Today my English 1102 online course final essays are due in the 8-week section. The semester is ending strong with a current enrollment snapshot of 19/22 students. I always have the most retention in this research writing course and am encouraged by the completion and success rate of this particular group. Going into the final essay assignment, the grade breakdown is: 11 “A’s,” 7 “B’s,” and 1 “C.”
Three students dropped the course on 1/26/16, 2/16/16 and 3/2/16. Each student reached out to me via e-mail or phone call to tell me why they were electing to withdraw from the course: medical issues, new job and over-scheduling classes. Generally my English 1102 online students are strong writers with independent research skills. They hit the ground running.
We talk a lot about running in this course. It has tight parameters and a swift schedule — it is only 8-weeks and students need to be efficient, communicative and set goals immediately. Students need to be confident, inquisitive and strong to keep up with deadlines, synthesize multiple complex readings and culminate this knowledge into a robust final research essay. They need to experience blind alleys, late nights and frustration. And they need to get up and do it all over again. They need stamina to make it to the finish line. They need to trust themselves and have a strong support system in place. But most importantly, my students need to realize that they all have gifts to share. The research will happen, but they choose the topic, they choose the pathway.
Jen Hatmaker talks about what people do with their gifts and how they use them to maximize their potential. I draw from her knowledge when thinking about my students. She calls it running your race. Hatmaker proclaims:
The timing is never right. Forget that. It rarely just falls into your lap. You are probably not guaranteed success. This might be a risk. It will require sacrifices from you and maybe your people, and you might step on shaky, shaky legs. But off you go because we were not created to stand still, even though that is safe and familiar and you are guaranteed never to fall or stumble or grow weary. We were made to run. RUN. I’m grinning at you. We all are.
As we run into final essay evaluation, I am cheering my students on as they finish their race in this course. I have sent at least 5 all-class e-mails, posted multiple “You can do it” messages on the Announcement Board and have already read a stack of rough drafts and outlines. Here is a sample of what I have sent this week:
Good evening English 1102 online students. I just finished commenting and grading your final summary assignments for the semester. Excellent job! The good news is there you may begin drafting your final research essay. Take your time. Read, write, synthesize, reflect. Just think, in about 1 week, we’ll be FINISHED with this 8-week course. It won’t be long now. This is your time to process and write. If you would like to share an outline or rough draft with me, you may. Please send it via e-mail next week and I can return it to you with comments over the weekend.
When writing the FINAL RESEARCH ESSAY, include a Works Cited page. The Works Cited page should only include the sources you plan to cite within the essay — no more. These sources may be chosen from the sources you have already summarized, or they may be brand new sources that you have discovered along the way. Regardless, the sources should directly relate to your thesis statement. Also, keep quoting within the essay to a minimum. Instead, focus on paraphrasing what you have learned. Save “special” quotes only when you think you need them. Finally, state your THESIS STATEMENT right away. What is your opinion about the topic? Who supports your opinion? Why? Be specific, not general. If you have questions or concerns, I’m here to help: firstname.lastname@example.org or (630) 942-2101. Happy writing! – Dr. Hubbard