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CUOL’s exclusive preview of Creativity, Imagination and Writing, Carleton’s new online English course

This winter, more than 250 students will begin exploring the creative process as they work through “Creativity, Imagination and Writing (ENGL 2200),” a new online course offered at Carleton University.

At its core, the course explores rhetoric – the discipline of writing and communicating. As explained by Grant Williams, the course designer and instructor, ENGL 2200 will focus on “invention,” the first stage of rhetoric. Students will explore topics including the process of developing arguments and the relationship between creativity and memory, Williams says.

The initial inspiration to develop the course came from Williams’ experience as part of the logistics committee for a summer writing camp.

“That experience demonstrated to me how hungry people are for learning about creativity,” he says.

Williams says his longstanding interest in rhetoric led him to grow curious about what creativity is made up of. This curiosity, paired with his interest in psychology, further fuelled his desire to design the course.

Though Williams had about 15 years of research work on memory to draw upon in developing ENGL 2200, he did not have any past experience designing an online course. And while the process of designing ENGL 2200 was challenging, he says he has ultimately enjoyed the experience.

“I’ve always been intrigued and committed to digital media and digital creation,” he says. “I like designing the online modules – I find it fun.”

The online platform has given Williams the opportunity to integrate a wide variety of multimedia components and digital resources into the course, including online dictionaries. The course also features slideshow presentations complete with voice-overs recorded by Williams.

“The digital environment just lends itself to creativity and imagination in a big way,” he says.

The format for ENGL 2200 makes it clear that Williams’ online course is nontraditional; the course is organized around “exercises,” as opposed to lectures. Williams emphasizes that readings and lecture-based material do not dominate the course. Assignments include personal reflections, online exercises and the final, capstone assignment: designing a “thought engine.”

“A thought engine is a series of steps that encourage you to generate and manipulate your ideas to promote your own creativity,” explains Williams. The engine should be able to help each student come up with new, original ideas.

Williams reflects on his purpose in proposing the thought engine assignment. He says the assignment is rooted in his belief about the origins of creativity.

“This course doesn’t assume the idea that ideas and creativity pop in your head,” says Williams.

As they make progress throughout the course, students will develop their own “creativity profile” – an online space where they are able to post their work. Students work through 10 modules that are each made up of individual lessons.

“It’s a labour intensive course,” Williams says.

Regardless of the demanding nature of ENGL 2200, Williams says the course has seen strong enrolment and will be rewarding for its students.

“I think for me, “ he says, “if students can come out of the course having a self-reflective, critical view of the imagination as something that needs to be cultivated, and at times disciplined to work, then I think the course has fired on all cylinders.”

 Tales from the Field: How a CUOL course helped Amanda McFarlan achieve academic success

From helping her manage a hectic schedule to strengthening her academic discipline, for Amanda McFarlan, taking courses through Carleton University OnLine (CUOL) has been a highly rewarding experience.

McFarlan is a fourth year neuroscience and mental health major at Carleton University. She praises the convenience of CUOL’s Video On Demand courses.

“I really liked them – watching the videos online made it easier for me to concentrate, and I had the option of watching them later, too,” she says.

McFarlan first discovered the benefits of CUOL classes while she was enrolled in back-to-back biology and chemistry courses in her first year. She says the Video On Demand service gave her the option of missing a class and watching lectures at a more appropriate time.

“There were some days when I was so exhausted that I would just come back to my dorm room, take a nap and rest, and then watch the lectures later when I was rested,” McFarlan recalls.

This past summer, the Video On Demand option also enabled McFarlan to complete a psychology course while working as a full-time summer student at Hydro Ottawa.

“It was really helpful for me when I was working in the summer to have that flexibility as to when I would view my lecture,” she says.

While she voices her appreciation for the flexible nature of CUOL classes, McFarlan says students enrolled in online classes must strive to remain caught up with lectures. She warns against binge-watching lectures before a major test or exam.

“Treat your Video On Demand lectures as a class and plan a time each week that you’re going to watch them,” she advises.

By taking classes through CUOL, McFarlan says she has gained a high degree of self-discipline. She says her efforts to schedule periods dedicated to watching lectures have helped her learn to manage heavy workloads and busy schedules.

McFarlan says she would “absolutely recommend” that other students take Video On Demand classes through CUOL.

“If you’re working, you have other commitments or you just have class conflicts, CUOL is a great option,” she says. “It’s completely reliable.”

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