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Engl 103 - Critical Reading, Writing, and Thinking - Jess Small

Course:Critical Reading, Writing, and Thinking
Professor:Jess Small
  • Online
Course Length:
  • 5 Week


Welcome to my English 103 Online Orientation Letter! Below you will find important information about the class and its requirements. Please read the information and contact me via email if you have any questions.

Course Description

This course examines critical thinking and how we can apply these skills to reading texts and pop culture, the world around us, and our own writing. In Canvas we will be analyzing readings about pop culture, discussing arguments and their strengths and weaknesses, and exploring topics that affect our lives. In this course you will take the essay skills you already possess and fine-tune them; major writing assignments include reflective journals and three argumentative essays.

What to Expect in this Course

Once our course is published in Canvas, you should look up the Syllabus and read the detailed information there. Assignment information can be found under Modules, and all assignment details will be posted in Canvas as the course unfolds. During the semester you will be graded on journals, peer reviews of essay drafts, essays, and Discussion Board posts about the textbook readings and concepts.

The textbooks listed on this page are required. You will have Disc. Board posts about the readings and you will lose significant points if you miss those assignments. The textbooks and the readings also help you prepare for your essays and improve your critical thinking skills. In short: you should get the required books as soon as possible if you plan on succeeding in our class.   

During a 5-week session you should plan on logging into Canvas frequently and spending several hours a week working on readings, writing assignments, and building essays. Successful students stay immersed in the course and attempt to turn in all assignments. Zoom Office Hour visits can be set up any time via email; just let me know what you'd like to discuss and what times work for you to meet. I encourage all students to set up Zoom Office Hour visits whenever you need help or want to brainstorm your essay ideas. 

Important Online Requirements: This class is conducted online and is asynchronous, meaning that you are required to log in and complete work on your own time. Assignments will always have specific deadlines, and students need to keep track so they can turn in all work on time. You will need a reliable internet connection and consistent access to a device where you can log into Canvas, post assignments, type documents, and attend Zoom Office Hours when desired. If students have any questions during the semester (or before), please email as soon as possible so I have time to respond to your questions.


Please be aware: If you plan on working full time, have numerous household/family obligations, and/or are taking other Winter classes, the 5-week fast-paced format may not be for you. Late work is not allowed during Winter courses, because each assignment builds on another and once you get behind, you will not be able to catch up. Once the Syllabus is posted, carefully look over the required readings and assignments. If the workload seems too strenuous, I'd be happy to have you attend one of my classes in a regular 16-week semester. 

Types of Assessments

In our class you will be required to post in Discussion Boards for Reading Logs and other activities. You will also write essays and other shorter written assignments. If you ever have questions about assignment feedback or how to improve your scores, don't hesitate to ask me during Office Hours or via email. The grading scale for the class and other important information can be found in the Syllabus; I also allow students to earn some extra credit points during the semester.

Textbook Information

Required Textbooks:

Signs of Life in the USA 10th Edition (ISBN 9781319213664) and
Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking, 12th Edition (ISBN 9780134431994)

It's important that you get the textbooks as soon as possible, since you will have assignments in the first week that are related to the books. Physical or digital copies of the books are both acceptable. 

Other Relevant Course Information

While our class will require a lot of work from of students, it can also be very enjoyable for those that engage with their classmates and with the topics we discuss. My English 103 classes focus on elements of pop culture and how they affect us. Start thinking about the many ways music and music videos, television and film, literature, magazines, advertisements, video games and the internet affect us. Which aspects of pop culture are beneficial, and which are harmful? I love exploring these issues with my students and hearing how they have personally affected your lives. With your help, my classes are a safe space to discuss complex issues, learn from our textbooks and each other. Be prepared to engage with your classmates, brainstorm ideas, and reflect on readings while in Canvas. The more you share your ideas and experiences and respectfully listen to other people’s ideas, the more exciting and interesting our class will be!

I look forward to meeting you and discussing critical thinking, writing, and pop culture once our Winter class starts.  

Additional Resources


This course can be accessed on the first day of class via Canvas at Log into Canvas using your CanyonsID single sign-on:

  • CanyonsID Username is your COC student email address (Ex:
  • CanyonsID Password is your COC student email password

Please visit the Get to Know Your Online Classroom page for help logging into Canvas and for tips on using Canvas and Zoom. Canvas Chat Support is also available 24/7 for any Canvas related issues.

Online Education

Check out the Online Education website for more information on a variety of topics that can help you be a successful online student such as: exam proctoring, learning styles, computer skills, and tips for student success. If this is your first online course, feel free to take our online learning readiness assessment to assess your skills.

The Learning Center (TLC)

The TLC provides FREE online tutoring resources to COC students!

Academic Accommodation Center (AAC)

College of the Canyons AAC provides educational services and access for eligible students with documented disabilities who intend to pursue coursework at COC. A variety of programs and services are available which afford eligible students with disabilities the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of the college programs and activities through appropriate and reasonable accommodations. For more information on their services visit the Academic Accomodation Center website.

Online Counseling

The Counseling Department offers appointments online. You can schedule an appointment by visiting the Online Counseling website. Counselors can help you map out a plan to reach your educational goals as well as advise you on course selection and registration.

Management of Stress and Mental Health

Often the pressure on our students is very strong, involving academic commitments, relationships, outside jobs and family pressure to name a few. The staff and faculty of College of the Canyons are here to see you succeed academically and care about your emotional and physical health. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential student services, including counseling and mental health services available on campus by visiting the Student Health & Wellness Center in the Student Services Building (across from the bookstore). The phone number is 661-362-3259 that you can call 24/7. You can also e mail for an appointment at At the Canyon Country Campus the Health Center will be in the new Student Services Building.

Also, the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number is now 988. All students at COC are encouraged to enter that phone number in their cells. You can call it when you, or someone you know, is having thoughts of suicide or is in severe distress.

You can also now use the Crisis Text Line: Just text "Courage" to 741741. Someone will get back to you immediately. Its free, 24/7, and confidential.

Veterans Resource Center

The College of the Canyons Veterans Resource Center is a department within the Student Services Division at the college, created to help veterans and veteran dependents with applying to College of the Canyons, enrolling in classes, and requesting VA Education or Vocational Benefits. For more information please visit the Veterans Resource Center website, email or phone (661) 362-3469.


The Library provides live online and in-person research help, access to a full range of e-resources and physical materials that support the curriculum, individual and group study areas, and much more!

Last updated: 11/18/2021 Sub#: 1151