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Grade level / Subject Curricular unit / goal / objectives What the course looks like Choice of LMS (Learning Management System) Course communication policy Methods of assessment Considerations for this course Reflections


Grade Level: Grade 10

Subject: English Back to Top

Curricular unit:

Persuasive essay writing Back to Top

What the course looks like: Students will be working in groups accessing online materials that will help them develop their writing skills. In groups, students will explore persuasive essays, analyze them (study the language, tone, organization, format), and share ideas (is the language formal/informal, is the tone accusative/diplomatic, are the ideas organized from least to most important or vice versa?). This is particularly important when addressing a figure of authority (in this case the school administration). I will provide them with a list of online resources they can explore and discuss as they move along. Technology, and particularly the Internet, will be the major medium of accessing information. Most of the initial work will be done among group members, who will click on the links provided to access the material needed. Students will learn the purpose and characteristics of a persuasive essay, and eventually produce a similar essay addressing issues of concern to the school administration. Here are a couple of links: http://www.michigan-proficiency-exams.com/persuasive-essay.html (for catchy introductions) http://lklivingston.tripod.com/essay/sample.html (Sample of an effective essay) http://skills.library.leeds.ac.uk/podcasts/podcast3_essay_writing.mp3 (Podcast about essay writing for auditory students)

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Choice of LMS: After exploring them all, I found out that the best 3 are ATutor 1.6.4, Claroline 1.9.3, and Moodle 1.9.7 for their superiority over the remaining three. They offer exactly what I'm looking for when thinking about designing an online instructional unit. Basically, they're appealing, user friendly, and rich with options. I particularly liked the following features: Course Management, Discussion Forums, Chat, and Online Gradebook (especially in Moodle). I particularly liked Moodle for the reasons below: 1. The course can be flexibly designed and managed. 2. There’s plenty of opportunity for real time chat and discussion forums. This a key feature of any of my courses, and students are requested to collaborate, share and analyze their work as well as the work of others. 3. The online gradebook allows students to access their grades any time and read relevant feedback. Below is a comparison between ATutor 1.6.4, Claroline 1.9.3, and Moodle 1.9.7. Docebo Suite was included to emphasize Moodle’s superiority.

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Course communication policy: Communication during the course will take place between 1) students, 2) teacher and students, and 3) teacher and parents. Students can communicate with each other using discussion forums and real-time chat. They can communicate with me using discussion forums, real-time chat, text messaging, and email. (My intervention in the discussion forums will be minimal unless I’m addressed a direct question or sense tension in one of the discussions). For every lesson of the unit, students will get the chance to communicate asynchronously (discussion forums) and/or synchronously (real-time chat). Parents can keep in touch with me by email and phone. If the parents are within a reasonable distance from the campus, I can set a day and time when they can talk to me face to face.

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Methods of assessment: I'll be using summative and formative assessments. For the summative assessment, students will have a quiz and a writing assignment (introductory paragraph, first paragraph, second paragraph, conclusion) at the end of each lesson that reflect their overall level of understanding. It'll help me see more or less where they stand with respect to the course and the rest of the class. At this level, the final product is not as important as the collaboration and contribution students make to the group and the class as a whole (i.e. the summative assessment described below). However, the final essay in lesson 6 will be given more importance. For the formative assessment, I'll monitor each student's progress relative to their own initial stage. First, I'll grade tangible tasks, such as the content of their posts in the discussion forum, the content of their feedback to their peers (or comments), and the mini assignments I'll give along the way (completing a paragraph, writing a draft) where things will be pretty personal and relative. I won't compare a weak student's draft to the one of an advanced student; I'll just compare it to that weak student's previous drafts and check their progress. In addition to the tangible tasks, I'll grade students' enthusiasm in commenting on others' posts, the frequency of their posts, and their contribution to the group and class. This will fall under participation. Students will be given clear guidelines on what is expected of them when they post a comment in the discussion forum, and what type of contribution entitles them to a good mark. Consider the 2 comments below.


Student 1

Student 2

Hi Kelley

Hi Kelley

Your introduction is cool. I wonder how you did it! I bet the rest of your essay will be as cool. You gotta teach me some of this stuff next time we get together.

You've got quite an interesting introduction there. The idea of starting with a question engages the reader and makes them want to read more. I also like the way you ended your introduction; it clearly shows what you'll be discussing next.

Cheers Good start! Ray Laure Ray's comment doesn't contribute in any way to the improvement or appreciation of Kelley's work. 'Cool' is not specific enough, and 'teach me some of this stuff' is ambiguous. On the other hand, Laure's comment provides more constructive feedback; Kelley knows why her introduction is catchy, and how her thesis statement helps the reader (anticipation). The example above presents the criteria for grading students' comments. The same approach applies to grading their enthusiasm in their posts and comments. I know it's hard, but this is crucial if students are to build acceptable social behavior. They need to realize what is considered 'acceptable' feedback/comment/mannerism and what is not. Although I'll be using both types of assessment, I still haven't decided how much weight each will carry. I think I'll give 40% of the final mark for the summative assessment and 60% for the formative assessment. With practice, I may make a few changes, but the formative assessment will always carry more weight. Quick recap:

Summative Assessment / Weight

Formative Assessment / Weight

Writing assignments (Lessons 1-5) / 4% each

Discussion forum / 15%

Final essay (Lesson 6) / 20%

Feedback to peers (comments) / 10% Mini assignments / 15% Participation / 20% (equally distributed between enthusiasm and frequency of posts and comments)

Percentage of the summative assessment: 40%

Percentage of the formative assessment: 60%

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Considerations for this course: Online courses draw attention to issues similar to those encountered in face-to-face classes, but their context is different. The main issues to address in online courses are social and ethical. 

Social: In a face-to-face situation, people rely on body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice to tell how well others are responding. In an online course, the only source of information are the written words. For this reason, make sure your words ‘sound’ nice. The wrong choice of word(s) may convey the wrong message. Ethical: The never-ending temptation of plagiarism keeps teachers on their toes, especially when assignments depend largely on Internet resources. Students must be reminded that the consequences for plagiarizing can be as serious as being dismissed from school. There’s a chapter on plagiarism in Lesson 2. Make sure students understand how to paraphrase in order to avoid plagiarism. Back to Top

Reflections: To understand the mode of operation of this online course, teachers will first need to know the 3 key points below: 

Goal & Objectives: These are clearly stated and reflect exactly what the course intends to do - Enable students to write argumentative essays. The objectives that follow detail the particular skills and knowledge students will have gained by the end of the course that will help them achieve the goal. These objectives are of 2 types Academic & Social. Teachers will understand that in order to produce a highly effective argumentative essay, students need to acquire the necessary academic skills as well as netiquette.

Assessment & Measurement: I have provided a detailed table that explains the breakdown and logistics of the assessment and measurement procedures. Teachers will realize that assessing students' performance in an online course isn't the same as in a face-to-face situation. As such, part of the evaluation accounts for students' ability to communicate properly through constructive feedback to peers and general comments/reflections posted in the discussion forums. Teachers will understand that students need to be trained to develop netiquette awareness in order to function adequately in times marked by technology-based communication. This is handled by the formative assessment part, where students' contribution,


feedback to peers, and participation carry almost equal weight to the summative assessment part, which takes care of the academic side. 

Course communication policy: The policy clearly describes how all parties are connected: o Students among themselves: Discussion forums, chat rooms, Cyber Cafe, Skype. o Teacher and students: Email, chat rooms and Skype when applicable, phone in urgent cases. o Teacher and parents: Email, phone, face-to-face meeting by appointment.

Now that teachers know what the goal and objectives of the unit are, how students will be assessed and how communication will take place, it's time to move on to the operational aspect of the unit. To make sense of the course design, teachers need to understand the rationale behind the content selection and design. This is why the notebook sheds light onto the points below: 

Resources & Materials: The notebook discusses how and why the resources were selected. For example, Tony Buzan was selected because he serves the prupose of explaining how mindmapping helps in organizing ideas, a key feature in essay writing. In addition, the material is presented in writing and speaking to cater to the needs of visual and auditory students. The embedded videos make things all the better for audio-visual students. The difficult words are listed in a glossary for quick reference. All the resources are relevant to the goal and objectives, and the assignments reflect students' understanding of the content material.

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Accessibility: Teachers will come to realize that a crucial aspect of this online course is the ease at which it can be navigated. The course material is presented in reasonable chunks and legible font. There are links from one module to the other that open in separate windows so the original page is not lost. This information makes it clear to teachers that a browsing pattern needs to be established to walk students through the different modules without frustration. Back to Top


Online course design