interdisciplinary studies 1125

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interdisciplinary studies 1125
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Colette Wanless-Sobel
Web site: 
colette wanless-sobel, an online information archive

Phone:      home: 530.268.3248 Pacific Time (no later than 9:00 PM, please;

                 answering machine available)

E-mail address:

(Typically, I respond to E-mail in the early evening of each week day.)




There is no required text. All course readings are online.



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




This course stresses the practical use of the imagination in problem solving, along with critical thinking.  Taking an interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary approach, the course will traverse film, business case studies, philosophy, literature, and sociology for creative problem solving. 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 problem solving processes and solutions  through critical and creative thinking, entailing logical analysis, invention, idea-organization, drafting, revision, editing, and presentation;

—ability to select appropriate problem solving strategies for specific situations and stakeholders;

—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.




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 / civic engagement for enrichment. By service learning / civic engagement, 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;

empowers 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.

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 other areas of concentration:  critical-creative thinking applications; gender studies; digital culture; and computerized instruction, including gaming in education.


My first teaching job was at the University of Minnesota, Liberal Arts.  I next was appointed at University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, where I taught for four years.  Since 1993, I have been at the University of Minnesota in Distance Education. In 1999, I began teaching part time at Inver Hills Community College and, lately, I have been developing D2L (online) courses for Inver Hills.  INTS 1125 is one of these newly developed D2L courses.  Most recently, I began teaching online at the University of Phoenix.


Some little-known facts about me:


~While reading E-mails and assignment submissions from students, I work at my desk at home, drinking coffee and sitting with my companion animals: two dogs, a blue and gold macaw and a big Tom cat.


~One day, I would like to have a small dairy goat herd and produce artisan cheese.


~ I would some day like to adopt a burro and a Mustang from the United States Department of the Interior.


~My house is often so dusty that, I run a spider motel. (I like spiders, though.)


~I always wished I was “good” at math.


~I am a passionate blogger and Web master, and I love computers.


So where do you fit in with all of this?


Essentially, for the next sixteen weeks, I shall be your intellectual coach in creative problem solving.  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.




--Safe Space in This Online Classroom   There are things from which I think every classroom, on-site or online, ought to constitute safe space. Here is my list:  (1) safety from sexual assault, abuse, threat or harrassment; (2) safety from verbal assault, abuse, threat or harrassment;  (3) safety from sexism, genderism and homophobia; (4)  safety from class bias and chauvanism ; (5) safety from political and economic persecution; (6) safety from retaliation or revenge for expressing one's beliefs, feelings and ideas;  (7) safety from the instructors' abuse of power;  (8) safety from bias and insensitivity to individuals with special needs; and  (9) safety from physical assault, abuse or harrassment.  I shall do my utmost to assure these safety standards are met and maintained in the class.  If at any time you feel "unsafe" for any reason, please let me know.

At the same time, it is important to point out that, there is a major difference between intellectual challenge with respect to ideas, an
d personal attacks against the holders of ideas.


—Online Attendance:  This is not an independent study course, where you can log-in irregularly and fulfill assignments whenever you please, as long as work is submitted before the end of the term. This course requires you to complete work by certain due dates and to post online a minimum number of times a week.   If you have an emergency situation, or an extended illness, contact me to rearrange work deadlines.  Note:  1/3 of the final grade is based on attendance and participation.  I emphasize this caveat not as a threat or to hold you hostage in class; however, I do want to inform you how much active participation counts in the class, and if you do not log –in to class, you can not participate.



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 proofed.

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.


Respect and Collegiality:  Online classes at Inver Hills allow class discussions, and class interactions that are difficult to manage in on-site, large lecture settings.   I designed “Creative Problem Solving” so as to make the most of our small class setting.   Accordingly, throughout the course we all shall share our ideas and perspectives about problem solving 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 with others’ ideas is permissible but contrariness or snide commentary is not.


Small group work:  Class time will consist of some reading my online lectures, which I keep to a minimum, class discussion, small group work, and online conference sessions by way of E-mail. 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 rigorous course. At the same time, I am respectfully aware most students have work lives and family lives outside of school.


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.   Accordingly, these students should contact me or Disabled Student Services.



--New Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy:

Effective Summer 2007 all Inver Hills students must maintain a 67% completion rate for all credits attempted. This is in addition to the existing requirement that students earn a cumulative Grade Point Average of 2.0 or above. See for the complete policy.


The final course grade is based on the following % of 1000-point total for individual / team projects.



A= 92% +

(920-1000 Points)

B= 91-84%

(919-840 Points)

C= 83%-76%

(839-760 Points)

D= 75%-68%



F= Below 68%

(Below 680 Points)

—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. Typically, SURVEYS in D2L is used to fine-tune the course and read the course pulse.



Topics and assignments are fleshed out in D2L CONTENT.


Typically, a new assignment is provided each Tuesday and the assignment is due

the following Monday.  In other words, the course week is from Tuesday to Monday.
















 Course Contract*