Course Exam—ENGL 145

ENGL 145 (Reading and Writing for Academic Purposes) is a zero-credit course that is designed for students who need to fill the gaps in their reading and writing skills in preparation for studies at the university level.  It is appropriate for both ESL (English as a Second Language) students and native speakers of English who wish to upgrade their academic skills and strongly recommended for those who plan on taking or ENGL 155 (Developing Writing Skills), ENGL 177 (English for Academic Purposes), or ENGL 189 (English for Business).  There are prerequisites for this course, though TOEFL 450 level or equivalent is recommended.  This course is not available for challenge.

Students should be aware of the English Language Studies Assessment Test that is designed to help students understand their strengths and weaknesses in English and guide them to the most appropriate course(s).

Reading and Writing for Academic Purposes is made up of eight units consisting of twenty-four lessons, with eight assignments each weighing ten percent, and a final examination worth twenty percent.  There are also online self-tests that carry no weight.  Throughout this course students will learn how to write narratives, explanatory paragraphs, write persuasively, and write descriptive paragraphs.  Also, students will become more familiar with reading a variety of different genres and the course teaches them to become creative thinkers for their reading and writing.  To pass ENGL 145, students must complete all of the assignments and achieve a minimum grade of fifty percent on the final examination, and a composite course grade of at least sixty percent.  The final examination for this course must be taken online with an Athabasca University-approved exam invigilator.

Dr. Michael Volek has been working at Athabasca University since the fall of 2013 and has been tutoring and coordinating this course since its roll out in the fall of 2018.  Alongside ENGL 145, he coordinates and tutors all the foundational (100-level) writing skills courses at AU, which includes ENGL 140, ENGL 155, ENGL 177, and ENGL 189.  He also tutors MAIS 606, which is a graduate-level writing course, and he coaches the Write Site.  He states, “I graduated from McMaster University in 1993 with a B.A.  in Philosophy before setting out for Okayama, Japan, where I worked for many years as an English instructor.  In 2003, I returned to McMaster to complete an M.A. in Philosophy, followed by a second M.A. in Applied Language Studies from Carleton University and finally a Ph.D. in English from UBC, which I completed in 2014.  My academic interests concern the intersection of theory and praxis in discourse studies, in particular, with the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, which was the topic of my doctoral research.  But despite my focus on theory, I consider my vocation to be teaching, and I take the greatest pleasure in guiding student-writers on their academic path.”

Dr. Volek provides students a brief description of ENGL 145, stating “I like to describe the course as a “choose-your-own-adventure” story, in which the experiences and learning outcomes are determined by the individual students, who are empowered to choose whether to focus their studies on reading comprehension or foundational writing skills—or both—depending on their specific needs and priorities.”

I asked Dr. Volek to explain the structure of the course and he told me that, “Every lesson begins with a pre-test that helps students to determine their level of mastery over the material.  If their understanding is sufficient, they can skip ahead to the next lesson; otherwise, they can complete the lesson and, if necessary, explore the supplementary materials before again testing their knowledge (this time with an online quiz modelled after the relevant section of the final exam), and finally moving on to the next lesson.  I modelled the course after the new revisions to ENGL 155 and ENGL 177, with eight units of three lessons each: (i) “Structure and Language”, which focuses on English fundamentals; (ii) “Reading”, devoted to comprehension skills; and (iii) “Writing”, devoted to composition skills.

He continues “Student-tutor dialogue is encouraged and facilitated by the requirement for a brief “reflective journal entry” to accompany each assignment.  The entry focuses on the student’s goals, activities, and experiences in the most recent unit of study.”

He concludes, “At the end of each unit, in consultation with their tutor, students select and complete one of the graded assignment options.  The reading-comprehension option begins (in the early units) by posing short-answer questions about assigned readings but progresses (in the later units) to requiring students to complete full-length summaries of their readings.  The writing option focuses on paragraph-length compositions, including summaries, narratives, descriptive passages, and explanatory paragraphs.”

Dr. Volek states that “Student-writers tend to struggle with the same challenges: grammar, punctuation, argumentation, and organization.  But that is what this course is designed to overcome.” Though, he encourages students to give him a call if they have any questions or concerns!

Whether English is not your first language, or if you just want to improve your English skills prior to taking other university courses, ENGL 145 will have you coming away with the tools that you need to read and write at the university-level!

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