Course Exam—ENGL 140

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ENGL 140 (English Language and Writing Skills) is a course designed “for students who need to revise or upgrade their grammar skills to ensure accuracy of communication before proceeding with other courses or post-secondary students.” The course explores a thorough and systematic review of grammatical structural and when to use it in the appropriate situations.  The course examines grammar from an ESL perspective, however it is also recommended for students who are native speakers of English looking to improve their grammar skills.

Who Should Take This Course and Why

For this course, we had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Michael Volek, the Course Coordinator for ENGL 140.  When we asked Dr. Volek who he would recommend the course for he stated, “ENGL 140 is designed for students who want to ensure that they have a strong foundation for the writing tasks they will face in their programmes.  It is especially recommended for ESL students who may not have mastered the grammar, and for mature students whose writing skills may have grown rusty in the years they were out of the classroom.  It is also recommended for students who haven’t had a lot of exposure to writing or who have struggled with it in the past.”

Dr. Volek also elaborated on the importance of the English grammar, especially in University; “Knowledge of English grammar is essential for students who want to reach their full potential as writers.  Writing at the university level is complex.  Students are expected to convey sophisticated ideas and construct persuasive arguments, which may span 10s or even 100s of pages, and, without a solid grasp of the grammar, students can struggle to express their ideas clearly and effectively.”

When we asked Dr. Volek about the audience he recommended the course to he mentioned, “This [course] is often apparent in students who speak English as a second language (ESL).  But even Native English speakers may have an incomplete grasp of the grammar, as relatively little time is spent on it at the elementary and secondary level.” Therefore, whether you are a native speaker or not, and are looking to improve your grammar, this course is recommended for you!

Course, Assignments and Final Exam Details

This course consists of eight modules: verb tenses, modals and related expressions, passive voice, gerunds and infinitives, nouns/pronouns/and agreement, noun and adjective clauses, adverb clauses, and conjunctions and other connectives.

The course has eight assignments that are worth a combined total of 64%.  There are also eight quizzes worth 8% in total, along with a reflective paragraph assignment that is worth 8% as well.  There is an online final exam for the course that is worth the remaining 20% of the overall mark.  Students must achieve a minimum grade of 50% or higher on the final exam along with a composite course grade of at least 60% to pass the course.

How to Be Successful in the Course

Introducing the Course Coordinator – Dr.  Michael Volek

Dr. Michael Volek has been working at Athabasca University since the fall of 2013.  Along with ENGL 140, he coordinates all the other foundational (100-level) writing skills courses at AU (ENGL 145, ENGL 155, ENGL 177, and ENGL 189).  Dr.  Volek also tutor MAIS 606, which is a graduate-level writing course, and he coaches at the Write Site.

Dr.  Volek graduated from McMaster University in 1993 with a B.A.  in Philosophy before setting out for Okayama, Japan, where he worked for many years as an English instructor.  In 2003, Dr.  Volek 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 he completed in 2014.  Dr.  Volek’s academic interests concern the intersection of theory and praxis in discourse studies with the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, which was the topic of his doctoral research.  But despite his focus on theory, he considers his vocation to be teaching, and he takes the greatest pleasure in guiding student-writers on their academic path.

Dr. Michael Volek’s Advice for the Course

“The biggest obstacle students face in the study of grammar, I think, is the unfamiliar vocabulary.  Before they can grasp the rules and conventions of writing – for example, “subject-verb agreement” – students need to learn what a “subject” is, and what a “verb” is, and so forth.  And this can sometimes feel tedious and overwhelming.  The good news is that grammar is natural and intuitive (especially for native speakers), so once students get past the vocabulary, it is not such a struggle to understand the concepts, and their command of the language can grow at a surprisingly fast pace.”


If you have any further questions regarding the course, please do not hesitate to contact the Course Coordinator at  Happy studying!

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