WMU News

Self-instructional English available via the Internet

Jan. 10, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University is making self-instructional learning more accessible to students through two new state- of- the- art English courses available on the Internet that already have gained the attention of educators from around the country.

WMU began offering English 305: Practical Writing when the winter semester began Jan. 7. A second online course, English 105: Studies in Exposition (Thought and Writing), is scheduled to be available later in the semester.

What makes the two courses special is their high-quality content and methodology, says Dr. Bradley Hayden, a former WMU professor of English who developed and teaches English 305 and now works as a corporate communications consultant in California.

"The practical writing course, for example, results from more than 20 years' experience successfully teaching effective writing," Hayden says.

"A non-computerized version of the course has continually received excellent reviews from students, and the new version takes advantage of technology to be even better. Classes such as this put WMU on the cutting edge of instructional technology in English."

The online courses were developed with the support of the University's Department of English and are being offered through its Department of Distance Education, which is part of Extended University Programs.

English 305 is an across- the- curriculum class in writing excellence for students entering business or professional careers who need to learn how to make their writing clear, concise and effective. English 105 is a freshman composition course using short reading excerpts from a wide range of diverse authors to teach the fundamentals of vocabulary, reading, logic and writing.

Hayden says both of the courses take advantage of computer technology without creating the typical frustrations students can experience when this technology is used in instruction. He also notes that only basic computer skills are needed to benefit from the offerings, which actually may enhance skills for class members with little computer experience.

Students simply e-mail their written assignments to Hayden, who grades them and provides feedback. Access to online textbooks, exercises, tests and other materials is made easy through preset hyperlinks in the courses' Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat PDF files, which are currently available only for Windows-based computers.

The hyperlinks are configured so that students are directed to the specific level of description and explanation they need to individually master the course content, allowing class members to concentrate on areas where they need extra help.

"Students and I can interact on a number of levels, depending on the students' interest and expertise with computers," Hayden says.

"The most basic is via Microsoft Word's comments and revision features, which students use to receive written and oral feedback. However, we can also interact via chat, a course bulletin board and even videoconferencing."

Other universities have expressed interest in the concept behind the new courses as well as in the course materials, Hayden adds.

"Since the Web site was created in fall of 2001, we've had thousands of hits from people interested in the courses," he says. "Not only do we continue to see interest from students and businesspersons in the United States, but also we see lots of interest coming from individuals in such places as Japan, Indonesia, Mexico and throughout the world."

For more information about WMU's new online English courses, contact Hayden at (650) 218-3379 or <Bhayden@CourseAction.com> or contact Dr. Arnie Johnston, English department chairperson, at (269) 387-2571 or <arnie.johnston@wmich.edu>. A detailed overview of each course is available online at <www.CourseAction.com>.

Bradley Hayden was a WMU faculty member from 1980 to 1996, when he moved to Switzerland to become strategic communication expert for F. Hoffmann-La Roche, a Basel, Switzerland-based international pharmaceutical company. Hayden now resides in the San Francisco area and provides communication and documentation support for international corporations.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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