Carnegie Mellon University

Technology-Enhanced Learning in the English Department

Approaches to teaching and learning in higher education are changing faster than ever before – and technology is playing a major role in this process.

The Department of English is committed to developing and using technology to improve student engagement and learning. Our faculty members developed these technology-enhanced learning (TEL) projects:

Prose Style

Chris Neuwirth, department head and professor, developed and deployed Prose Style, an online module that teaches students how to write in a verb-based style. The module is also a platform for research on the acquisition of writing skill. It was built on Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI), an online platform for courses that’s open to anyone who wants to learn or teach.

Prose Style was one of 12 proposals selected for a Simon Initiative ProSEED Grant out of 42 applications submitted from faculty.

The grants, created by CMU President Suresh, are intended to play a catalytic role in supporting promising, creative ideas in education and research.

Introduction to Visual Design for Non-Majors

Suguru Ishizaki, professor of English, and Stacie Rohrbach, associate professor of Design, created a short online course using Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI) framework. The OLI is a grant-funded group out of CMU that offers innovative online courses to anyone who wants to learn or teach.

The course allows students to analyze and produce effective printed documents, such as technical reports, proposals, and software documentation. To guide their learning, students are introduced to the basics of visual communication design and typography through a series of audio-visual explanations.

The explanations describe and illustrate key concepts and vocabulary, self-assessments that verify the understanding, and hands-on exercises with individualized feedback that provide opportunities to try out what they learned.

This course has been used in the Department’s “Writing for the Professions” course, as well as a few technical communication courses in other universities.

Classroom Salon

This learning platform is a social networking application where students interact with each other. Students form online learning communities in which they analyze assigned readings and view their classmate’s responses to the readings. Students can also post their own essays and receive feedback from classmates and instructors.

David Kaufer, professor of English and Ananda Gunawardena, professor of computer science, teamed up to build Classroom Salon to enable engagement between students and their course documents and videos, using annotations.

The platform then aggregates, analyzes and presents visualizations of user annotations to understand ‘hotspots’ of content that then become the focus on conversations and learning on the platform. 25,000 teachers and students have used Classroom Salon across the world. Learn more about Classroom Salon.

Argument Diagramming using iLogos

Danielle Wetzel, the Department’s first-year writing director, co-wrote material for an Open Learning Initiative module, which she used in teaching her Interpretation and Argument first-year writing course.

The module focused on argument diagramming using the cross-platform tool, iLogos. The diagrams display the structure of an argument.

By combining pictures and words, argument diagrams help people to create better arguments and analyses. The Argument Diagramming course is also free and open to the public.

"Improving Student's Professional Communication Skills by Employing an Integrated System of Learning Tools and Methods”

Suguru Ishizaki, professor of English, Necia Werner, assistant teaching professor of English, along with their interdisciplinary collaborators, Stacie Rohrbach in the school of Design, and David Dzombak and Janel Miller of the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, developed an experimental online writing tutorial for engineering students.

This project, which was partially funded by a two year National Science Foundation grant, aimed to provide every engineering student with the opportunity to learn necessary technical and professional communication skills through an integrated system of learning resources, such as peer tutors, a writing instructor, Carnegie Mellon’s Global Communication Center, and online tutorials.