Welcome Letter 30064

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English 201A / 30064

Instructor: Dr. Sarah Miller

Welcome to English 201A!

Please read through this Welcome Letter carefully as it provides details about this course and its technological requirements. If you should choose to enroll, you will be sent more instructions before the course starts on January 16, 2024.

Contact information

Email Address: sarah_miller4@cuesta.edu

Office Hours:

I will give you a number of options to reach me for office hours during the semester. More information will be provided closer to the start of the semester.

Instructor Contact Expectations: 

The best and fastest way to contact me is email.  I will generally respond to your emails within 24 hours during weekdays only.  During busy times of the semester, the response time may increase to 48 hours.  On weekends, I try not check email. If I receive an email after 5 on Friday, I probably will not respond until the following Monday. If you do not hear from me in 48 hours, please email me again to put yourself at the top of my inbox.

Course Environment

While we won’t be meeting in person this semester, we’ll be together online where we’ll exchange ideas, discuss reading, write drafts of essays, and receive feedback.

This online course will be using a Web-based Learning Management System Canvas as the method to disseminate information. Canvas provides the framework for the course including lecture material, student data files, the tools to receive and send course materials, and a grade book. Using the communication tools, you can communicate using e-mail, and you can share materials and ideas with other course participants via the discussion forums and groups.

Accessing the Course

You will see your course in Canvas on the first day of class. You can access Canvas by clicking on Canvas from the top bar of the Cuesta homepage (www.cuesta.edu), or by typing the Canvas address (https://cuesta.instructure.com/) into your browser address bar.

If you are not familiar with logging into canvas, please refer to the Canvas Quick Reference Guide. Links to an external site. Once logged into Canvas you will be directed on where to get started. Be sure to read all the direction on the course home page.  

If you are having difficulty logging into Canvas after January 16, 2024 and need assistance please email me or technical support at this email address support@my.cuesta.edu.   

Online Learning

If you have never taken an online class or this is your first experience with Canvas, please be patient with yourself. Online classes are not inherently easier, although they may be much more convenient for many students. You should expect to spend at least as much time, if not more on this course as you would on a course that meets face to face. Since there is no lecture component, much of this time will be self-directed and there will be a substantial amount of reading, viewing, studying, and writing required. This course is completely online using Canvas; all coursework (discussions, assignments, quizzes) is submitted online. There are no face-to-face meetings.  Please be prepared to spend 8 - 12 hours per week on coursework for this class


Go to the Cuesta College Canvas Tutorial (self-paced) Links to an external site.,  there are many resources that were designed to help you understand the basis for an online class and the skills necessary for success. (If the tutorials do NOT describe you, then taking this class online is NOT for you and I strongly suggest that you drop the online class and enroll in a traditional classroom section.)

Regular Effective Contact Policy

Regular and Effective Instructor Contact will be met through weekly instructor initiated threaded discussion forums; weekly announcements to students; timely and effective feedback on student assignments; email, phone or messaging to individuals; and virtual office hours.

In order to be successful in this course, you must be committed to working through assignments and turning them in on time. Each week you should log-in to Canvas consistently, and please know, that Canvas allows me to see your log-ins. If I notice you have not logged in to Canvas in more than two weeks, I will drop you from the course unless you communicate with me about missing “class.”

Optional Online Meet-Ups: 

Though we won’t be meeting in person, I will offer opportunities for online meetings. These meetings will be entirely voluntary and will not be counted towards the course grade. I offer these meetings as a way to expand our discussions. We will be reading a full-length book together, and students often benefit from discussing the material with each other and me. The meetings will be scheduled at times when the most students are available and recorded for any student who may not be available.


Course Description

This course provides a study of and practice in the use of language and writing of argumentative/analytical essays and research papers. Prerequisite: Appropriate placement or ENGL 180 or equivalent. Transfer: CSU; UC.

The focus in this class is on research and argumentation, but overall, I would like you to come away from this class with your own individual writing process, one that can be adapted for the various writing situations and audiences you will face in the future. My aim as the instructor is to challenge you to improve your writing, provide constructive criticism and praise, act as a sounding board, and create an environment that enables you to think critically about complex issues. I will respect you as writers and trust that you will give your best efforts on each assignment.

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Write a fair and persuasive argument that takes a clear position while incorporating differing viewpoints.
  2. Write an essay that is effectively and clearly organized.
  3. Find necessary information, assess its value, and use it in a research paper.
  4. Integrate and document sources correctly, clearly, and ethically.
  5. Write clear, grammatical sentences with few errors.


Text Book and Materials

This course is designated as a low-cost course. Most readings will be embedded in our Canvas shell. You will need access to one book, listed below, but it is available for free from the public library.

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, ISBN: 978-1-4000-5218-9
  • You will need a weekly, reliable internet connection where you can access Canvas. All supplemental readings and materials, available online for free, will be available in Canvas.
  • This is a writing intensive course, and therefore, it cannot be completed successfully from a smart phone. Please make sure you have access to a device with a keyboard.
  • Final drafts must be submitted in Microsoft Word: Microsoft Office for Free (including Word and PowerPoint Links to an external site.
  • Supplemental Materials:


Cuesta students are encouraged to direct all technical support inquiries to  support@my.cuesta.edu. If you are having issues with Canvas, or email support@instructure.com.

If you are having difficulty viewing the course or logging in, it may be because you are not using the correct url: https://cuesta.instructure.com/ or you are using your phone or using an unsupported browser. 


Your learning environment is best accessed from a desktop or laptop computer, using Firefox or Chrome.  This may solve your problem!  Please review the browser requirements and minimum computer specifications Links to an external site..


This course is designed using an accessible Learning Management System, and course materials have been created with ADA compliance in mind. If you have a disability and might need accommodations in this class such as extended time on exams or other resources. Please contact the instructor as soon as possible so that you can receive appropriate accommodations in a timely manner. You should also contact DSPS (Disabled Student Programs & Services) Links to an external site. or at 805-546-3148.

College & Course Policies

Academic Honesty Policy

In addition to my course policy, which will be detailed on the course syllabus once the course begins, please note all students attending San Luis Obispo County Community College District at any district site and when representing Cuesta College in any off-campus activity, assume an obligation to conduct themselves in an acceptable manner compatible with the Student Code of conduct. Please review the Cuesta College Student Code of conduct Links to an external site..

Add / Drop Policy

Students who do not log in to Canvas for more than 2 weeks will be dropped from the course unless the instructor is contacted by the student before or during this period. It is the student’s responsibility to communicate with the instructor regarding consistent course engagement. It is also the student’s responsibility to drop the course before the drop deadline. In addition to my policy, please review the Cuesta policy for drops


Waitlist Policy: Please review Cuesta’s waitlist procedure and instructions Links to an external site..



Sample Syllabus

Please note: This syllabus is provided as a sample that you might have an idea of the course design. The actual syllabus for this specific section will be distributed to you at the start of the semester.

Welcome to English 201A

Writing, especially for a college class, can be daunting, but it can also be extremely rewarding as your abilities grow! This course is meant to prepare you to write for the tasks you will be given both during your college career and beyond. We encounter arguments daily, even though we aren’t always aware of them, and by the end of the course, you will be able to think through arguments presented to you and create more convincing evidence-based arguments yourself.

Catalog Description

Provides a study of and practice in the use of language and writing of argumentative/analytical essays and research papers. Prerequisite: Appropriate placement or ENGL 180 or equivalent. Transfer: CSU; UC

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Write a fair and persuasive argument that takes a clear position while incorporating differing viewpoints.
  2. Write an essay that is effectively and clearly organized.
  3. Find necessary information, assess its value, and use it in a research paper.
  4. Integrate and document sources correctly, clearly, and ethically.
  5. Write clear, grammatical sentences with few errors.

Course Objectives

The focus in this class is on research and argumentation, but overall, I would like you to come away from this class with your own individual writing process, one that can be adapted for the various writing situations and audiences you will face in the future. My aim as the instructor is to challenge you to improve your writing, provide constructive criticism and praise, act as a sounding board, and create an environment that enables you to think critically about complex issues. I will respect you as writers and trust that you will come to class prepared to engage in the material to the best of your ability every day.

Course Goals

The main goal of this course is to create researched arguments based on critical/theoretical perspectives. We will also learn to:

  • identify and utilize various strategies of argumentation
  • analyze and evaluate texts (written, oral, or visual)
  • synthesize elements of argumentation (structure, appeals, research, opposing views)
  • account for counterarguments and multiple positions
  • adapt arguments for specific audiences
  • understand the ethical implications of argumentation
  • undertake and incorporate research
  • develop writing and rhetorical styles
  • think critically about subjects that are complex, contested, and/or relevant
  • work with others in collaborative writing situations
  • augment and revise writing processes
  • contribute individual expertise, knowledge, talent, and skill to the classroom
  • engage in thoughtful discussion with classmates and instructor

Instructor Contact Expectations 

The best and fastest way to contact me is email—I very rarely check my office voicemail.  I will generally respond to your emails within 24 hours during weekdays. During busy times of the semester, the response time may increase to 48 hours.  On weekends, I will do my best to get back to you ASAP but you can expect a response on Monday. If you don’t hear from me in 48 hours, please send me another email—sometimes I miss them and sometimes technology interferes.

I am trying Hangouts this semester, which you can use through your Cuesta Gmail account. If you download the app to your phone, it appears like a text conversation. You can find me as sarah_miller4@my.cuesta.edu. Let me know what you think because this is new to me!

Major Writing Projects

Most writers will tell you that good writing is the result of a long process. In order to help you develop skills that will be useful towards creating your own writing process, we are going to work on a few major assignments over the course of the semester.

I’ve found that most students write better and learn more when they get to choose the subject, so you may write your projects on any subject that interests you. Be mindful of your willingness to really think and rethink the subject—there are often areas of our lives or issues that we don’t want to argue over or don’t want to truly interrogate. Those might be difficult to write about for this class.

I also encourage you to choose a theme or area for your projects and continue on with them. I’ve designed the course so that each assignment builds to the next. If you keep the same general topic, it often saves you some work down the line. That said, many students start with a topic and change their minds after a few weeks—that’s fine, too. You can always change your topic—it is up to you.

You will be assigned shorter essays and assignments throughout the semester in order to prepare you for the major projects. These assignments will be graded on a 10 (full credit), 8 (late, incomplete, or underdeveloped), 6 point (late or does not complete assignment goals) scale. The credit for drafts will be given as part of the major assignments.


Examining other people’s arguments is a great way to familiarize yourself with convincing (or unconvincing) arguments. In an essay of 1,000-1,500 words (or approx. 3-5 pages in MLA format), identify and review the argument you find in a text of your choosing. You will set up criteria to review the text so that you can articulate your thoughts on how and why the text is successful. Emphasis should be placed on making your own argument and responding to argument you’ve found in thoughtful and critical ways. You should not merely describe or summarize the text.

Proposal and Research Plan

One of the most common types of argument, proposals are used in many fields and other situations life presents us. In 500 words, you will argue for the topic on which you would like to write your argumentative research essay. In other words, you will convince us (your classmates and me) that this is a worthwhile topic to commit to. You will also create a research plan, which will take some forethought—where will you look for sources? What types of evidence will be most compelling? What positions are available on this topic and who holds those positions?

Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography evaluates sources for their usefulness and organizes citations for those sources. Though time consuming, annotated bibliographies are a very useful research strategy that often streamlines the writing process. For 5 sources, you will write entries for an annotated bibliography. These entries will include correct citations and follow the guidelines from our online materials. Each entry will be approximately 400 words.

Argumentative Research Essay

This is the semester’s major assignment, and because the proposal and annotated bibliography are connected to it, you will work on it consistently for a good portion of the semester. In an essay of at least 2,500 words, you will use both primary and secondary research (journals, books, credible websites, interviews, documents, surveys, etc.) to create a strong argument. You will have the chance to pick a topic that is relevant or important to you—I recommend picking something that you care about as you will spend a great deal of time on this essay. In order to pass the essay and the course, your essay will need to demonstrate your ability to conduct research, create a compelling argument, integrate sources, and follow MLA 8 guidelines.

Other Assignments

Discussion Board Posts

One of the best parts of college is the exchange of ideas. One of the ways we discuss in an asynchronous class is through discussion boards. You will be asked to write a post yourself and respond to one or two classmates’ posts. These posts and responses are great times to practice your writing. Approximately total 1,000 words.

Midterm Exam

Your midterm exam will be a timed essay that responds to a short-written argument. In it, you will create an argument and support it with evidence from the reading and your own personal experience. The midterm is open book and open note—this is meant to show your ability to think through a complex issue and write a thoughtful response. Your essay will be at least 600 words.


During the semester, you will sign-up to “present” on our assigned reading from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Once you’ve signed up, I’ll send you a link to a Google Slides presentation where you will create 2 or 3 slides. One slide must include 3 questions for your classmates. Others who sign up for that week will also be creating slides—please make your slides unique. Once you’ve created slides, you’ll send me a reflection of at least 200 words about the process—how did you decide what to include? What did you think about the reading?  Why did you decide on those questions? Slides need to be completed by Wednesdays at midnight.

Library Information Literacy Assignment (LILA)

This is a two-part exercise and exam embedded in the Canvas shell. The workbook and exam are required elements of English 201A. You will take the exam before the Wednesday of Finals Week.


The course grade is composed of the following:

7%      Discussion Boards

10%    Review

7%      Proposal and Research Plan

13%    Annotated Bibliography

35%    Argumentative Research Paper

10%    Midterm Exam

8%      Presentation

10%    LILA Materials and Quizzes

Grading is based on specific assignment criteria, and will follow English Department standards for content, organization, expression, and mechanics. To compute final course grades, the following values are assigned to the standard letter grades of A through F:

A            =  93-99%

A-           =  90-92%

B+          =  87-89%

B            =  83-86%

B-           =  80-82%

C+      =  77-79%

C        =  73-76%

D        =  60-72%

F        =  1-59%                

No paper = 0.0



In order to be successful in this course, you must be committed to working through assignments and turning them in on time. Please communicate with me if anything arises that makes it difficult to “attend class”—I would like to be as helpful as I can, but if I don’t know about any problems or issues, I can’t help you find a way around them. Each week you should log-in to Canvas a minimum of 3 times. Please reach out if you feel like you’re falling behind—I’d like to work with you to come up strategies for you to be successful in this course.

Late Work Policy

I accept late work. I know that things happen sometimes. I appreciate it when you send me an email if you think you’ll be turning in something late—this lets me plan and offer you assistance. Work submitted more than a week late may receive a slight penalty, but it is definitely worth it to submit.

The Public Nature of Writing and Discussions

Please consider every piece of writing you do for this class to be "public." Remember that you will often be expected to share your writing with others, so avoid writing about things that you may not be prepared to subject to public scrutiny, or things you feel so strongly about that you are unwilling to listen to other perspectives. This does not mean that you are not entitled to an opinion but that you adopt positions responsibly; please be considerate of others’ contributions and viewpoints. This course may contain content (assigned readings, in-class discussions, etc.) that is uncomfortable for some students. If you have concerns about any course content, please bring these concerns to the attention of your instructor.

Civility & Netiquette

Please remember that behind our screens are real people who have unique experiences and feelings. Interactions with classmates, your instructor, and any other members of the Cuesta community must be considerate and respectful. Any incident of bullying or disrespectful behavior will be reported.

Student Service Hours

Student Service Hours, often also called office hours, can be one of the most beneficial parts of your college experience. During these hours, instructors are available to speak to you about your work for a course one-on-one. In a writing intensive course such as this, these meetings can help you make individualized progress. If you would like to speak to me, please send me an email and we can schedule a time to talk. We can Zoom (with or without video) or chat over Google Hangouts.

All Writing for This Class Must be Written for This Class

All writing for this class must be written for this class. Resubmitting a paper from another class or elsewhere constitutes academic dishonesty. If you wish to further pursue a project begun in another class or develop ideas you have written about in another class, please discuss your plans with me first.

Academic Dishonesty

Students are expected to write and submit original work in all classes, and to incorporate others’ words, images, or ideas into their writing using standard citation practices. Academic dishonesty in any form will not be tolerated, and students are expected to be familiar with all relevant policies. Plagiarism will result in failing the class. Please see Cuesta’s website (Links to an external site.) Links to an external site. for more information.

Statement of Diversity & Equity

Diversity is an important component to critical thinking and writing. This semester we will read texts by writers who represent diverse backgrounds and belief systems. We will learn to think through complex ideas and apply them to multiple situations. We will address different audiences through a variety of writing assignments.

I am committed to contributing to inclusion and equity in the courses I teach, and I expect students to engage in this course and their academic experience with respect towards diversity. Sharing our differences ultimately expands our abilities to create meaningful writing and successfully contribute to our communities. For more information on resources related to diversity and inclusion, please visit https://www.cuesta.edu/about/info/equity/index.htm If there is ever a topic or situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, please contact me so that we can discuss ways to improve your experience.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Cuesta offers services for students who may need help accessing elements of their education. Some students already know they qualify for services but some may not. The goal of Disabled Student Programs and Services is to provide “academic accommodation and other services to assist students with disabilities in achieving their academic goals.”  If you have a disability for which you are requesting an accommodation or you’d like to speak to someone about qualifying for an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact Disabled Student Programs & Services (Links to an external site.) Links to an external site. as soon as possible. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all services are being offered via phone or Zoom. You do not have to use any or all of the accommodations for which you qualify, but it is beneficial to most students to meet with DSPS as soon as possible to set up services in case they may be needed.

Student Success Center

The Writing Center is one of the most useful resources for this course. Writing tutors can help students understand assignments, think of and organize ideas, work on drafts and revision, and understand principles and styles of documentation. These services are a great asset; please take advantage of them. Visit the Writing Center (Links to an external site.) Links to an external site. website for more information: https://www.cuesta.edu/student/resources/ssc/writingHelp.html (Links to an external site.) Links to an external site..

How to Access Virtual Tutoring (Including Writing Center Tutoring)

  1. Have your student ID number ready to be checked in/out of tutoring.
  2. Login to Canvas and click on the Student Success Center Course or visit the Student Success Center (Links to an external site.) Links to an external site. website.
  3. Inside the Student Success Center course click on "READY TO GO?"
  4. A host will greet you, ask for your student Id number and subject you need help in and place you in a virtual room with a tutor.
  5. Once your session is complete you will return to the lobby to be checked out with your Student Id number.

By following the Student Success Center link above you can find out how to gain access to necessities like Tutor Schedules (for our peer tutors who are available to Zoom with you), Chromebook laptops available for free checkout, available Emergency Student Funding, and to access NetTutor 24/7, which is available when our Cuesta tutors may not be.

Title IX

Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender is a Civil Rights offense subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offenses against other protected categories such as race, national origin, etc.

Please note that under Title IX, almost all Cuesta faculty and staff are mandatory reporters.

  • Faculty and staff are required to report the names of students who identify to them as having experienced sexual violence and/or harassment
  • Once reported, the Title IX Coordinator will contact the identified student to share resources that the student may choose (or choose not) to explore or utilize.
  • Reporting does not automatically trigger any disciplinary or criminal investigations.


  • SensitivityPlease note that some course content may be sensitive or suitable for adult audiences.As we conduct scholarly investigation and engage in critical thinking about class topics, we will often entertain many different opinions about a topic or text or perspective; please be considerate of others’ contributions and viewpoints. Please also keep in mind that we belong to a college community with high standards for our behaviors and interactions. An environment of respect will allow all of us the opportunity to participate and learn. If you ever feel uncomfortable, please let me know as soon as possible so that we can find a solution to that discomfort.
  • Attitude: As with most things, you will get out of this class what you put into it; a positive outlook and commitment to excellence will serve you well. How you project yourself and the attitude with which you approach this class will be easily recognized by your classmates and by myself. I expect you to be respectful of yourself and others, committed to improvement, and dedicated to putting forth your best effort.
  • Connection: While we won’t be meeting each other in person this semester, I do hope that we can get to know each other through our digital interactions. Please try to engage with the material and your classmates’ ideas as much as you can. It can be easy to forget that the names on your screen correspond to real people—respect each other as if you were sitting next to each other in class.

Tips for Success

I know you can be successful in this course! As with anything, there are ways to make this course more manageable and perhaps more enjoyable. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Scheduling: This is an asynchronous class with consistent deadlines--this means that you can complete the materials on your own and submit any time before the deadlines. I'd recommend setting aside the same time(s) each week for this course so that you know you will have time to get your work done. Reading and writing can be time consuming so try to give yourself enough time each week to think through the ideas presented as well as to write and revise.
  • ReadingThe assigned reading is important. It will hopefully give you inspiration for your own writing. I find that discussing my reading helps me understand it better. You'll have opportunities to write posts for discussion, but I'm always available to talk about the reading, too.
  • Ask for helpCollege can be challenging, but the best thing about it is that there are resources to help you meet those challenges. I am a resource for you, but there are many others who can help. Reach out--we're here if you need us!


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