In the spring of 2007, English faculty members at the University of Guam began researching the need for online education options that could be offered by the University. With the support of other English faculty, Merissa Brown proposed, created, and implemented the first fully online composition class and taught it in the spring semester of 2008. Michelle Bednarzyk took over the class in the fall of 2008. This case will provide a history of the course’s development, insights from both instructors about the process of teaching this way within the diverse population that makes up the University’s student body, and offer suggestions they have for future successes based on challenges they faced. Finally, this document will argue that students at the University are ready for more technology in their classroom environments and should expect the University to accommodate their requests in an effort to successfully prepare them for their careers.
One of the most interesting parts about the development of EN110 Online is that it costs the financially strapped University nothing. In order to understand how this happened, it is important to learn a bit about the history involved. Former University adjunct instructor Merissa Brown secured a full-time faculty position in the division of English and applied linguistics (DEAL) that began in January, 2007. Before moving to Guam, Brown had taught for the University of Illinois as a graduate teaching assistant and for Robert Morris College as an adjunct instructor. Guam is the first place she ever came professionally face to face with a chalk board as the only readily available classroom media). Brown had been teaching composition and communication classes for the University since 2005 and had also been teaching online for the University of Illinois at Springfield. In her UOG classes, she always utilized whatever computer mediated communication tools she could reasonably expect her students to access. This included assignments due by email, online grade books, and posting class documents on her Web site.
Christopher Schreiner, acting associate dean for DEAL and communication and fine arts (CFA), approached the newly hired instructor in early January about taking her experience and shaping it into something new for UOG. Brown began seriously looking at the resources available and what the demographically diverse group of UOG students desired, understood, and had real access to in the way of technology. A simple Google-search provided her with countless questionnaires that could be reasonably put to use. She was looking for a simple yes/no format consisting of multiple questions regarding technological skill sets, personal motivation, and access to reliable internet sources. Students would fill out these questionnaires in order to communicate as a group if distance education was really something that the University needed to make a priority or pool resources towards. Allen County Community College provided the best template (ACCC Student Skills Quiz, 2007) and a group of forty-six yes/no learning assessment questions were produced for a UOG specific survey (see Appendix A). Many of these questions involved explicit computer and internet functions and jargon that a student would need to understand in order to be successful in an online course. In addition, many questions discussed personal motivation factors that were also very telling about a student’s ability to maintain their interest in a course that they would not have to physically attend.