vrmcs14 syllabus

Course Information

Course Numbers: MAWR 01621, Section 1, 23842
Course Hours: T 6:45 – 9:15 pm
Course Location: James Hall 2095
Office Location: James Hall 3075
Office Hours: W 11 – 2, and by appointment
Contact me by email: wolffw [at] rowan [dot] edu
Contact me via Twitter: @billwolff
Printable Syllabus:(note: the web site contains the most up-to-date information)
Required Texts | Office Hours | Contacting Each Other | Students with Disabilities | Attendance and Late Work | Course Strands | Grading

Required Texts and Materials

I recommend you buy the texts from your favorite online retailer, as you will receive a significant discount that is not available in the bookstore. If there are e-versions of the books, feel free to buy them as long as you can annotate well and all images are available.

Hall, S. (2012). This means this, this means that: A user’s guide to semiotics. 2nd Edition. London: Lawrence King.

Kirshner, M. MacKinnan, J.B., Shoebridge, P., & Simons, M. (2008). I live here. New York: Pantheon Books.

McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics: The invisible art. New York: HarperPerennial.

Morris, E. (2011). Believing is seeing (observations of the mysteries of photography). New Yor: Penguin.

Trachtenberg, A. (1980). Classic essays on Photography. New Haven, CT: Leete’s Island Books.

Wood, D. (2013). Everything sings: Maps for a narrative atlas. 2nd revised editionNew York: Siglio.

In an effort to reduce textbook costs, multiple readings that will be available for free online on the Readings page (password protected).

You will also need access to:

  • Computer with Internet access
  • Access to a scanner (these are available in all Rowan computer labs)
  • Microsoft Word or any of many online alternatives (I do not accept Word Perfect files)
  • Rowan email address
  • film or digital camera (phone camera is fine, as are disposable)
  • USB flash drive with no less than 8GB of memory (to to use as backup and transfer digital photos and movie files from home to school and back again)
  • Other materials as needed

If you have a laptop or tablet I strongly recommend you bring it to class.

For Windows Users

All versions of Windows since XP have come with a version of a basic video editing software, Movie Maker. Here is a breakdown of the versions:

  • XP comes with Windows Movie Maker 2.1
  • Vista comes with Windows Movie Maker 2.6
  • Windows 7 comes with Windows Live Movie Maker
  • It is possible to install Windows Movie Maker 2.6 on a Windows 7 machine
  • Windows 8 is too confusing for me to figure out what it has and what can be installed

Though we are going to be doing basic-to-moderately-complex video editing in this class, none of the versions of Movie Maker are sophisticated enough to handle what we are doing. Students in the past have experienced the following dramatic, maddening, time consuming, and sometimes utterly devastating problems:

  • All versions of Windows Movie Maker are known to crash often and without warning resulting in having to start the project over from scratch.
  • Windows Movie Maker gives odd and often mysterious errors that can result in you having to recreate your movie from scratch.

These are not one-off errors. These have happens to multiple students each time I’ve taught video editing. Students who have Windows-based computers have been successful creating their videos using the following software:

are required to purchase a low-cost alternative that is less than the cost of most class textbooks. Your two options are (in order of quality):

If you opt for one of the pay versions, I suggest contacting Pinnacle and the Movie Edit folks to see if they have education discounts available for students. Find their contact information on their web sites.

Mac users: iMovie versions have their own special quirks and glitches, but overall they are much more robust and stable than Windows Movie Maker.

Office Hours

Office hours are designed for you, giving you a more private environment in which we may talk about your work, your performance in class, etc. If you are unable to see me during my office hours, do not hesitate to make an appointment to see me at a different time. We will have at least one required conference during the second half of the semester. This semester my office hours are W 11 – 2 and by appointment.

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Contacting Each Other

There will be times during the semester when I will need to contact the class and you will need to contact me. I will contact you via your Rowan email account, so please be sure that you are checking it regularly and/or forwarding it to the email service you use most regularly. If you do not know your Rowan email address, you can find it on the Email page of the Rowan web site. I am in my office only during office hours and the brief times before and after class. As a result, calling me in my office will not get you a response.

I strongly suggest you contact me via Twitter (@billwolff) and/or email, both of which I tend to check often throughout the day. Email, however, tends to be seen as an informal medium. This, however, should not always be the case. All emails that I send to you will have a meaningful subject line and a proper salutation (“Hi Class,” or “Hi Jane,” etc.). The first sentence will notify you of the purpose of the email, and then will get to the heart of the matter. It will end with a formal closing (“Thanks, BW”). I expect the same from any email you send. Twitter is less formal, so feel free to just tweet me questions. Please add the course hashtag (#core2s12) to all course related tweets.

I’ll get back to your tweets and emails as soon as possible—usually within a day. If I don’t get back within a day, it may be that I did not see your tweet or email for one reason or another, such as an email going in my spam folder. Send me a polite reminder and/or ask me in class if I got it, and I’ll get back immediately.

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Universal Learning

I am committed to the principle of universal learning. This means that our classroom, our virtual spaces, our practices, and our interactions be as inclusive as possible. Mutual respect, civility, and the ability to listen and observe others carefully are crucial to universal learning.

Any student with particular learning needs should contact the Academic Success Center at 856.256.4234. The Center is located on the 3rd Floor of Savitz Hall. The staff is available to answer questions regarding accommodations or assist you in your pursuit of accommodations. Then you and I can work out the details of any accommodations needed for this course.

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You are expected to attend class every day. You cannot pass this class if you miss more than 25% of the scheduled meeting times, including excused and unexcused absences. For our section, which meets once a week, the maximum number of permissible absences is 3. If you exceed the maximum absence limit—whether excused or unexcused—you will be referred to the Dean of Students for the possibility of a hardship withdrawal from the class. Note: it is your responsibility to know how many absences you have. If, at the end of the semester, I enter your grades and you are over the limit, the hardship withdrawal courtesy will not be extended to you.

Excused Absences

You will be permitted to make up missed work for excused absences only (note below that excused absences are still absences; the main difference is that you get to make up missed work). These include:

  • religious observances
  • official University activities
  • illness
  • death of a family member or loved one
  • inclement weather

You must provide verifiable documentation. Consult with your instructor for what is considered acceptable.

In the case of religious observances or official University activities, you must inform BW in advance of your absence for it to be excused.

In the case of illness, death of a family member or loved one, or inclement weather, please inform BW as soon as possible after the fact.

If the events described above lead to your exceeding the maximum absence limit, you will be referred to the Dean of Students for a hardship withdrawal from the class.

Excused and Unexcused absences will be treated using the following scale:

  • 1 or fewer: no penalty
  • 2 absences: –2/3 final grade (a B would become a C+)
  • 3 absences: –1 1/3 final grade (a B would become a C-)

A student who has 4 or more absences will receive an F for the course. Lateness is equal to .5 absences. You are late if you arrive in class after the sign-up sheet has made it around the room.


Grades in this course are determined on the basis of a Learning Record, which accompanies a portfolio of work presented both at the midterm and at end of term. These portfolios present a selection of your work, both formal and informal, plus ongoing observations about your learning, plus an analysis of your work development across six dimensions of learning: confidence and independence, knowledge and understanding, skills and strategies, use of prior and emerging experience, reflectiveness, and creativity, originality, imagination. This development centers on the major strands of work for the course:

Students will gain greater familiarity the theories and practices relating to the use of multiple modes in the construction of texts.

Students will gain greater familiarity the theories and practices relating to visual constructions of meaning.

Critical Reading, Thinking, and Writing
Students will develop their ability to read judiciously, think about, filter information about, and write about texts in a variety of genres and media.

Students will learn about and will use contemporary communication technologies in a variety of settings.

Students will develop their ability to work collaboratively in a variety of in- and out-of-class activities and settings.

A note on in-class discussions: Contribution to in-class discussion is expected at the graduate level. That is, I expect all students in all class meetings to contribute thoughtful insights into the texts and the ideas discussed in class. No grade will be assigned for in-class participation; however, if your participation is lacking, it could result in a minor reduction in your final grade. There may be times when the class meets in an online space rather than in the classroom. You’ll be notified ahead of time if this is the case.

A note about grades: grades in the A-range are those that show the student working at levels significantly higher than what is expected. Grades at the B-level are those that show the student working at levels at or just above what is expected. Grades at the C-level and below are those that show the student working at levels below what is expected.

Final grades correspond to the Graduate Handbook (A-C) for graduate students. All work is expected to be the student’s own and include attribution to outside work according to assignment guidelines and citation standards. Any plagiarism will be handled in accordance with the guidelines in the Student Handbook.

Missing assignments will receive a 0. All major assignments must be completed to pass the course. It is better to complete an assignment late then to not complete it at all.

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