December 2007 Archives

A researched term paper on an approved topic.

The Online Presentation, a Telephone Conference, Exercise 7 and Exercise 8 are all designed to help you make progress on your term paper.

  1. Rough Draft (100 pts)
  2. Final Draft (100 pts)
  3. Revision Report (50 pts)

The "Final Draft" and "Revision Report" are due on the last day of classes. (If you would like a few extra days to work on it, you may request an incomplete if you have completed at least 80% of the course material.)

Each weekday during J-Term represents 2 ½ hours of classroom instruction. I'm a firm believer in the value of peer-to-peer interaction. If this were a face-to-face class, we would spend the vast majority of that time discussing the readings or workshopping each other's submissions. Since this class doesn't meet face-to-face, our weblogs will play that role. I won't have time to respond directly to every comment you make on the course blog or on a peer weblog, so I am setting up a system to encourage you to read and comment on your peers' online work.

The portfolio assignments asks you to compile your contributions to the most productive online conversations, as well as selected thoughtful expansions of contributions that you made earlier. The portfolios are your opportunity to demonstrate your developing understanding of key concepts and issues that we have been discussing.

The participation portfolios are your chance to call to my attention the online contributions that you feel are the most valuable. The most important component of the portfolio is your reflection on your online participation. I'll post more details about the portfolios after everyone has had some time to get comfortable in the online environment. If you keep up with your online postings, the portfolio assignment will be easy.

  1. Portfolio 1 (100)
  2. Portfolio 2 (100)
  3. Online Presentation (50; advance work on the Term Paper)
  4. Telephone Conference w/Instructor (30; detailed conversation about your progress on the Term Paper)
  5. Portfolio 3 (20)
  6. Burn or Bonus (±150, at instructor's discretion... it's hard to earn the full burn, but pretty easy to get some bonus)

Short assignments (about 3 pages, some broken up into several shorter parts) that prepare you for upcoming work. More formal than the short responses to assigned readings. Upload these to

Check the outline page for the exact titles and dates for your exercises. The list below is just supposed to give you an idea of what the exercises will cover.

  1. Game Review
  2. Beyond the Review
  3. Close Playing 1
  4. Term Paper Proposal
  5. Close Playing 2
  6. Article Analysis
  7. Bibliography (Term Paper)
  8. Peer Review (Term Paper)

Each workbook is a collection of multiple-choice and short essay questions. Most will be taken in J-Web, but in some cases I may ask you to do something else with one of your answers, such as e-mail it to me or share it with a peer.

You should refer to the course outline page for exact titles and due dates. There are about 10 workbooks, most of them divided up into several smaller parts (I find it's better that way, since you can do a few questions at a time rather than being forced to work through all the questions before you can take a break).  Each workbook is worth about 15 points.  (If at the end of the semester the arithmetic doesn't come out right, I'll adjust them so the total of all the workbook points counts as 150 points.)

Workbooks are designed to make sure you are keeping up with the readings, so if you miss a workbook, I don't have any provisions for issuing a make-up assignment.

I'll open the workbooks up on J-Web as soon as I write them.  I'll aim to work about two or three days ahead of the class.

There are 1000 points of work in the class.

  • J-Web Workbooks (150 points)
  • Exercises (300 points)
  • Discussion Portfolios (300 points)
  • Project (250 points)

There is no final exam.

I will grade on a four-point scale. If an assignment, such as an individual workbook, is worth 10 points, and you earn 8 points, that's about a B+. If you earn a 4, that's about a C-.

If, at the end of the class, you have 750 points, then your base grade will be a B. I might bump that grade up or down a little, based on your participation grade.

You do not need to purchase your books through, but if you wish to, these links will help.

The course moves so quickly that falling behind can mean serious trouble.

Unless I agree to another arrangement in advance, assignments earn an automatic 10% penalty if they are late. If your work is 24 or more hours late, the maximum you can earn is half credit. If you miss a Friday deadline, I'll accept it for half credit if you get it in before Monday morning. (I do plan to be in the office on the Martin Luther King Holiday, though I'm not assigning any work due that day.)

J-Web: Workbooks

The J-Web online assignments (sets of study questions and short essays that I call "workbooks") are intended to be completed before the scheduled class discussion - far enough in advance that I have time to evaluate them and adjust the day's teaching accordingly. This means that the J-Web homework will be "closed" after the 9AM due date. (Obviously in the event of a SHU computer failure, I will be flexible about such things.)

If you miss a workbook deadline, but want to complete the assignment anyway, let me know - I will unlock that unit after I have recorded all the grades. But once the deadline for a J-Web workshop has passed, the opportunity to earn credit for it is gone. Exercises and Project Components

I also want you to submit, via, the assignments designed as Exercises and Projects. Unlike the workbooks, you can still submit exercises and project components after the due date. This is very important for multi-part assignments, since you'll often need to get feedback from me before you can proceed.

I put late work at the bottom of my "to do" list. I'll do my best to be helpful, but I might not comment on it in as much detail; or, if the assignment is part of a multi-step assignment, you might not get the late work back before the next part is due. (If you let me know in advance, I can try to plan ahead for this sort of thing.)

Getting Credit for Late Work

J-Web assignments close automatically. I won't be so rigid about the exercises and project components that you upload to, or the online discussion that you carry on through your blogs.  But if your assignment has not appeared in its proper place by the time I finish marking all the work that was submitted on time, I will record a zero for a late assignment.

In order to remove that zero, and get credit for late work,

  1. Send me an e-mail with a subject line like "Yourlastname EL250 Ex 2 Late."  This will let me know to go back and look for your late exercise or project component.  If you have posted your work where it should be, you don't need to send me another copy.
  2. If the late work is excused, you can instead write "Smith EL250 Ex 2 Excused" or you can just remind me in the body of the e-mail.

If you miss a J-Web workbook, you forfeit the points.

According to the catalog, "Students are expected to attend every class." (See Seton Hill University Catalog, p. 28-29, "Class Attendance" and "Excused Absences".)  Our class does not actually meet. One of the benefits of taking an online course is that you have more flexibility to get the work done. Nevertheless, I do expect to be able to lead the whole class through the material, and that means we all need to keep up with the readings.

There are exercises, J-Web question banks, and responses to assigned readings due pretty much every work day. In the last week or so of classes, the routine assignments slow down considerably so that you can focus on your final paper instead.

If you were careful about working ahead, you will probably be able to double your workload on some days so that you could arrange days off for yourself. (You can certainly look at the schedule and read ahead on days when you have extra time.)

Seton Hill University recognizes that extra-curricular activities of all sorts are important components of a liberal arts education. Nevertheless:

  • Students who miss deadlines for any reason are still responsible for the material covered that day.

  • An excused absence does not automatically grant an extension for any work collected, assigned, or discussed that day.

Because the course moves so quickly, procrastinating can lead to big trouble.

According to Seton Hill policy, you must complete 80% of the course material before you qualify for an incomplete, and you must clear the request with the registrar before the last day of classes.

5.1.1. Emergency Absences

Those who miss deadlines due to an unplanned emergency should submit an "Absence Form," with proper documentation, as soon as possible.

For each class that you miss, print out and complete an "Absence Form" (available at After you initiate this contact, we can discuss when or whether it will be possible for you to make up the work that you missed.

Before you contact me, please consult the online syllabus and/or a classmate's notes to determine what you missed. (If you ask me to e-mail you a summary of what you missed in class, I will refer you to this document.)

For some classroom activities, such as offering timely feedback on a peer draft, there may be no appropriate make-up assignment. (See 5.2 Participation.)

5.1.2. Scheduled Absences

Those who miss deadlines due to a scheduled activity must plan to complete all assignments beforehand. This may involve extra work on my end, so please submit an acceptable "Absence Form" (see above) as soon as possible.

Your objectives for this course are to

  • explore definitions of important concepts such as game and fun
  • learn about the origins and historical development of video games,
  • expose yourself to a broad range of games,
  • gain experience recognizing and interpreting basic game elements (goal, risk, fiction, emotional engagement, rules, outcome, values, consequences, close playing, etc.),
  • develop an awareness of the complex cultural context within which games exist (children's culture, geek culture, women's issues, political issues, economic issues, aesthetic issues, etc.),
  • and ultimately, to discern the core cultural values represented in a particular game.
To that end, you will:
  • play several games on the syllabus, read several books (both popular and scholarly) and additional shorter articles as assigned,
  • complete quizzes and exercises to ensure that you are keeping up with the readings and to evaluate your progress,
  • participate regularly in class web-based discussions, and
  • write a formal research paper (minimum 10 pages).
Neither ability to "win" a game nor programming/design talents are germane to the subject of this course.

At the end of this course, you should be able to

  1. Demonstrate competence in the critical reading of complex cultural texts (including games, cultural responses to games, and the academic study of games)
  2. Engage intellectually and respectfully with your peers
  3. Write a college-level paper that appropriately uses primary and secondary sources to defend a non-obvious claim (without minimizing or neglecting opposing or alternative views)

From the Catalog description of EL 250: Major Writers and Genres:

Emphasis varies from term to term, e.g.: Short Fiction; Autobiography; Science Fiction. Alternate years. Repeatable for credit. 3 credits.
Contact Information:
  • 403 St. Joseph (Box 461)
  • My last name,  at the domain.
  • 724-830-1909

Office Hours: By appointment.

Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri ...  Daily Touchpoints of 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM

I don't mean that you need to be sitting in front of your computer at 9 and 4pm every day, or any day.

Since we need to do the equivalent of a week's worth of material during every day of J-Term, we need to keep up a steady pace.

Recent Comments

Darrell Kuntz on Participation Portfolio 3: here is my portfolio
Brandon Gnesda on Participation Portfolio 3: Here's mine:
Kevin on Ex 7: Class Presentation (Online): The day late and a dollar short edition
Derek Tickle on Term Paper (10 pages): OK, Thanks Brandon! I have completed your Peer Rev
Brandon Gnesda on Term Paper (10 pages): Hey Derek, I'm emailing you a copy of my paper as
Derek Tickle on Term Paper (10 pages): Hi Darrell and Brandon! I sent an email to both of
Derek Tickle on Participation Portfolio 3: Hi Everyone! Here is my "Participation Portfolio 3
Brandon Gnesda on Ex 7: Class Presentation (Online): Here is my presentation, the full version this tim
Darrell Kuntz on Ex 7: Class Presentation (Online): Here is my presentation
Derek Tickle on Ex 7: Class Presentation (Online): Hi Everyone! Here is my blog entry called, "Class
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