, it is important to listen to others with an attitude of respect, and open-mindedness.   Polite disagreement online with others’ ideas is permissible but contrariness or snide commentary is not.  In addition, it is impolite to play card games on the computer or surf the Internet, when class discussion is in session.  Rude behavior will not be tolerated.


—Small group work:  Class time will consist of some lecture (very little, actually) class discussion, small group work, and conference sessions.  Working in small groups is a rich intellectual and social experience, which I want all students to enjoy.  Small group work is not the occasion, however, to discuss last week’s party, or the latest sports’ scores.  Although some social interaction is only natural, the group is expected to concentrate on the assigned task.  Each student should take an active part in group activity and work toward advancing the group’s assigned task.  Active engagement is the key phrase here and is the basis for 1/3 of your course grade.


—Course work load:  Be prepared for a challenging workload.  Essentially, you hired me to be your intellectual “coach” for the next sixteen weeks, and I am going to challenge you.


—Incompletes:  This course is not set up for incompletes; accordingly, only certified illness or emergency situations will be accommodated.  Students must initiate requests for either an incomplete grade or withdrawal from a course by filing the appropriate form


—Exams:  There is no midterm exam or final exam in this course.


—Special needs:  Students with special needs will be accommodated.  Students should contact me or Disabled Student Services.




—I employ the A-F grading system, as well as +s and -s (see the college handbook for the general guidelines and perimeters).


—The basis of the final grade is as follows:  2/3 of grade is paper/ research writing, and the class-designed quizzes; 1/3 of grade is on active, skilled participation, including attendance.  Note:  The final grade is not based on points and is not mathematically calculated; therefore, the above percentages are approximations to suggest emphasis, not precise figures.  Additionally, I do not grade the class on a curve, so it is theoretically possible for the whole class to receive As or Fs.   In assigning the final grade, I shall lay out your work before me and match it as a whole against the criteria passed out in class and using the weighting above.


—If at any time during the semester you feel unsure about your “grade,” request an assessment from me.


—You always have the option of revising your work for a higher grade.  With this said, let me also add that revision work for a higher grade needs to be substantive, not shallow.  In other words, if you do the work required, you will earn a higher grade.   Sloppy, poor quality revisions will not be rewarded.


—Instructor evaluations:  At the end of the term, I shall ask you to complete a course evaluation. Another form of feedback I would appreciate, however, is your comments/suggestions as the course progresses.  Dialogue between us is crucial, as I use your ideas and concerns to tailor and fine-tune the course.




* Weekly postings in D2L will flesh out assignment details


Week I

M, 23 August

T, 24August

W, 25 August

Th, 26 August

F, 27 August



Week II

M, 30 August

T, 31 August

W, 1 September

Th, 2 September

F, 3 September


Week III

M, 6 September

T, 7 September

W, 8 September

Th, 9 September

F, 10 September


Week IV

M, 13 September

 T, 14 September

W, 15 September

Th, 16 September

F, 17 September



Week V

M, 20 September

T, 21 September

W, 22 September

Th, 23 September

F, 24 September


Week VI

M, 27 September

T, 28 September

W, 29 September

Th, 30 September

F, 1 October


Week VII

M, 4 October

T, 5 October

W, 6 October

Th, 7 October

F, 8 October



M, 11 October

T, 12 October

W, 13 October

Th, 14 October

F, 15 October


Week IX

M, 18 October

T, 19 October

W, 20 October

Th, 21 October

F, 22 October


Week X

M, 25 October

T, 26 October

W, 27 October

Th, 28 October

F, 29 October


Week XI

M, 1   November

T, 2 November

W, 3 November

Th, 4 November

F, 5 November


Week XII

M, 8 November

T, 9 November

W, 10 November

Th, 11 November

F, 12 November




M, 15 November

T, 16 November

W, 17 November

Th, 18 November

F, 19 November


Week XIV

M, 22 November

T, 23 November

W, 24 November

Th, 25 November

F, 26 November


Week XV

M, 29 November

T, 30 November

W, 1 December

Th, 2 December

F, 3 December


Week XVI

M, 6 December

T, 7 December

W, 8 December

Th, 9 December

F, 10 December


Week XVI

M, 13 December

 T, 14 December

W, 15 December

Th, 16 December

F, 17 December



M, 20 December—End of semester

T, 21 December

W, 22 December

Th, 23 December

F, 24 December





Image credit:  David Hockney, “Nichols Canyon.”  Offset Lithograph.      http://www.davidhockney.com/art.shtml.