ENGL 353 (Intermediate Composition) is a three-credit intermediate English course that takes a practical approach to the art of essay writing by having students apply the major principles of composition in five essay assignments. Students learn these principles in the abstract by studying online handbooks on composition and, in practice, by studying samples of good writing and applying the principles in their own work. The course emphasizes some common essay types: exposition, comparison/contrast, persuasion, and research.
Intermediate Composition is made up of six units, and the marks are based on an expository essay weighing fifteen percent, a critical review worth fifteen percent, a comparison/contrast essay and a persuasive essay each weighing twenty percent, a research essay proposal worth five percent, and, finally, a research essay weighing twenty-five percent. This course has no final exams. To receive credit for ENGL 353, students must achieve a minimum grade of fifty percent on each assignment and a composite grade of at least fifty percent on the course.
Students should note that you may rewrite any assignment once and the final grade for the assignment will be the average of the two marks awarded. Also, this course qualifies for a reduced learning resource fee of $130 which covers the cost of mandatory, Athabasca University-produced learning resources, library services, learning management system support, and learning design and development. The materials for this course are available entirely online through the English 353 main course page and Digital Reading Room (DRR).
Dr. Angie Abdou has been working at Athabasca for four years and she has been the course coordinator and tutor for ENGL 353 since she started. She states, “I have a Ph.D. from University of Calgary in Canadian Literature and Creative Writing. I have published seven books: one collection of short fiction, four novels, one collection of essays about Canadian sport literature, and one memoir. The memoir was inspired by a creative nonfiction course I teach in AU’s Masters of Interdisciplinary Studies. After teaching creative nonfiction for a couple of years, I found myself pulled to write my own book-length creative nonfiction. I tend to want to write what I love to read and that is always changing. What to tell you about myself personally? My husband Marty and I have two children, a twelve-year-old boy and a ten-year-old girl. All their sports (hockey, skiing, and gymnastics, swimming) keep us busy. We recently acquired sister puppies – so the house is full.”
Alongside ENGL 353, she coordinates all of Athabasca University’s creative writing courses, which include ENGL 380 (Writing Poetry), ENGL 381 (Creative Writing in Prose), ENGL 384 (Writing Creative Nonfiction), ENGL 387 (Writing Speculative Fiction), and ENGL 482 (Advanced Fiction Writing). She explains, “I tutor for all of those except the poetry course. I also tutor in the independent study courses (ENGL 491 – Directed Studies in Literature and ENGL 492 – Research and Writing Projects in Literature), which allow students to do an independent creative project with my mentorship. In the graduate program, I regularly teach MAIS 617 (Creative Nonfiction).”
She describes ENGL 353 as “an academic writing course. Students get a chance to polish up the essay-writing skills that they will need to excel in other university courses. The course focuses on different essay forms and gives students plenty of opportunities to learn through doing.”
Dr. Abdou explains that “like all of AU’s self-paced courses, ENGL 353 requires a motivated and self-directed student. The students who work hardest improve the most. If students learn from the feedback on each assignment and apply it to the next submission, their writing gets better. If students take time to do many drafts, rather than submitting a first draft, their marks reflect that effort. A good work ethic is crucial to success in writing, and therefore crucial to success in this course.”
As for advice, she encourages students to not get discouraged if they do poorly on the first assignment. She states, “If you learn from each assignment, your mark will improve – and there are enough assignments that the first assignment does not determine your final outcome. Instead of focusing on marks, focus on feedback. Take time to absorb your tutor’s comments and use those comments to make the next assignment better. If you need elaboration or clarification on any of those comments—or on anything—do not hesitate to contact your tutor.”
She believes that everyone should take ENGL 353, stating “If you have to write essays in your other courses, and most students do, this course will give you strategies to be successful.” Students will gain “a clearer sense of what is required in university essays and better skills for producing good quality essays.”
When asked which aspects of the course is the most difficult, she explains “Some students do not like to write so that is a hurdle. Some students do not feel confident in their writing skills. I hope that taking the course one essay at a time and looking to improve a little with each set of feedback will help students over both of those obstacles. Also, I strongly encourage students to seek out the tutor’s help along the way for advice as needed. Do not be shy. That is what the tutors are there for and we always appreciate hearing from you.”
Whether ENGL 353 (Intermediate Composition) is a degree or program requirement of yours or the topics discussed above are of interest to you, or writing in general is something that you enjoy, this course will surely make you a stronger writer and better prepare you to write at the university-level!