ENGL 824 Blog Entry #4 – Arms

Arms, Valarie M. “Hybrids, Multi-Modalities and Engaged Learners: A Composition Program for the Twenty-First Century.” Rocky Mountain Review 2 (2012): 219. Project MUSE. Web. 28 May 2014.

Arms’ case study explores the development of the English Alive pilot program at Drexel University, which was built upon the recognition that technology has caused the younger generation to communicate differently, to be innovative, and to incorporate technology into their everyday lives; therefore, writing classes should reflect the digital world our students navigate effortlessly while also helping students meet the goals of traditional composition courses. Relying heavily on WAC principles, the program helped students develop reading, writing, and critical thinking skills through a hybrid course delivery model; it allowed students to look for real-world examples of course concepts within their chosen disciplines which they would then write about; and the course encouraged the development of multi-modal projects to explore their learning and to provide a written rationale for the development of those projects. Arms came away from the project with eight key “lessons”:

1. Use sound research, such as that into the connection between technology and students’ improving communication skills, as a foundation.

2. Information technology specialists can be helpful in finding innovative ways to use technology.

3. Pilot program teachers should be allowed and encouraged to take risks and share their successes and problems they faced.

4. Courses should use rubrics based on course learning outcomes, particularly for multimodal projects.

5. Allow student to be “agents of change” and take ownership through inclusion in program assessments.

6. Used mixed methods to evaluate the new pedagogies.

7. Submit proposals to administration at every level to solicit support and potentially grant money.

8. Once the pilot is concluded, disseminate the results to a broad community for feedback.

She concludes by arguing that the program encouraged students and teachers to be creative, innovative, and motivated, and that it served as a reminder that “learning does not stop at the doorway to a classroom” (209).

This particular article differs a great deal from previous articles I examined because the program is based on the idea that an entire generation of students (digital natives) are very proficient in the use of technology. While that may be the case with some students, certainly issues of access and skill result in an uneven distribution of technological skill and know-how that Arms does not really acknowledge. In contrast, Stine acknowledged these barriers while also arguing strongly for hybrid education. While Arms’ suggestions are helpful to someone developing such a program, those opposed to the idea of online education could easily argue that Arms is too optimistic about students’ technological skills and that issues developmental students face in particular are being ignored. The article would likely be of interest to those wanting to find innovative ways to approach WAC/WID. Also, the article was valuable to my own project, as it is helpful to see a detailed case study, rationale, and an explanation of how the results might be communicated to colleagues.



One thought on “ENGL 824 Blog Entry #4 – Arms

  1. Arms seems to present an interesting model in her essay. Indeed, while it seems that there has been a great deal of research and scholarly investigation into both hybrid and online writing courses and their effectiveness, I think it’s beneficial to have a variety of opinions, perspectives and results. I’m an advocate for both hybrid/online course delivery, and believe their very natures are supportive of, specifically, an environment conducive to writing. From the summary you provided, it appears that Arms developed pretty solid “lessons” that are sound and certainly have practical value to the online writing instructor. Further, I like that she included one that increases instructor involvement with admin. That’s a topic we’ve been discussing pretty often in our class and why it’s imperative that we not only submit proposals, but to also seek to be involved in the design of pedagogical tools. Additionally, I also appreciate her recognition of the value of collaboration and community. I, too, believe that learning doesn’t stop at the doorway to a classroom, and that it is indeed a life-long activity.
    I also agree with you that Arms, to some, may appear to present an overly utopian perspective on online education. Indeed, despite being digital natives, there are plenty of people in that generation who still have issues with using technology. Further, Arms doesn’t seem to address different minority groups, or even ESLs, the economically-constrained, etc. that could – despite their age demographic – have a not-so-sunny appreciation for technology in their classwork. Perhaps that could’ve rounded out her argument a bit. But, ultimately, I agree with you that the article is valuable and her key “lessons” do provide for some practical application.

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