Showcase: ENG 385


ENG 385, Literature and Leadership, was taught in Winter 2017 by Leslie Fischer. This course was selected due to its high Quality Matters score, outstanding assessment strategy, and excellent student support structures built into the course. Read and listen to Leslie's experiences in converting the class from a hybrid to a fully online experience and her focus on a student-centered course design.

Course Context

The Bachelor of Science degree program in Organization Behavior: Business Leadership (BLP) is offered in an accelerated cohort. In two years, students complete a prescribed schedule of hybrid courses that meet every other Saturday, alternating with online weeks. Recently, some courses in the second year have been converted to a fully online format to accelerate progress toward the degree.

This required course, English 385–Literature and Leadership, was converted to an online format beginning in Winter 2017. Interestingly, teaching the final hybrid version of the course overlapped with some of the development process, so I had a great opportunity to reflect on the learning objectives while implementing course goals in real time. A text transcript of this interview is available.

Course Objectives/Student Characteristics

Business students, particularly in an accelerated program where time is precious, need a clear rationale for studying literature. In addition to making each module relevant to their aspirations as leaders by identifying and learning from literary examples of leadership—where leaders are pushed to psychological, moral, and political limits—it was important to build a preliminary module that demonstrated the possibility of becoming better leaders if students could come to appreciate literature's ability to elicit feeling, cultivate the imagination, and call leaders to account as human beings. A transcript of this interview is available.


We developed the table displaying the specific alignment of activities with objectives first because it helps me as an instructor to reflect on what activities are got-to-have and which are nice-to-have. For learners, the primary advantage of this table is that they understand why-do-I-have to complete this activity. If learners understand how an assignment will help them achieve module objectives, they are more committed to completing that module's assignments and they can more easily develop a coherent vision of what they are achieving in each module.

Presentation of Information


Example of a definition callout. It reads: Literary Term Definition. Setting: The combination of place, historical time, and social milieu that provides the general background for the characters and plot of a literary work. Example of a reflection callout. It reads: Questions for Reflection. Which passages in "The Secret Sharer" seem particularly rich, with the glow of the prose bringing out the haze of meaning? What lessons can you take from Billy Collins's poem, "Introduction to Poetry," when approaching the meaning of a work of fiction, such as "The Secret Sharer"?

In looking at textbooks, we found that formatting plays an important role in signaling content. The blue and green boxes in the content pages on Canvas are meant to cue students to different types of information. Blue signals questions that may help them to reflect more deeply but are not assignments. Green indicates the definitions of literary terms that help students think about the texts we read and support their informed discussion of those texts.


Example of a quotation. It includes a photo of author Jamaica Kincaid as a child and a quote from her that reads: "This is the life I have. This is the life I write about."

Each module overview begins with a quotation from an author we are studying, a thought leader, a humorist, or an historical figure. These quotations put a human face on the materials and are meant to focus attention on an issue of leadership found in literature or to address the learners' potential resistance to the material.

Knight Lab Timeline

The Knight Lab's storytelling tools are excellent resources for providing context and for visualization. We used the timeline tool to illustrate the colonial history of Antigua that informs the setting of Jamaica Kincaid's short story, "Girl."